|Benay Venuta and Billy Pearson|
This pilot for a series based on the books about Bertha Cool (Benay Venuta) and Donald Lam (Billy Pearson), private investigators, aired on CBS in 1958 but never became a series. The books were written by Erle Stanley Gardner (as "A. A. Fair") and he introduces the show as well. Gardner more famously created Perry Mason; this show has the same producer, but lightning didn't strike twice. In this one and only episode, based on "Turn On the Heat," the Cool and Lam team are hired by a man calling himself "Smith" to find out if a certain woman ever remarried. Turns out Smith is a mayoral candidate and may be an accidental bigamist. Then a cocktail hostess named Evaline Dell (Allison Hayes of The Disembodied) who has some knowledge of the situation is found murdered. Lam, the brains behind the outfit while penny-pinching Cool takes care of the finances, eventually unmasks the true murderer. This could have developed into an interesting show, but perhaps the unusual Venuta and Pearson -- not exactly subtle actors -- were seen more as supporting players than stars. Diminutive Pearson had been a thoroughbred jockey who appeared on game shows in the fifties and then became an actor with a short-lived career [no pun intended]. The hefty Venuta appeared sporadically in films and on television and had a small role in Repeat Performance. Tristram Coffin appears briefly in a funny prologue. Margaret Field, Don Megowan, Sheila Bromley, and Maurice Manson also have roles.
Verdict: Not bad, but you can't win 'em all.