“The FBI,” a fondly remembered, long-running TV series, is fondly remembered no more! Because now fans can see it again with Warner Archive’s release of its first 16 episodes from the 1965 debut season, spread evenly across four discs. Having never seen the show before — when it finished its run, I was all of 3, more attuned to mastering my ABCs than the doings of the FBI — it was a joy to connect instantly with its procedural groove. Its blaring of being “a Quinn Martin production!” is classic-tube comfort.
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (dad of Stephanie, of “Remington Steele” fame) fronts the show as Agent Erskine, whose young daughter (Lynn Loring) isn’t exactly as ambitious as he: “Who needs a degree to be a good wife?” she says, aiming to marry Pa’s partner, Agent Rhodes (Stephen Brooks).
Anyway, affairs of the heart are not the core of “The FBI.” Crime, however, is. Among this batch are procedural tales — some based on real FBI cases — involving a “Psycho”-style killer of women, bank robbers who conceal their identities with plastic masks, Jack Klugman as an embezzler on the run, plus amnesiacs, hijackers and religious nuts.
Unsurprising for the era, guest stars abound, like Leslie Nielsen, back before he was a comedic actor, and the aforementioned Klugman. Really, I bring this up just to share what a cougar Dina Merrill was back then.
“Back then” — that’s the whole appeal of a show like this. TV dramas were less flashy, and more story-oriented, yet still packed plenty of action. This one’s different enough from ep to ep to keep your attention and free time under arrest. —Rod Lott