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Pilot, telepix place Conrad back in action

After taking time to regroup following the CBS series “High Mountain Rangers” and its spin-off “Jesse Hawkes,” actor-producer Robert Conrad is revving up the production wheels again through his A. Shane Company, including a new action series pilot and four planned TV movies.

The first of the vidpix, “Secret Vows,” began production this past weekend for CBS, to be produced by Conrad’s company in association with Robert Halmi’s RHI Entertainment.

Inspired by a true story, it will star Conrad as a detective obsessed with solving the assassination-style murder of three teen-agers, with Peter H. Hunt directing from a script by John Carlen and David Venable.

The pilot, “Search and Rescue,” is based on a group of volunteer rangers involved in mountaineering and survival techniques and would be set near Conrad’s adopted home of Bear Valley. George Schenck and Frank Cardea, last involved in the ABC series “Pros & Cons,” are exec producers-writers on the pilot, which began at CBS but is now being shopped around to all comers, including a potential berth in first-run syndication.

Based on true stories

Three other movies in development are based on true stories: “Child of Mine,” about an Olympic ski team aspirant, Denise Rassmussen, crippled in a 1989 car accident, being written by Peter Lefcourt and David J. Kinghorn at ABC; “Willingness to Die,” at NBC, about an army officer whose daughter enlists and requests to be sent into combat, also written by Kinghorn; and “Border Games,” based on a Norton Flynn story about California teen-agers who hunt down illegal immigrants, leading to a violent confrontation.

Roger Bacon and Joan Conrad, the actor’s daughter, are producer and exec producer, respectively, on all the telepix. Still, Conrad’s operation is less a family affair than it’s been in the past, with his son Shane Conrad opting to seek work on his own, after co-starring–along with Conrad’s other son Christian–in both “Rangers” and “Jesse Hawkes.”

The elder Conrad also starred recently in a contemporary western feature, “Samurai Cowboy,” along with Matt McCoy, Catherine Mary Stewart and Japanese pop star Hiromi Go. The international co-production will be released domestically by Don Distribution and handled internationally through Saban Entertainment.

Conrad said it was only a minor logistical problem to operate his production company out of Bear Valley and quipped that despite getting older he’s still “junior to the superstars of TV,” alluding to the strong ratings for such stars as Andy Griffith (“Matlock”), Raymond Burr (“Perry Mason”) and Peter Falk (“Columbo”).

The actor’s recent TV movie roles include “Anything to Survive” and “Mario and the Mob,” following past series such as “Black Sheep Squadron” and, of course, “Wild, Wild West,” the durable action series that ran on CBS from 1965- 70, which is bound for a big-screen treatment from Warner Bros.

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