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Retro : The Law and Barry : AMOS BURKE IS BACK--THIS TIME ON CBS


"You know something?," Gene Barry says. "It's just like riding a bike."

From 1963 to 1965, Barry starred in the popular ABC detective series "Burke's Law" as Amos Burke, the Los Angeles chief of detectives who just happened to be a millionaire. Suave, intelligent and handsome, Burke would report to the scene of the crime in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce.

Nearly three decades after "Burke's Law" went to syndication heaven, it's back as a new limited CBS series.

"Now I'm the chief of homicide," says Barry, relaxing this sunny afternoon in the family room of his friendly Beverly Hills home. "I still have the old car--we found one the same year (1963) and it looks great--and a better house."

Burke also has a detective son, played by Peter Barton of "The Young and the Restless" fame.

"Instead of having a sidekick or a young detective with me all the time, I have a son," Barry says. "Thirty years ago, Burke wasn't married, but he got married and lost his wife."

The Burke fils lives in a garage apartment at his father's mansion. "He's totally opposite," Barry says. "Where I dress in nice suits, he'll dress like from the Gap or something. I drive around in the Rolls Royce and he drives a Jeep."

Barry had been looking to revive "Burke's Law" for a number of years, but all the deals fell apart. "CBS was always interested," he says. It was producer Aaron Spelling, who was a producer on the original series, who finally made the new series a reality. "He always loved the show," Barry says.

Ironically, Barry had no interest in doing a TV series 30 years ago. From 1958 to 1961, he starred in the NBC Western "Bat Masterson" as the dandy lawman. After it was canceled, Barry was eager to do features. He had come out from the New York stage in the early '50s and appeared in such films as "War of the Worlds," "China Gate" and "Soldier of Fortune" before doing TV.

Still, his agent asked him to read the "Burke's Law" pilot script. But Barry didn't want to be tempted. "I said: 'No. I don't want to play television. I want to go forward.' "

In fact, Barry had earlier turned down the role of Dr. Richard Kimble in "The Fugitive." "I said to (creator) Roy Huggins, 'If you want to do a one-shot, I would be happy to do it,' " Barry recalls. "But to play this character every I week, I would be afraid of that character, that it would stamp me in the wrong kind of way."

Eventually, he read the "Burke's Law" pilot and loved it. "That's how I got involved," Barry says. Over the years, Spelling has called Barry to do weekly series, including "Dynasty." But Barry turned down the long-running prime-time soap to star on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning musical "La Cage Aux Folles." "I may not have gotten rich," Barry says, "but it was a wonderful experience."

Barry's discovered it's been easy to get back into Amos Burke's shoes. "The character stays with you," he says. "You find that as you get older, you add new elements, richer elements. When I look back at some of the things I did, I didn't like them. I did comedy and maybe I reached too far. I know what's more tasteful, and bringing the son into it makes it much richer."

It so happens that Barry's eldest son, Michael, is involved in the new series. The two wrote a script about a murder which takes place at a Hollywood roast. "This is one of the five we are shooting," Barry says proudly. "We were flattered that they loved our idea. It's one heck of a script."

"Burke's Law" airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on CBS.

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