The FBI faced many changes when production began for the eight season in May 1972. J. Edgar Hoover, longtime agency director, had just died. Dan Blocker, who played Hoss on rival series Bonanza, had died also. That show moved to Tuesday nights in the fall of 1972, and died a quiet death the following January.
But there were more challenges.
NBC gave fresh competition in the forms of Columbo, McMillan and Wife, McCloud, which ran on The NBC Mystery Movie. That ran on Sunday nights ranked No. 6 in 1972-73.
Beyond that, both NBC and CBS had improved ratings, and that tore into all of ABC’s shows. CBS, especially, had a very strong lineup with such hard-hitting shows as All In The Family and Maude. The result was that The FBI and all other ABC shows fell out of the Top 20, with the lone exception of The Patridge Family. This was a far cry from two seasons ago, when ABC had strong ratings.
Because of concerns over television violence, less of it was used in the series from this point onward. Far fewer people were killed. This actually put the show more in line with the day-to-day reality of the actual agency.
A promo for the series at this time promised new story lines. This was indeed understandable. By 1972, the series had been airing for seven years, already a long time for a one-hour crime drama. The 200th episode, “The Wizard,” featuring Ross Martin, would air on 12 November 1972.
In the end credits of “Dark Christmas,” Efrem Zimbalist Jr. drove a 1973 Mercury sedan in the closing credits.
We now offer streaming video for the episode, “Dark Christmas,” courtesy of AOL’s In2TV.
- Efrem Zimbalist Jr.'s hairstyle changes. The part in his hair goes back to one similar to what he had in the first three seasons of the series. However, his hair is styled.
- William Reynolds’ hair remains mostly the same, though it looks a little more styled.
- The opening prologue, used from 1965, is replaced by teasers of the upcoming episode, and the title sequence is different.
- Finally, one sees the following in the end credits: “The producers extend appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their assistance in this series.” For the first time since 1965, no FBI director is credited. J. Edgar Hoover died on 2 May 1972, and L. Patrick Gray had not been confirmed as FBI Director. Mr. Gray never would, and he left the Bureau in on 27 April 1973. William D. Ruckelshaus succeeded him as acting director on 30 April 1973 and remained until 9 July, when Clarence M. Kelley became the second permanent director.