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The TV That Time Forgot: Richard Diamond

With all of the CSI-style forensic cop shows on TV, it may be hard to remember that network television was once ruled by cowboys and two-fisted private eyes.

One of the first of the shamuses was Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

The show was one of the first on TV because it had been a long-running, successful radio series. The radio show was created by Blake Edwards, who was later to create TV detective Peter Gunn as well as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther film fame.

 Diamond had been played on radio by Dick Powell, but when it made the jump to CBS television, Powell stepped behind the camera as Executive Producer. In his place a young David Janssen was cast, beginning what was a very long career as a television star (The Fugitive, O’Hara, U.S. Treasury, Harry O, etc.). 

One of the best remembered elements of the show was Diamond’s answering service. The woman who took his messages was only identified as “Sam” and we only saw close-ups of her mouth and most often, shots of her very attractive legs.

Supplying the voice and the gams was none other than Mary Tyler Moore who was just billing herself as Mary Moore in those days.

The first two seasons saw Diamond as a hard-boiled Manhattan detective in the Dashiell Hammett/Mickey Spillane tradition. However, for the 3rd season (perhaps reflecting the sudden success of a new private eye series 77 Sunset Strip) Diamond moved out to Los Angeles and traded his shabby N.Y. office for an elegant bachelor pad in the Hollywood Hills.

For its fourth and final season, the show jumped to NBC and the Hollywood glamour elements were toned down.

While the show was initially very successful in syndication, the fact that all four seasons were shot in black and white eventually led to its disappearance from the Vast Wasteland.

Two of the shows 77 episodes have since slipped into public domain. They can be found on many “dollar bin” collections of old TV shows, but the rest of the series has never been officially released on home video.

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