Our favorite character actors: Ted Knight

Ted Knight as a Mafia hit man in a first-season episode of The FBI, “An Elephant Is Like a Rope.”

One in an occasional series.

Ted Knight (1923-1986) is best known as goofy anchorman Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show or the pompous judge in 1980’s Caddyshack. But he spent years as a character actor before either of his breakout roles.

Knight had small roles in The Twilight Zone, Psycho and Gunsmoke among many acting credits. He even played a criminal mastermind in The Night of the Kraken, an episode of The Wild Wild West airing during the 1968-69 season.

In one of his appearances on The FBI (The Executioners Part I), he played the head of a Cosa Nostra “gun drop” in New York City. He (unwisely) tries to shoot it out with Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s Inspector Lewis Erskine.

Knight also played a part in a con job. Knight was a friend of Filmation co-founder Lou Scheimer. Filmation in 1965 was seeking the license from DC Comics to do Superman cartoons. But DC executives wanted to see a busy studio hard at work.

Scheimer arranged for artists from Hanna-Barbera to show up, pretending to be working on cartoons. Knight also was recruited, pretending to be a film editor.

The con worked and Filmation got the job. The New Adventures of Superman in the fall of 1966 on CBS. The show consisted of two Superman cartoons with a Superboy cartoon in-between. Knight was the narrator of the Superboy cartoon and did other voices.

Knight soon got work on other Filmation shows, including Fantastic Voyage, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Aquaman. In 1968, Filmation came out with a Batman cartoon where Knight was narrator and voiced most of the male villains.

Knight became a bigger name once The Mary Tyler Moore Show came along. It turned out that Ted Baxter was one of the hardest parts to cast. Allan Burns described what happened in an interview for the Archive of American Television around the 5:05 mark. From then on, things were never the same for Knight.

The Night of The Wild, Wild West/Hawaii Five-O Music Crossovers

The Wild, West West and the original Hawaii Five-O were set about a century apart. Aside from both being on CBS, you wouldn’t think they’d have that much in common. But during the 1968-69 season, if you listened closely, you could hear dramatic scores in one show being reused in the other other.

The 1968-69 season was the final season for The Wild, Wild West and the the first for Five-O. Both were in-house productions of CBS and that meant the network’s music library could be tapped for those episodes not slated to have an original score.

Here’s a sampling of how the same scores showed up on the two shows.

The Night of the Big Blackmail, Sept. 27, 1968: TWWW’s season opener had a Richard Shores score. At various times (including the pre-credits sequence, Act I and Act IV), Shores has what we’ll call “sneaky” music as James West and Artemus Gordon poke about at the embassasy of an unfriendly European power. The embassy is run by Baron Hinterstoisser (Harvey Korman, getting a chance to perfect the German accent he’d use in Blazing Saddles), who’s out to ruin the reputation of the United Sates.

The Box, Jan. 29. 1969: The Five-O episode starts with stock footage of Hawaiian sights (with Morton Stevens music composed earlier in the series) but whgen we cut to Oahu State Prison, Shores’ “sneaky” music comes up as cons (including future series regular Al Harrington) go through a metal detector. They get through fine but they’ve got a weapon hidden elsewhere. This eventually leads to a situation where Five-O has to bargain to release hostages.

The Night of the Kraken, Oct. 25, 1968: West and Gordon investigate reports of a giant kraken terrifying the San Francisco waterfront. When we see what’s supposed to be a giant tentacle, Shores provides “spooky” music that’s also used at the start of Act I with the episode’s credits. The intrepid agents eventually discover it’s a fake devised by a mastermind played by a pre-Ted Baxter Ted Knight.

The Big Kahuna, March 19, 1969: Five-O’s last episode of the season concerns Sam Kalakua (“one of the last descendants of Hawaiian royalty still on the islands”), who believes that Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire wants to destroy him. The Shores “spooky” music is used for the appearances of Pele. It turns out Sam’s nephew and his wife are trying to drive him insane and get his money. Stevens gets the music credit for the episode and it appears to be mostly from episodes he scored earlier in the season, with the exception of the Shores piece.

Strangers In Our Own Land, Oct. 3, 1968: The Hawaiian land commissioner is murdered at the Honolulu airport. At the end of Act I, McGarrett (who has been out interviewing people who knew the commissioner) is told that a man has come to Five-O’s offices, claiming he did it. As McGarrett drives away, Stevens provides a big, dramatic crescendo of music leading to the commercial break.

The Night of the Winged Terror Part II, Jan. 24, 1969: At the end of Act II, James West tries to nab Tycho, the giant-headed chief of Raven, a group trying (as you might surmise) trying to take over the world. West falls for a decoy and Tycho summons his thugs to subdue west. The same Stevens crescendo-sounding piece is used to go into the commercial break. The two-parter had an original score by Robert Prince but this piece, and other Stevens’ music from Five-O also show in Part II (including the end of Act III and an Act IV fight scene). Perhaps Prince didn’t have time to fully score both parts of the story, the only two-parter for The Wild, Wild West.