Gene Barry, back 28 years later as urbane Amos Burke, tries gamely to make this new version of the ’60s series about the debonair, millionaire homicide chief appear contemporary. With grown son Peter (Peter Barton) as a homicide detective, domestic buddy-chauffeur Henry (Danny Kamekona) as a foil, and a host of celebs to flesh out the crime, “Burke’s Law’s” first outing looks as old as a frayed homburg.
First case in the series spotlights a film actress (Denice Lewis) whom young Peter once knew and who slept her way to B-film stardom in Hollywood. She’s murdered on the set of her latest flick with the producer (an uncomfortable-looking George Segal), his wife (Michelle Phillips) and the assorted crew all witnesses. And suspects.
A glance down the cast list should tip off viewers to the killer. Besides an old-hat plot line loaded with blank characters, scripter James L. Conway has concocted trite dialogue (“You want to talk about it?”) and painfully colorful situations (Segal’s producer hosts a femme water ballet in his back yard). Director Dennis Dugan doesn’t serve up much suspense, though there’s some tension when chef Dom DeLuise waves a live lobster over a steaming kettle.
Action goes so far as to have Peter bungee jump from a bridge with a stuntman so he can quiz him. Supposedly madcap stuff doesn’t work, or even make sense. Teleplay winds up with a gathering of suspects, Burke pointing out the right one and the murderer making a break for it.
Burke originated as a one-shot character on ABC’s “Dick Powell Playhouse” in 1961, with Powell playing Burke, Aaron Spelling producing. Spelling and Barry jump-started the popular series in 1963 on ABC, where it ran until January 1966. Format included glamour, tongue-in-chic wit and a collection of star cameos.
But the main drive was Barry’s sure-footed sleuthing and charm in the purposely lightweight mysteries.
New series will again parade celebs in small roles — Carol Channing and Anne Francis are set for future programs — and Barry will continue his suave ways, though they’ve taken on a strained air.
The breezy chitchat between dad and son in the opener is weak stuff, and the part of Henry in the pilot is extraneous.
Polly Bergen pretties things up as the chief’s semi-g.f., Phillips’ role is a thankless one and Gerald McRaney is in charge of the film-within-the-film’s special effects. As Peter Burke, Barton of “The Young and the Restless” leaves little impression. As Burke’s tailor, Gloria Loring plays in the earlier ABC series’ league.
What’s supposed to be the resurrection of a sophisticated murder mystery series turns out to be a dud, and watching the genteel Barry hoofing with a rock troupe rates a cringe.
Tech credits are OK.