1965: Amos Burke (abruptly) becomes a secret agent

The fall of 1965 was quite a time for television spy shows. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on NBC was entering its second (and most highly rated) season, with the network adding I Spy to its schedule. And, over on CBS, The Wild, Wild West was about to mix spies with cowboys.

ABC didn’t want to be left behind. But it made the most unusual move of the three networks. Instead of commissioning a new show, it opted to revamp Burke’s Law, an escapist show about a millionaire policeman, into Amos Burke, Secret Agent.

The show had its origins as an episode of the anthlogy program The Dick Powell Show, where its namesake host portrayed Amos Burke, an ace police detective. The series debuted in 1963, with Gene Barry cast as Burke, going to crime scenes in a Rolls Royce limousine. Burke’s Law also featured a lot of guest stars, including former movie stars. It was a formula that the show’s producer, Aaron Spelling, would re-use in other series.

With the new format, Barry remained (as did a faster tempo version of the show’s theme music by Herschel Burke Gilbert) but little else. Suddenly, Burke was reporting to a mysterious chief known only as “The Man” (Carl Benton Reid).

The move didn’t work. Amos Burke, Secret Agent got canceled in early January 1966. However, if you want to get a sense of what the revamped show looked like, a compilation of clips from an episode is below.

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