Rerun Junkie–Best Characters to Join a Show After the First Season

One day a question floated across my Twitter timeline: Who’s the best character to join a show after the first season?

And my immediate response was, “I can’t answer this with a tweet. I need a blog post!”

So here I am, months later, finally getting around to answering that highly subjective question. In order to keep from rambling, I only picked characters from shows I’ve written about here. And even then, I restrained myself to keep it down to a dull roar.

Let’s start off with a couple of the more subjective ones and work our way (okay, my way) closer to objective.

Ben Kokua (Al Harrington) and Duke Lukela (Herman Wedemeyer), Hawaii Five-OYeah, you’re going to have to fight me on this one. Ben replaced Kono (Zulu) at the beginning of the fifth season and stayed through the seventh season. I feel he made a nice addition to the team. Solid, native, not flashy, except when he was undercover and had to wear ugly shirts as part of the gig. Al Harrington had already been on the show a few times, playing other (and usually bad) guys, and has since had a recurring role on the new show (playing yet another character). Clearly, every version of this show needs Al Harrington in some form, though I maintain Ben was the best.

Duke is a legend in my mind. Though Herman Wedemeyer was there from the beginning, the character of Duke didn’t actually happen until the fourth season. Of the 155 episodes that Herman Wedemeyer is credited for, only seven were not as Duke Lukela. Better yet, we get to watch as Duke goes from uniformed officer bit role to a detective with a starring credit in the final season. How marvelous is that? And if you still doubt that Duke should be on this list, then let me point out that the current show also has a Duke Lukela and he’s played by Dennis Chun, the son of the original Chin Ho, Kam Fong. Now that’s legend.

Sheriff Mort Metzger (Ron Masak), Murder, She Wrote–When Tom Bosley left the show, Cabot Cove needed a new sheriff. With Amos Tupper retired, the new law in town came in the form of Mort Metzger, a city cop who didn’t understand why the murder rate of a small town was so high and why some old woman was so involved in solving them. It was the fish-out-of-water aspect of Ron Masak’s character that not only separated him from Amos, but from everyone else in town. He spent half of his time bewildered by the goings-on of the locals, his hard line approach not so effective in a town where everybody knows everybody. Considering Ron Masak was in episodes of both The Monkees and Land of the Lost, it’s no wonder he was able to bring a touch of brilliance to this character and even make his never-seen, often-referred to wife Adelle come to life.

Detective Arthur Dietrich (Steve Landesberg) and Officer Carl Levitt (Ron Carey), Barney Miller–Both Steve Landesberg and Ron Carey appeared on the show as different characters prior to becoming the two of the characters on this list. Steve Landesburg first appeared as Father Paul in the first episode of season 2. The 12th episode of that same season, he made his first appearance as Dietrich, a dry-humored, incredibly intelligent detective who came in as Fish was going out. Of course, the two would appear together for over a season until Abe Vigoda’s official departure at the beginning of season 4. Many of his first episodes involved him trying to find a place in the 12th precinct. By the time the show ended, it was hard to imagine what it was like without him.

Ron Carey’s first appearance was as a character called The Mole in the last episode of the second season. It was only the third episode of the third season when he made his first appearance as Carl Levitt, a short, overly-enthusiastic uniform keen on making detective some day and taking every available opportunity to get into plain clothes. Not just a punchline, Levitt got to be the hero by saving some kids, ratted out the squad room with petty grievances to both protect them and to express his displeasure from being put down all the time, and eventually made detective in the final episode. As well he should.

Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis), Gunsmoke–This twenty-year show was on the air nine years before Festus Haggen settled in Dodge City permanently. It’s hard to imagine Gunsmoke without Ken Curtis, especially since most of the syndication packages typically show the later episodes, but Dennis Weaver played Chester Good for 290 episodes (1955-1964). Festus’s first appearance actually came in 1962, but he became a regular in 1964 after Dennis Weaver left and ended up becoming such an iconic character that it’s hard to imagine Ken Curtis as anyone else (he was, though, playing a few different characters on the show before becoming Festus). Dodge City wouldn’t be the same without him.

This list is far from complete, of course. And it’s far from objective, as I warned. I might just answer this question again sometime in the future. New list, new shows, new characters. The answers are endless.

Who do you think the best characters are that joined a show after the first season?

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Rerun Junkie–Hawaii Five-O Favorites Seasons 9-12

Here we are. The end of our journey through some of my favorite episodes from each season. You can read the previous entries here and here.

The episode selection for these last four seasons was difficult, as were the previous seasons, but maybe for slightly different reasons. I haven’t watched these seasons as much and for me, there aren’t as many standout episodes. After season 10, there’s no Chin Ho. After season 11, there’s no Danno. So, yeah. The subjectivity is high here, kids. Consider yourselves warned.

“Heads, Your Dead” Season 9, Episode 7. Air date: November 11, 1976. Directed by Bruce Bilson. Written by Herman Groves.

Based on a real-life case, hijackers get themselves hired to be the crew of luxury yachts, then murder the owners and steal the boats to sell elsewhere. Danno and Officer Sandi Welles are sent undercover to investigate. Sandi, along with a group of people, is taken hostage by the hijackers and their fate rests on a flip of a coin.

A big part of the reason why I like this episode is because I like Officer Sandi Welles (Amanda McBroom) in it. I also like bad guys. They’re pretty ruthless. There’s a certain amount of psychological terror involved in telling your already terrified hostages that you’re going to throw them overboard and whether or not they get a life raft depends on a coin flip. But that’s what makes it so compelling.

“The Descent of the Torches” Season 10, Episode 5. Air date: October 20, 1977. Directed by Charles S. Dubin. Written by Alvin Sapinsley

An archaeological dig reveals tunnels that could lead to the grave of King Kamehameha I. And someone is so convinced of it that they dress up in a royal robe and mask to frighten off and eventually kill members of the dig.

I very nearly picked “A Death in the Family”, but honestly, it’s not really a favorite in the sense that I enjoy it, but more in the sense that it ripped out my heart and dumped it on the steps of Iolani Palace. Anyway. The reason why I picked “The Descent of the Torches” instead is because of the Hawaiian culture. This episode gets into that and I really like it. Let’s face it. For the majority of the run, it’s a pretty white show. There are some Hawaiian faces and there’s the presentation of life on the islands, but not too much on the Hawaiian culture. Yes, there are better episodes in this season, but this one scratches an itch for me.

“Stringer” Season 11, Episode 17. Air date: February 22, 1979. Directed by Ray Austin. Story by Paul Williams and Robert Janes. Teleplay by Robert Janes.

Members of Tony Alika’s Hawaiian kumu mob shoot out a tire on a police car that’s trailing their out-on-bail boss, causing an accident that kills one officer and nearly kills my much-adored Duke. The whole thing is caught on film by a “stringer” (free-lance photographer) named Tim Powers, who decides to try to blackmail Tony Alika and the political boss he was making a deal with.

I really need to do a whole post on Tony Alika, as he was a recurring villain during the 11th and 12th season and I’m always looking for a reason to write about my beloved Ross Martin. But I went ahead and picked this episode for my season 11 favorite because of the Paul Williams aspect. Not only does he get the story by credit, but he also plays the stringer of the title. A man who’s probably known more for his songwriting, I always love it when he shows up in things. He’s small and interesting and hard to ignore.

“Woe to Wo Fat” Season 12, Episode 19. Air date: April 5, 1980. Directed by Barry Crane. Written by Frank Telford.

The final episode. Three scientists who all attended a space-based, laser defense symposium have been abducted. McGarrett impersonates the fourth in order to be abducted and find out what’s going on. Of course, it’s Wo Fat going on.

Wo Fat is another character that deserves his own post. Khigh Dhiegh portrayed Steve McGarrett’s arch nemesis throughout the show’s 12 year run. But, when it comes to favorites, I have to give my pick to the last episode of the series. Not one of the best episodes maybe, but endings are always hard. And it’s only fitting that the last episode feature the final battle between McGarrett and Wo Fat.

I hope you enjoyed some of my favorite episodes and I hope these posts tide you over until I actually get around to doing my Book ’em, Danno podcast.

Until then, relax…

Rerun Junkie–Hawaii Five-O Favorites Seasons 5-8

It was only after I put this post together that I realized the episodes I picked featured three written by Jerome Coopersmith and two directed by Charles S. Dubin. I suppose this could be used as evidence of me liking their work.

Anyway.

Reminder that the process of picking one favorite episode from each season was difficult. If you’re curious as to how I couldn’t have possibly picked “Hookman” for season 6, it’s because I sort of wrote about it already. And you can read about my favorite episodes from seasons 1-4 here.

“I’m a Family Crook–Don’t Shoot!” Season 5, Episode 13. Air date: December 19, 1972. Written by Jerome Coopersmith. Directed by Bob Sweeney.

The Lovejoys are a family of grifters who come to Hawaii to work their magic. They end up stealing the briefcase of a collector for a mob protection racket which contains the collected protection money and his ledger. Naturally, the mob wants this briefcase back. And Five-O would like it, too. Shenanigans ensue.

This episode got the nod for this blog post because it didn’t seem right to pick the “V for Vashon” trilogy. That deserves it’s own post. But that’s not to say that “I’m a Family Crook–Don’t Shoot” didn’t earn it’s place as a fave. It’s Andy Griffith and Joyce Van Patten as con artists. How can you not love that? What’s more is that even though they’re “bad guys” in the sense that they’re criminals, you still really like them. You definitely don’t want to see the mobsters get them, but you also don’t want Five-O to throw them in jail. It’s a fun episode that provides some real tension once the mobsters go after the Lovejoys’ daughter.

“Draw Me a Killer” Season 6, Episode 2. Air date: September 18, 1973. Written by Walter Black. Directed by Charles S. Dubin.

A mentally ill young man fixated on the Judy Moon comic strip believes that he must repeatedly save the heroine and ends up murdering the comic villains’ real life look-a-likes. When the young man spots (and begins to stalk) a woman who resembles Judy Moon, things get intense. In order to flush out the killer, Danno allows himself to be drawn as the next villain.

Mental illness wasn’t necessarily handled with the deftest hand back in the day. Hey, it still isn’t now in the present. But this episode was an interesting take on someone whose grasp on reality wasn’t the best. There’s no doubt that our killer (played excellently by Elliot Street, who was also played the mentally challenged son of baseball player Pernell Roberts in a season 3 two-parter) is dangerous. But the character is also sympathetic. After all, he’s only moved to murder in order to save someone. Unfortunately, he’s mixing up fiction with reality through no fault of his own. His boss, played by Audrey Totter (The Postman Always Rings Twice), helps provide a little more dimension to a character that could easily just be a run-of-the-mill “skitzo”.

“Welcome to Our Branch Office” Season 7, Episode 11. Air date: December 3, 1974. Written by Jerome Coopersmith. Directed by Charles S. Dubin.

A pair of con men break into Five-O headquarters and take pictures of the offices. They replicate them in an abandoned building and then hire and train men to act like the real Five-O. It’s an elaborate scheme meant to extort money from wealthy businessmen. Naturally, McGarrett isn’t thrilled to find himself and his men accused of strong arming folks.

This is another fun episode I enjoy purely because it is fun. First of all, the masterminds behind this fake Five-O scheme are Cameron Mitchell (Swiss Family Robinson TV show, The Toolbox Murders) and Frank Gorshin (The Riddler himself). Talk about a fun couple. A good part of the episode shows the two of them getting together the fake gang and setting up the fake office. And the one victim who ends up reporting the fake Five-O has a wife who wears a magnificently loud dress. He also says that it was definitely McGarrett he saw. Which is hilarious because, with the exception of Danno, NONE of the look-a-likes look that much like their counterparts. Danno is the exception because James MacArthur took on a dual role to play his double, parting his hair on the wrong side to emphasize the difference. It’s an entertaining episode that provides a nice break from some of the more serious ones.

“Retire in Sunny Hawaii…Forever” Season 8, Episode 9. Air date November 7, 1975. Written by Jerome Coopersmith. Directed by Bruce Bilson.

Danno’s Aunt Clara comes out for a visit. When a man she became friendly with on the flight over is attacked by two men and ends up dead, Five-O is on the case. Aunt Clara’s quality time with her nephew now involves being used by Five-O in a ploy to catch the killers and unravel the whole illegal scheme.

Again, subjectivity plays a huge role in my choices of favorites, and this is definitely one of those episodes. Danno’s Aunt Clara is played by James MacArthur’s real-life mother Helen Hayes. I’m a sucker for things like that. Seeing mother and son work together onscreen is a true delight.  Throw in TV guest star journeyman Ian Wolfe as the unfortunate Mr. Miller and Charles During as Havens, and the episode comes together so well that you wish Aunt Clara would have visited more often.

You can read the final installment of favorite Hawaii Five-O episode posts, seasons 9-12, here.

Rerun Junkie–Hawaii Five-O Favorites Seasons 1-4

If you’ve been listening to Eventually Supertrain (and you should be!), then you know that Dan and I sometimes kid about me doing a Hawaii Five-O podcast called Book ’em, Danno because I can often make connections between Hawaii Five-O and The Green Hornet.

Now, I don’t know if my lazy self will ever go through with such a threat, but it did give me the idea to do a blog post about my favorite episodes. And when I was going through the seasons picking out my favorites, I realized that I needed to show some kind of restraint.

So, here’s what I did.

I picked one episode from each season that I love and would recommend to someone else. I tried to pick ones that I haven’t already mentioned on the blog. Since there are twelve seasons of the show, this is going to be split up into three different posts with four episodes a post. And even though this show went off the air the same year I was born, I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers.

Believe me when I say that this wasn’t easy and I will most likely be writing about the episodes I’m not mentioning here.

Until then…

“Out for the Money” Season 1, episode 17. Air date: February 5, 1969. Story by Robert Sampler. Teleplay by Palmer Thompson. Directed by Paul Stanley.

McGarrett receives a cryptic letter and a photo of a woman with her face crossed out. The woman’s been stabbed to death. After a second victim/letter/photo combo appears, it looks like there’s a serial killer on the loose. Both victims were employed by the same company, run by a woman named Martha. Her two nephews, Charlie and Arthur, also work for her. It turns out this killer has quite the agenda involving this company.

This is a delightfully twisty episode. Aunt Martha is played by my favorite Jeanette Nolan and the nephews are played by Farley Granger (Strangers on a Train) and Paul Collins (JAG). Between the captivating story and the guest cast, it’s an excellent episode that keeps you on the edge until the very end.

“Most Likely to Murder” Season 2, episode 21. Air date: February 21, 1970. Written by Robert Hamner. Directed by Nicholas Colasanto.

Police officer Lew Morgan’s wife is murdered. As Lew’s friend, this case is pretty personal for Danno. It turns out the good cop’s wife was having affairs and it’s her latest lover, a criminal, that’s the favorite suspect. Five-O needs to find him before the apparently grief-stricken husband finds him first.

Another tightly twisted episode featuring a mustache-less Tom Skerritt as Lew Morgan. Sam Melville (The Rookies) plays number one suspect Gary Oliver and Linda Ryan, who plays one of Gary’s former lovers, Gloria Warren, appeared on the show eleven times over twelve seasons, only playing the same character twice. She also inspired me to get my own pixie cut. Anyway, Danno’s personal involvement in the case gives the story a nice weight, creating a couple of good gut punches towards the end.

“Over 50? Steal” Season 3, episode 11. Air date: November 25, 1970. Written by E. Arthur Kean. Directed by Bob Sweeney.

Lewis Avery Filer is an insurance investigator forced into early retirement. In apparent revenge, Filer steals from businesses insured by his former employer using a variety of tricks and disguises that captures the attention of the press and all of our hearts. Okay, except for Five-O, who has a devil of a time catching up to him. Filer returns in season 4’s “Odd Man In”.

If you were to ask me what my all-time favorite episode of Hawaii Five-O is, I’d probably blurt this one out. Hume Cronyn is Lewis Filer and he is having an absolute ball with this character. The cleverness of the crimes and the likeability of the character really has you on his side. He’s a crook you can love! And when you find out his ultimate goal for the money, you really don’t want him to be caught. Filer is just as much fun when he comes back in “Odd Man In”.

“Goodnight, Baby-Time to Die!” Season 4, episode 21. Air date: February 15, 1972. Written by Abram S. Ginnes. Directed by Alf Kjellin.

A convicted murderer who’s been threatening a woman has escaped from jail. McGarrett and company go to the woman’s house to both protect her and hopefully catch the convict. As they wait, they receive calls and updates about the man while McGarrett talks to the woman about her connection to the killer.

This is one of those episodes where I can only tell you to watch it. The first time I did, the swerve broke my neck. No joke. It’s a very well done episode featuring Beth Brickell (Gentle Ben) as Carol Rhodes, the target of escaped convict LB Barker, played by William Watson (Gunsmoke, M*A*S*H). It’s a taut thriller of an episode that’s still good on repeated viewings.

Read about the favorite episodes from seasons 5-8 here.

Rerun Junkie–They Didn’t Have Native Americans Back Then

As I discussed in a previous post, all of your favorites are problematic. All of my favorites, too.

One problematic aspect of reruns that’s probably the most glaring is the racist casting. White actors playing non-white roles has been common place for decades and was probably at its most popular in the Westerns of the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s. That’s right. Those Native Americans were not actual Native Americans. Those Mexicans? If they had a speaking role, they were most likely not actually Mexican.

John Saxon played a Native American on Bonanza and a Mexican on Gunsmoke. Martin Landau played a Mexican on both The Rifleman and The Big Valley. Michael Ansara not only played a Mexican in a couple of episodes of Rawhide, but he was frequently cast as a Native American, including starring in his own short-lived series called Law of the Plainsman playing Deputy Marshal Sam Buckheart, a character he originally played on The Rifleman.

Sadly, one of my favorites, F-Troop, was notorious for casting white actors as their Hekawi tribe members. Frank DeKova, Don Diamond, Edward Everett Horton (who also played a Native American chief on an episode of Batman), J. Pat O’Malley, Jamie Farr, hell even Don Rickles all played Native Americans. It seemed comedic timing was more important than racial accuracy. Not that there aren’t funny Native Americans; but back then, they didn’t even bother to look for them.

Of course, Native Americans and Latinos/Latinas weren’t the only ones having white actors step in for them. Boris Karloff played an Indian Maharaja on an episode of The Wild Wild West. Wende Wagner played a native Hawaiian on an episode of Perry Mason, and her aunt in that same episode was Miriam Goldina, a native Russian. Jim Backus’s wife, Henny, played a native mother on an episode of Gilligan’s Island. Spoiler alert! Russ Grieve, who played her native husband, and Mary Foran, who played her native daughter, weren’t natives either.

Two of the most curious examples of racist casting I have ever seen happened on two of my favorite reruns, both of which I’ve mentioned before, but I’m going to mention again because they are worth mentioning at every opportunity.

In an episode of Hawaii Five-O called “Samurai”, Ricardo Montalban played a Japanese criminal. Yes, you read that correctly and aren’t you glad that you did. In the second oddest case of yellow face I’ve ever seen (we’ll get to the first one very soon), a very Mexican Ricardo Montalban had his eyes artificially slanted to play a Japanese man. Like, his accent didn’t change at all. And whatever they did to his eyes made him look less Japanese and more like an eye lift gone wrong. The entire effect is very disconcerting and I highly recommend you try to catch that episode because descriptions and pictures don’t do it any justice.

To make an already confusing casting decision even more curious, Hawaii Five-O was typically good at casting Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders to play Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

The truly oddest case of racist casting I’ve ever seen, however, belongs to the pilot episode of The Wild Wild West called “The Night of the Inferno”. In this episode Victor Buono played Juan Manolo aka Wing Fat.

Yes, let me break that down for you.

White actor Victor Buono played a Mexican man in disguise as a Chinese man. It’s basically a turducken of racist casting and I can’t help but gawk at it because I have no idea how to even begin to process it. I suppose if you’ve ever watched the series, then you can agree that at the very least, it sets you up nicely for some of the more bonzo episodes of the show.

Thankfully, this sort of whatthefuckery is largely in the past and though racist casting does still happen (whitewashing Asians and Pacific Islanders is still unnervingly common), the backlash is swift and loud. A new normal has been and is being established and even if I don’t watch current shows all that much, I’m still all for it.

After all, one day those shows will be reruns.

Rerun Junkie- The Ghosts of Shows Past

This post features spoilers for the season 4 episode of NCIS: New Orleans, “Viral”, which aired October 24, 2017. Read at your own risk.

One of the interesting tics of being a rerun junkie is seeing the ghosts of episodes of shows long past in current shows. I have no idea if these influences are intentional or not, if the writers of these current shows have these old episodes in mind when they’re writing or if they’re unconsciously haunted by the phantoms of them or if they even know about them at all. The idea that I’m projecting isn’t something I’ve dismissed.

But my brain still makes connections whether they’re there or not, intentional or not.

For example, the other night I was watching NCIS: New Orleans, which is one of the few currently-in-production shows I watch with any regularity. In this episode called “Viral”, my beloved Sebastian, forensic field agent extraordinaire, shot someone during the course of a chase. If that wasn’t bad enough, it looked like he shot an innocent, unarmed man, not the armed and dangerous suspect he’d been chasing.

A cop shooting a suspect or an innocent person is a common story, both in the news and on police shows. However, this episode reminded me of two bygone episodes of cop shows from over forty years ago.

After the shooting, Sebastian is interrogated by an FBI agent about what happened. The way he’s questioned reminds me of an episode of Adam-12, “Log 33: It All Happened So Fast” (air date February 1, 1969). In that episode, Officer Jim Reed shoots a young man who’s shooting at him and his partner (also my TV boyfriend) Pete Malloy. A majority of the episode shows the repeated questioning that Reed is subjected to, some of which infuriates him because of the insinuations that he’s not telling the truth. He’s also upset over the fact that he had to shoot someone (as was Sebastian). Sebastian is subjected to similar questioning, though not for as long, obviously. There’s a mystery to be solved and a dangerous assassin to catch.

The real hitch in clearing Sebastian is, though he swears the suspect shot at him and that he saw him with a gun, there’s no gun to be found. This reminds me of an episode of Hawaii Five-O, “…And They Painted Daisies on His Coffin” (air date November 7, 1968). In that episode, my TV boyfriend Danno chases a young man with a gun into his apartment. When Danno shoots the lock, he believes he unintentionally shoots the man. However, there is no gun found on the suspect. Why? His girlfriend has taken it and fled the scene (running to the notorious Big Chicken), something that also happens to Sebastian when the wife of the dead “innocent” man (it turns out this couple isn’t so innocent) takes the dropped gun to protect herself and her husband and then shows up a few minutes later as the wildly grieving wife.

The twist in this case is less cop show, more masked hero adventure. The “innocent” couple was supposed to deliver the gun to the assassin so he could do a job. The shooting interrupts things and the assassin ends up killing the wife in order to get the gun. The gun is an air gun that shoots glass bullets. That made me think of The Green Hornet episode “The Silent Gun” (air date September 9, 1966). As the title suggests, the gun in question is a rare 17 caliber gun that’s absolutely silent when fired. This leads to a lot of people wanting this gun. (You can listen to me and Dan talk about this episode and all of the many names of people therein on Episode 33 of Eventually Supertrain.) The gun in “Viral” is just as coveted, at least by the assassin, and equally unique, though a little more believable. An air gun gets through security and glass bullets “disappear” on impact.

Like these old episodes, this new one ends happily. Sebastian is cleared (like Reed and Danno) and the bad guy is caught (the Green Hornet gets the gun AND Lloyd Bochner).

Because the good guy winning is an ending worth repeating .

Rerun Junkie Guest Stars–Victor Buono

Oh, Victor Buono, how do I love you? Let me count the ways.

Funny, campy, witty, clever, a man whose presence was more than his size, this lover of Shakespeare dedicated himself to his craft in a way that let him fully embody a character, even take it over the top (and in some cases way over the top), yet never take himself too seriously nor lose credibility with the audience in the process.

Obviously, if Batman was the only rerun I’d ever seen Victor Buono in, that would be enough. His King Tut is my favorite Batman villain and with good reason. He embraces the camp of the show, revels in it. He bellows, he insults, he bosses, he throws tantrums. He goes from joyful to angry and back again. He thinks torture is good clean fun. He is royalty. Every line is quotable and so much of it is in King Tut’s delivery. My personal favorite is “My queen is disloyal, my handmaiden is a traitor, and everybody’s being mean to me!” It’s delivered as only Victor Buono can.

Though he never made it onto The Green Hornet, Mr. Buono did guest start in two other short-lived series starring Van Williams, Burbon Street Beat and Surfside 6.

And Batman wasn’t the only show in which he was a recurring character. He also did six episodes of the short-lived (I’m sensing a theme) series Man from Atlantis and six episodes on the longer-lived series Vega$.

He also did a couple of episodes as Count Manzeppi on my beloved The Wild Wild West (including an episode with Richard Pryor in one of his first TV acting appearances), however, Victor Buono also appeared in the pilot episode of the series in the bizarre role of a Mexican in disguise as a Chinese man. I will repeat that because it bears repeating. White Victor Buono played a Mexican in disguise as a Chinese man.

The ’60s were wild.

Speaking of the ’60s, those were busy guest star times for Mr. Buono. He appeared on Westerns Sugarfoot, The Rebel, and Daniel Boone; had some watery fun on Seahunt and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; went undercover on The Man from UNCLE, The Girl from UNCLE, and I Spy; found himself on various sides of the law in Hawaiian EyeThe Untouchables, 77 Sunset Strip, and Perry Mason; and  he found time to thrill on Thriller and visit The Flying Nun.

Lucky for me, Mr. Buono graced Hawaii Five-O with his presence, playing a European master criminal after a rare Liberty head nickel. I believe this is also the episode that features the husband and wife in charming matching outfits. Only that could challenge the presence of Victor Buono and Jack Lord together onscreen.

Though he never made it on The Love Boat, Mr. Buono did manage to board Super Train and land on Fantasy Island. He also browsed The Night Gallery; again tangled with the law on The Mod Squad, Mannix, and Ellery Queen; and generated more than a few laughs on Here’s Lucy, The Odd Couple, and Alice.

One of his more memorable sitcom turns was on Taxi, playing Reverend Jim Ignatowski’s father, Mr. Caldwell, despite being only 8 months older than Christopher Lloyd. It was a naturally funny, but also sweet role, one that Taxi acknowledged in a later episode. After Victor Buono died of a heart attack in 1982, Reverend Jim’s father did, too.

 

 

 

Though Victor Buono died tragically early (only 43), we are left with a wealth of guest spots on some great reruns to enjoy. An immortal gift if there ever was one.