Few TV credits sequences have ever been as slam-bang as the opening to the long-running detective series Mannix. Under a propulsive, naggingly catchy Lalo Schifrin theme, star Mike Connors leaps, ducks, punches, and races, on a screen that's sliced into quadrants, turning Connors into primetime's first cubist action hero. The credits promise that Mannix will be a show so action-packed that it'll verge on abstraction, and that it'll be hipper than the average cops-and-robbers fare. More often than not, both those promises are kept.
The 26 episodes on the Mannix: The First Season DVD set are drawn from the 1967-'68 season, which differs some from the show Mannix would become. Before going into business for himself in Season Two, Connors worked for a state-of-the-art detective agency, where he was the guy to call when the super-computers couldn't get the job done. (In an obscure showbiz in-joke, Mannix co-creators Bruce Geller, Richard Levinson, and William Link based the agency on MCA/Universal, and Connors' boss on the technology-obsessed mogul Lew Wasserman.) But Connors' basic character never wavered over the series' seven-year run. His Mannix spent the majority of each episode breaking-and-entering, getting beaten up, and going the extra mile to uncover some malfeasance that others would've missed.
Yet as charismatic as Connors is, he's not the sole reason the show remains so beloved. Credit for that goes to Levinson and Link's talent for developing crafty mystery stories—a gift they'd later develop further on Columbo—and Mission: Impossible creator Geller's understanding of what a little style and sophistication can add to the small screen. The hero patrolled a sunny Los Angeles shot at cockeyed angles, with ample lens flares. When Connors went to a hippie club to follow a lead, the show's producers didn't pipe in generic groovy music; they had Buffalo Springfield performing "Bluebird." In the first episode's climactic sequence, Connors stumbles out of the desert onto a lavish golf course, where he's menaced by a helicopter. That kind of near-surreal action made Mannix the coolest American detective series of the '60s, paving the way for a decade's worth of snazzy one-named gumshoe shows.
Key features: Episode intros by Connors, plus interviews, commentary on selected episodes, and footage from some of Connors' Mannix-related TV appearances.