Caribe: QM tries to cross Five-O and U.N.C.L.E.

Advertisement for Caribe's premiere in early 1975.

Advertisement for Caribe’s premiere in early 1975.

Producer Quinn Martin enjoyed a lot of success in the 1970s with Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco and Barnaby Jones. Caribe was not a high mark, however.

The veteran producer, in effect, was doing a cross of Hawaii Five-O (police drama in a tropical setting) and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (Caribe, like U.N.C.L.E. was multi-national, although Caribe’s  jurisdiction only extended throughout the Carribean).

Unfortunately for QM Productions (and ABC, the network which televised the show), it ran only for a half-season, from February through May of 1975. The show’s IMDB.COM ENTRY only has episode titles and no plot summaries.

The Spy Commander actually watched the series regularly. I can tell you it included international intrigue (the way Five-O did on CBS). I also have a vague memory of an episode where a military coup against the United States was foiled.

The problem is the show has rarely been seen since its original ABC run. The main source of information about the show is Jonathan Etter’s 2003 book Quinn Martin, Producer.

Martin assigned the project to producer Anthony Spinner, who was simultaneously producing the private eye drama Cannon. According to the Etter book, Spinner envisioned Robert Wagner in the lead. Martin sent word that Stacy Keach would be the lead instead.

“And my head was swiveling like in The Excorist,” Spinner told Etter. “I said, ‘Quinn, I’ve written nine shows for R.J. Wagner — all slick, sophisticated, superficial, wise-guy charm, with millions of girls. How does Stacy Keach play R.J. Wagner? I’ll have to rewrite every single script now.'”

Rounding out the cast was future director Carl Franklin as Keach’s sidekick and Robert Mandan as the boss who sent Our Heroes on their assignments. Mandan , up until this time, was primarily a dramatic actor (including guest star appearances on other QM shows), but he’d become most famous for the (deliberately) goofy 1977-81 series Soap.

Caribe was based out of Miami, similar to how Five-O was based out of Honolulu. The original plan, according to Etter’s book, was to actually film elsewhere in the Carribean but that proved logically impossible because of obtaining visas, etc.

That perhaps shouldn’t have been a surprise. Thirteen years earlier, the first James Bond film, Dr. No, had a difficult shoot in Jamaica that put the movie well behind schedule. And Caribe faced tighter deadlines than Dr. No had. In any case, Miami and vicinity would double for the whole Carribean.

Despite the efforts of Spinner and others, Caribe didn’t survive its only half-season. Today, it’s hard to find evidence of the show’s existence. Even a talented producer such as Quinn Martin has his off days.

Meanwhile, author and television writer-producer has posted an audio copy of a Caribe main titles, including voice work by QM announcer Hank Simms.

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8 Responses

  1. Wow, that was an uninspired theme.

  2. I’ll guess Duane Tatro, but hopefully Jon Burlingame can provide more information.

  3. Another Quinn Martin flop was “Man Called Slade” starring Robert Conrad. Another UNCLE clone. Didn’t last long and no one remembers it. There are more flop spy shows than good ones. It’s not easy pulling off a good show.

  4. @James: The title was A Man Called Sloane. It was produced after Quinn Martin sold QM Productions to Taft Broadcasting. Also, this blog has published posts about it.

    https://hmssweblog.wordpress.com/2008/10/19/qm-productions-attempts-its-own-bond/

  5. I remember CARIBE quite fondly and really wish it, and a number of other QM Productions, would get released on DVD.

  6. Many of these obscure old TV shows can be seen on Youtube.

  7. I remember ”Caribe” very well, it was this show i saw Stacey Keach for the first time. i remembered seeing his Then Co-star Carl Franlin in a Sci-Fi series Later on, Which also had Roddy Mcdowell no not ”Planet of the apes”

  8. What I remember about “Caribe”:

    Stacy Keach asked for and was given two hooks for his character:
    – He was a nonstop wisecracker;
    – He was a Master of Disguise.

    The wisecracking consisted mainly of addressing Bob Mandan by exaggerated titles of respect, such as Your Excellency, Exalted One,
    O Almighty One, and so forth.

    As for the MoD:

    When “Caribe” started, Keach was fitted out with a lavish toupee.
    After years as a character man, Keach clearly wanted to be known as a Handsome Leading Man/Action Hero, and his sparsely-covered pate wasn’t a help in that.
    Still, the disguise angle appealed to him: wigs, beards, dialects, et al.
    Anyhow, on one episode. Keach was required to tog himself out as a middle-aged crook, and so he appeared in a disguise that made him partly bald.
    As I watched this, first-run on ABC, I thought to myself, “How clever, he’s using his real hair instead of the wig.”
    Then, at the scene’s end, Keach reached up and removed a partial bald cap with thin strands at the top – and his full toupee underneath.

    I want to see this particular episode again, in order to prove to people that I actually saw this (for some reason people don’t seem to believe me when I tell them …)

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