1973-74: End of the line

Shelly Novack and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in 1973.

Watergate, pre-emptions take toll on series

The FBI faced major changes as it went into its ninth season. ABC moved its longest running crime drama one-half hour earlier, to 7:30 p.m. Sunday nights.

The series also had a major casting change for the first time since 1967. William Reynolds, who played SAC Tom Colby, was gone—but not entirely, as he appears uncredited in episodes 227 and 233. He was replaced by college athletic star and actor Shelly Novack, who was 13 years younger than Mr. Reynolds. According to Jonathan Etter’s book “Quinn Martin, Producer,” ABC wanted Mr. Novack to replace Mr. Reynolds because the network wanted to give the series a younger look.

The series ALSO had new opening credits as well, and they looked great!!!

Beyond that, however, the Watergate scandal was beginning to devour the United States. People’s trust in government plummeted, and that hurt the series, though indirectly. This season was marked by the fewest number of episodes produced, 23 total.

The network finally cancelled the series in the spring of 1974, after 240 episodes. Ratings were not an issue; they remained strong. The reason had to do with problems the real-life FBI faced.

The ninth season was not without its high points. It had plenty! Shelly Novack seems to have been an effectiver performer. He showed this as well in a 1974 episode of Kung Fu, a popular ABC western that featured an Asian leading man (played by Caucasian actor David Carradine). Tom Selleck would make an early appearance in this season, and Wiliam Reynolds made his final-ever guest appearance on a television series here (“The Animal,” airing on 17 February 1974).

In the end credits, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. drove a 1974 Ford Gran Torino. That car was even bulkier looking in the season because of the 5-mile-per-hour bumpers mandated on American cars that year. Even Ford would not fare well, because of the energy crisis that would grip America during this season. And it isn’t NOW, since Bill Ford quit as CEO of his company in September 2006.

Available on AOL’s In2TV:

Episodes 219 (“The Confession”) and 236 (“Deadly Ambition”) may now be seen in streaming video on this site. They are available for viewing on AOL’s In2TV.

A change of producers

Anthony Spinner, who had written episodes of The FBI, became producer for Season Nine. He had been producer for other series, notably The Man From U.N.C.L.E., in its final season in 1967.

This page updated 25 May 2007.

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