3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Delightful, Classic Mid-1960s American Light Detective Fare,
This review is from: Burke's Law Complete Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
I have not seen these DVDs, but I recently I have watched taped copies of Burke's Law when it was rerun (sometimes slightly cut) on TV Land. I remember enjoying Burke's Law when it first aired and, thank goodness, the show is as much fun and as smart as it was when I was young. Burke's Law is a treat, especially for fans of T.V. detective shows prior to the admittedly powerful and well written but profoundly disturbing and often depressing genre typified by the Law and Order franchise.
Burke's Law is pure fun, smartly written, but definitely of its time, the mid-1960s, prior to the Summer of Love, when the Jack Kennedy/Hugh Hefner (Playboy) mode of male-centered, slightly smarmy culture dominated. Therefore, the predominate depiction of women, although placed in a light setting, is borrowed from film noir -- women either are loyal, strong but dependent and dominated wives/girlfriends, or women only out for a good time, or "black widows." The one continuing female character, police Sergeant Ames, is more a mannequin filling out attractively a tight uniform than a well-honed character. Burke's Law's relatively undignified treatment of women and the virtual non-existence of minorities, typical of American T.V. at that time, reminds us that in many ways we have become a more civilized society.
Preludes aside, I am not apologetic in recommending Burke's Law as entertaining escapism of the first order. The acting -- stoic, humorous leading man Gene Barry, handsome and capable young second lead Garry Conway (perhaps best remembered as the final incarnation of the creation in I Was a Teenage Frankenstein) and veteran character actor Regis Toomey -- is very solid, treating the lighthearted scripts with appropriate seriousness and never with campy mugging. The plots (typical "who dun its") usually are clever. The scripts are snappy and smart, although occasionally just a bit too cute and clever.
Perhaps the greatest joy of Burke's Law is the weekly roster of guest stars often a wonderfully eclectic collection of rising talent, established personalities and faded but very welcome celebrities from the 1930s and 1940s. Each episode usually featured four to eight such guests. A short but typical list, emphasizing stars from decades past who appeared at least once during the show's three seasons, includes: Ed Wynn, Buster Keaton, Linda Darnell, Caesar Romero (shortly before his triumph as the Joker on Batman), Joan Blondell, Steve Cocheran (mimicking an exaggerated John Barrymore, I swear, in one of his two appearances), Mickey Rooney, Virginia Mayo, William Bendix, Reginald Gardner, J. Carroll Naish, and Ann Harding (whom I have never before seen in a T.V. appearance although certainly she must have been a guest on some of the many drama and live productions of the 50s and 60s). As might be expected, commonly one can spot in a bit role someone who shortly would become a popular star.
In sum, Burke's Law is great fun and several cuts above the average police-detective show of the "Golden Age."