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Retro : Return of the Short Timers : SERIES THAT DIDN'T LAST MORE THAN A SEASON GET A SECOND SHOWING ON TNT

October 30, 1994|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A television series can fail for many reasons.

It could be the time slot. Or sometimes networks don't give a series a chance to find an audience. Often it's simply bad scripts, directing or acting.

But don't count the already canceled completely out: This month TNT it devoting its 11 a.m. weekday movie slot to several TV series that lasted one season or less.

Kicking off this festival of sorts Monday is "Hawkins," starring the venerable James Stewart. "Hawkins" originally aired on CBS from October, 1973, to September, 1974; it rotated with "Shaft" and "The New CBS Tuesday Night Movies."

Despite its limited run, "Hawkins" is fun to watch, thanks to Stewart's enjoyable turn as Billy Jim Hawkins, a former deputy district attorney now in private legal practice in West Virginia. Despite living in a small town, Hawkins attracted fancy clients and specialized in murder cases. Strother Martin co-starred as his cousin and investigative assistant, R.J. Hawkins.

On tap for the week of Nov. 7 are Gavilan and McClain's Law.

"Gavilan," which aired for three months beginning in October, 1982, starred Robert Urich, Patrick Macnee and Kate Reid. Urich played Robert Gavilan, a former CIA agent who, though, a tad cynical, was eager to right wrongs. Now an inventor and consultant to the California's DeWitt Institute of Oceanography, Gavilan helped people in need, worked on underwater projects and managed to find time get involved in spy activities. He shared his Malibu house with Milo Bentley (Macnee), a charming travel agent who helped out Gavilan. Reid played Marion Jaworski, Gavilan's boss at the institute.

"McClain's Law" starred "Gunsmoke's" James Arness in his only contemporary series. The police drama aired on NBC from Nov. 20, 1981, to Aug. 24, 1982.

Arness played Jim McClain, a former police officer who had retired 13 years earlier after a leg injury. Off the force, McClain worked as a fisherman and lived in a houseboat in San Pedro. After his fishing partner was robbed and murdered, McClain got himself reinstated so he could nab the killer. George DiCenzo played his new boss, Lt. DeNisco, and Marshall Colt was McClain's young partner, Harry Gates.

Eleven years before he joined "NYPD Blue," Dennis Franz was a regular on NBC's Chicago Story, which aired March to August, 1982. TNT will air five episodes the week of Nov. 14. The drama series focused on the lives of three groups of Windy City professionals--doctors, lawyers and police officers. Maud Adams and Kristoffer Tabori were surgeons in a hospital's trauma unit. Vincent Bagetta played a public defender and Craig T. Nelson was a young assistant D.A. And Franz played--what else?--a cop.

Long before Jack Palance received his Oscar for "City Slickers," he starred in the 1975-76 CBS detective drama "Bronk." TNT will dust off the series the week of Nov. 21.

"Bronk" found Palace playing a not-so-tough cop who was asked by an old friend (Joseph Mascolo), now a mayor of a Southern California town, to rid the town of corruption. Tony King played Bronk's assistant, Sgt. John Webber.

TNT rounds out the month with a week of "Shaft," beginning Nov. 28.

The 1971 movie Shaft, starring Richard Roundtree and directed by Gordon Parks, was a huge hit that spawned two sequels, "Shaft's Big Score" and "Shaft in Africa," and the 1973-74 CBS series.

Roundtree reprised his movie role as the sexy, street-smart private eye in New York. In the series, though, his cases often took him away from the Big Apple. Ed Barth co-starred as Lt. Al Rossi, who would often supply Shaft with information. The series also used Isaac Hayes' Oscar-winning "Theme from 'Shaft.' "

"Hawkins" airs Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on TNT; "Gavilan" airs Nov. 7-11 at 11 a.m.; "McClain's Law" follows at noon; "Chicago Story" airs Nov. 14-18 at 11 a.m.; "Bronk" airs Nov. 21-25 at 11 a.m. and noon; and "Shaft" airs Nov. 28-Dec. 1 at 11 a.m.

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