by Deborah Harter Williams
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday each of us with our memories of family togetherness (however wonderful or painful they might be), I thought I’d take a look at fictional families who solve mysteries together.
You might consider whom you might want at your dinner table.
Brothers – partners against crime
The indefatigable Hardy Boys have been detecting in books since 1927 and have appeared on television in five different incarnations. Has anyone seen them all?
• 1956-57 Tim Considine and Tommy Kirk appeared in two serialized stories on The Mickey Mouse Club.
• 1967 Tim Matheson as Joe and Rick Gates as Frank on CBS.
• 1969, ABC cartoon series with the Hardys in a rock and roll band.
• 1977-79 ABC Parker Stevenson (Frank) and Shaun Cassidy (Joe) scored with The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. Nancy was dropped by season three but the brothers continued.
• 1995 Colin Gray and Paul Popowich led a Canadian co- production which was dubbed into French for Quebec and France.
1981-1989 Simon and Simon
More grown-up and rambunctious than the Hardy Boys with a lot more sibling rivalry. Gerald McRaney (Rick, hat-wearing and truck-loving) and Jameson Parker (A.J., suit-wearing Ivy leaguer) worked together at the family detective agency in San Diego. Tim Reid was Detective “Downtown” Brown.
1973-1974 Snoop Sisters, NBC,
I had to go back a bit to find sleuthing sisters but it was worth it. Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick were Ernesta Snoop and Gwendolyn Snoop Nicholson. With Jessica Fletcher’s knack for stumbling across mysteries they ably came up with the solutions. Hayes, 73 at the time, and Natwick 68, both were nominated for Emmys (Natwick won). In only four 90-minute episodes they hosted a slew of guest stars including Art Carney, Cyril Ritchard, George Maharis and Alice Cooper.
Oh brother, oh sister – hey Ma!
Current Season 5 – Rizzoli and Isles, TNT,
The extended Rizzoli family does an Italian-American take on crime fighting. Jane and Frankie are on the force, mother Angela works at the Division Cafe – and Maura surely qualifies as an honorary sister.
Father Knows Best
1975-76 Ellery Queen, NBC
Jim Hutton was Ellery Queen and David Wayne his father, Inspector Richard Queen. Created by esteemed Levinson and Link (Mannix, Columbo, Murder, She Wrote). Jim Hutton’s son Tim carried on the sleuthing tradition as Archie Goodwin in one of the Nero Wolfe series.
1993-2001 Diagnosis Murder,
Not only do Dr. Dad and his cop son frequently solve cases together, but they are played by father and son Dick and Barry Van Dyke.
Other detectives have called on dear old dad for help:
Psych’s Shawn Spencer often got an assist from father Henry played by Corbin Bernson. (Whose real life mother Jeanne Cooper of Young and the Restless fame twice played his mother on LA Law.)
Jim Rockford’s dad was always giving advice, and Remington Steele’s father, played by Laura Holt’s (Stephanie Zimbalist) real father Efrem Zimbalist Jr. dropped in on capers. It was not always clear, however, which side he was on.
The Whole Fam-damily
Current Season 5 – Blue Bloods, CBS
When the Reagan family sits down to dinner there’s both a former (Henry – Len Cariou) and current (Frank – Tom Selleck) NYC police commissioner heading up the table. This multi-generational family of cops and lawyers includes a homicide detective (Danny – Donnie Wahlberg), a patrolman (Jamie – Will Estes) and an assistant district attorney (Erin – Bridget Moynahan). The series mines the values and conflicts of this Irish law enforcement clan and is famous for its dinner table discussions that shed light on the morality and compromises that come with their jobs.
Behind the scenes family notes:
The 2011 Thanksgiving episode of Blue Bloods was written by Hardy boy Shaun Cassidy (son of Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones, half-brother of David).
Donnie Wahlberg is part of a performing family from Boston, which has a reality series based on their restaurant Wahlburgers. When not at the Blue Bloods table or the family burger joint, Donnie sometimes appears as a would-be romantic interest for Jane Rizzoli. Wahlberg recently expanded his family by marrying Jenny McCarthy and signing a deal for a reality show featuring the couple.
And so as you give thanks for good food and most of your family, may you all enjoy both the meal and the leftovers, which you may want to serve with a side of traditional holiday TV fare and a few of these re-runs.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
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