1965-66: An atypical start

Stephen Brooks, Lynn Loring and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in 1965

Human drama emphasized in first season

The FBI began its nine-year run on 19 September 1965, when the episode “The Monster” aired at 8 p.m. The show began in an atypical manner. All episodes had no narration, and the show was first billed as a “QM Production.” By the end of 1965, it was billed as a “QM/Warner Brothers Production.” It almost seemed as if executive producer Quinn Martin had no faith in the series. Or, he might just wanted to distance himself from the series altogether, since this show was not his idea to begin with.

Never mind. Several great episodes would air, including the outstanding fourth show, “Slow March Up A Steep Hill.” William Reynolds, who played SAC Tom Colby, would make his first appearance on the series, in episode # 28, “The Tormentors.” He already displayed a distictive appearance that would finally earn him his role as SAC Tom Colby in September 1967.

We also see some real conflict between Inspector Erskine and his superior, Assistant Director Arthur Ward. This is already apparent in the first episode, and we see this happening in much of the season’s run. He also has conflicts with his sidekick, SAC Jim Rhodes.

ABC was in third place in the ratings in 1965. The FBI was one of many series introduced that fall, and one of the rare ones to survive. Because of this, the network instituted a “Second Season” in January 1966, with Batman as the headlining series. The Avengers would be introduced to viewers on 28 March 1966. By this time, the series was well on its way to airing 31 original episodes, the most of any season.

In the end credits, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. drove a 1966 Ford Mustang. This season was also atypical, because he drove the vehicle through rush-hour traffic in Washington, DC. In future seasons, he would drive on roads devoid of all traffic.

Barbara Erskine and Joanna Laurens

Women figured into Lewis Erskine’s life in this season. Lynn Loring was already an acting veteran at age 21 when she was cast as Barbara Erskine, the inspector’s daughter. Lee Meriwether, Miss America 1955, was cast as the inspector’s girlfriend, Joanna Laurens. Neither woman lasted long in their respective roles, but they allowed viewers to see sides of Lewis Erskine missing in later episodes.

We learn that Barbara Erskine and her father’s sidekick, SAC Jim Rhodes, are seeing each other and are planning to marry. The inspector is unhappy about this, and tries to discourage the two of them from tying the knot. Joanna Laurens, who works at the bureau, is the inspector’s girlfriend who has to suffer from his workaholic tendencies.

Section Alert

22 August 2011

All SHOWN episodes of the first season, to the best of our knowledge, are up on this section as of today. We are checking out what was to have been the 32nd episode, which was to have aired on 8 May 1966, but may have remained unaired. Thank you!

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