Often people say that an old series would never be picked up by a network in the 21st century. Many times you can debate the truthfulness of such insight. However there’s no question that Cannon would never get the green light in a TV universe that worships the 18-34 demographic. The ’70s detective show would be laughed out of an executive’s office based solely off the actor chosen to play Frank Cannon. William Conrad was a middle-aged, short, overweight, bald guy with a face that was perfect for radio. His biggest role was the voice of Matt Dillon on the radio version of Gunsmoke. He was not going to get the cover of Tiger Beat in the Fall TV preview issue. Maybe the network suit thought the producers were pitching Robert Conrad (The Wild Wild West)? What makes Cannon unique is that the network didn’t force them to sex up the show. He didn’t have a sizzling secretary that answered the phone in a bikini. He didn’t have a stud for a portage to do all the heavy lifting in a tanktop. Private investigator Frank Cannon worked alone and viewers embraced his rotund sleuthing for five seasons. Cannon: Season Two, Volume Two gives us another 12 cases where gut instinct overwhelms brute strength.
“Nobody Beats the House” has Tom Skerritt (Alien) as a degenerate gambler who has lost more than his family can afford. His wife hires Cannon to stop the mobsters that keep luring Tom into their various games. John Marley (The Godfather) plays a mobster who has no plans to wake up to a horse’s head. Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky and Hutch) runs he crooked home casino that’s been the ruin of many Poker hopefuls. Geoffrey Lewis (the heavy who isn’t Robert Pine) is the man who might be busting kneecaps. Can Cannon shut down this operation or will his client be tossed in the discard pile? “Hard Rock Roller Coaster” wins cool points by having a major clue involving a T. Rex song that isn’t “Bang a Gong.” A rich guy and his sister get involved with a John Doe amnesia victim played by John Vernon (Animal House). As Cannon unravels Vernon’s identity, he gets a clearer picture of his employer. Brace yourself for an Alice Cooper knock-off band doing Crosby Stills and Nash songs. “The Dead Samaritan” is a murder charge involving David Hedison (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea). He needs Cannon to find the real killer else he’s sunk. “Death of a Stone Seahorse” gives us the second half of Starsky and Hutch when David Soul kills a man that grabbed his drug drop. Soul frames his mentally impaired sister (The Gauntlet‘s Sondra Locke) for the killing. Tim O’Connor (Buck Rogers) hires Cannon to clear his daughter, but can he deal with exposing the true killer?
“Murder For Murder” turns the normally jovial Dick Van Patten (Eight Is Enough) into a vengeance obsessed father. Cannon gets hired to prevent him from taking revenge on two brothers he swear killed his daughter. I bet if Adam Rich saw Van Patten in this role, he wouldn’t have been such a smart mouth son. Mary Frann (Newhart) is the surviving dad. “Prisoners” has a botched self-kidnapping. The legendary Harold Gould (Rhoda) gets the ransom demand for his son's safe return. Turns out this is the kid's way of "borrowing" money from dad without looking needy. Can Cannon save this family?
"The Seventh Grave" gives us a small town serial killer on the loose. Local newspaperman Barry Nelson (Sin, American Style) needs Cannon to help him investigate his hunch as to the killer. Shelley Duvall (The Shining) is a hippie chick who doesn’t mind taking rides. Don’t get too attached to her. Cannon nearly gets killed by a broken gas heater in his motel room. “Press Pass to the Slammer” deals with confidential sources. Marlyn Mason is a reporter who has a source that swears a traffic accident was a homicide. She hires Cannon to prove her case without revealing her source. Stuart Margolin (Rockford Files‘ Angel) runs a wig shop. “Deadly Heritage” forces Beverly Garland to pay Cannon to locate her husband’s estranged son. There’s plenty of issues that need to be resolved.
Throughout all 12 episodes on Cannon: Season Two, Volume Two, William Conrad reminds us that nobody else could have become Cannon. Sure he’s fat, old, short and bald. But he’s also charming, authoritative and disarming. He can get close to certain people because how can he possibly be a threat? Many times they figure when he gets too close, the can just eliminate Cannon. But they don’t understand that his fatness is a padding against body blows. Not being a pretty boy makes him not too threatened by taking a head shot. He’s a bulldog that won’t let go until he’s satisfied that he case is over.
“Nobody Beats the House,” “Hard Rock Roller Coaster,” “The Dead Samaritan,” “Death of a Stone Seahorse,” “Moving Target,” “Murder for Murder,” “To Ride a Tiger,” “The Prisoners,” “The Seventh Grave,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Press Pass to the Slammer” and “Deadly Heritage.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The bad news is that like the previous three sets, these transfers are off older Broadcast masters. There’s been no news why Cannon wasn’t given fresh high definition transfers from the 35mm source.
Episodic Promos (0:30) are provided for each episode. Always nice to see how they teased the heavy weight champion of private detectives.
Cannon: Season Two, Volume Two continues the adventures of the most unlikely TV hero. The episodes have plenty of thrills and twists even for the portly private investigator to break a sweat. People feared the minute he pulled into their parking lot in his Lincoln Continental Mark IV. He might not have been a pretty person, but he wouldn’t stop investigating until his clients glowed with innocence.
CBS DVD presents Cannon: Season Two, Volume Two. Starring: William Conrad. Boxset Contents: 12 Episodes on 3 DVDs. Released on DVD: February 16, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.