Successful long-running TV series have a predictable arc; a season or two of developing a unique style; then two or three fabulous seasons when the chemistry is nearly perfect and everything ‘works’; then a decline, as strong original scripts are harder to find, ‘message’ episodes replace sparkle with dark drama, and the charm that made the series a hit is lost, resulting in lower ratings and cancellation. This formula certainly applies to “Simon & Simon”, but the good news is, “Simon & Simon: Season Four” is certainly part of the series’ peak, when Rick and A.J. were truly magical, and the San Diego detectives had a fan base nearly as avid as “Magnum P.I.”
With the addition of Tim Reid as Det. “Downtown” Brown in Season 3, all the elements for a first-class show were in place, and Season 4 celebrated with a season premiere on location in Paris! More of the mysterious backstory of the boys’ father, Jack Simon, an O.S.S. operative in WWII, is introduced, in flashback (Jameson Parker plays dual roles). If you were an adult in 1984, as I was, you may find yourself dumbfounded at how lax airport security was, back then, and how naive we were about terrorism. When Brown walks through the Orly Passenger Terminal with a suitcase full of weapons, I admit, I shuddered!
There are, happily, few other moments quite as bittersweet; a 1960s ‘flashback’ episode is quite entertaining and actually important to the series, reconciling the somewhat differing backstories of Rick’s youth, as portrayed over the first three seasons (a biker who fled to Canada with a low draft number, then returned to California and enlisted in the Marines, serving in Special Ops in ‘Nam). A humorous moment, showing how cheap gas was in 1965, compared to 1984 (55 cents vs. $1.24, a gallon), is even more ironic, now ($1.24 to nearly $4.85, a gallon)!
The one Season 4 ‘message’ episode, as Rick and A.J. track a missing high school girl, framed in a drug bust, is quite effective, as A.J. has a scary reaction when dosed at a restaurant with angel dust, the arrest of the bad guys clearly isn’t going to solve the issues, raised, and Rick, A.J., and Brown tell the girl, bluntly, that the odds of her actually beating an addiction problem are not good. Powerful stuff, in the Reagan era!
There are many wonderful moments, with the boys, wonderful Mary Carver as their feisty, strong-willed mom, and Rick’s big ol’ lovable mutt, Marlowe (who even stars in his own late-season episode about dog shows and dognapping…it WILL bring a tear to your eye, Marlowe is a scene stealer!) The boys’ new office is the most upscale, yet, but don’t worry, they still trash it, and Rick still can’t buy a piece of electronics from Carlos that works!
A kudo to Shout Factory for using broadcast versions of a few episodes missing the original master (they really do put the fans, first, as I’d rather see an abridged version than no episode, at all!), and an oft-requested plea…PLEASE bring Jameson Parker and Gerald McRaney in to do commentaries (and Tim Reid and Mary Carver, too, if possible!!!) Come on, guys, we’re buying every one of these collections…give us our dream, PLEASE!!!
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What can you say about Simon and Simon, except that it was one of the best detective shows on TV in the 80′s. You really believed these guys were brothers. Who know that in real life they were the same age within a couple of months?
All the seasons were at their best, no one season stands out really. It was not over acted, not over dramatic, and it made you laugh. The Simon Brothers were very endearing characters, and their mother Cecelia was a crack-up.
And anyway, was there anyone better looking than Jameson Parker in the 80′s? I don’t think so !!
I can hardly wait till this 1984-85 Season of SIMON & SIMON gets released on DVD in April of 2010 since this private detective drama seemed to have gotten better each season along with the fact that this private-eye program was unique in many ways.
Because for one thing, this was definitely one of the first detective shows without a private investigator working solo since the cowboyish ex-Marine Vietnam veteran & gonzo P.I. Rick Simon(Gerry McRaney)and his often fastidious kid brother A.J. Simon(Jameson Parker)worked together on cases as opposed to Rockford(James Garner), Magnum(Tom Selleck), Houston(Lee Horsley), and Mannix(Michael Connors)which were all private detectives who worked alone.
For another, SIMON & SIMON was also the first and only detective show about 2 brothers who ran a private investigations agency together as opposed to THE ROCKFORD FILES, MAGNUM, PI, MATT HOUSTON, and MANNIX.
For another, the Simon Bros. ran a private-eye office of their own together in Downtown San Diego as opposed to Rockford and Magnum who didn’t even have an office.
For another SIMON & SIMON was one of the first shows and the only detective drama to ever take place here in America’s Finest City(San Diego)instead of L.A. or New York or even San Francisco since most movies and TV programs take place in the L.A. Area or New York City.
For another, Rick and A.J. Simon didn’t have money, fancy cars, or even cool clothes for that matter either, but Rick & AJ had brains and talent just like Rockford did which helped them solve cases they were hired to do, despite the friction, the rivaly, their love/hate relationship, and the fall-outs that often occurred between Rick and A.J. along with the fact that the Simon brothers lived on a shoe-string budget just like Rockford, Magnum, and Mannix did.
SIMON & SIMON was also like a spin-off of MAGNUM, P.I. along with the fact that SIMON & SIMON made its debut on CBS in November of 1981 which was a year later after MAGNUM made its debut on CBS in December of 1980.
Additionally, SIMON & SIMON was almost like THE ROCKFORD FILES times two in a way along with the fact that Rick & AJ Simon had their streetwise cop buddy Lt. Marcel “Downtown” Brown(Timothy Reid)at San Diego P.D. to help them solve their investigations just like the often dry-humored Jim Rockford had his often agitated cop buddy Sgt. Dennis Becker(Joe Santos)at the LAPD, along with the fact that Rockford was also a former Vietnam vet and private dick that didn’t make a lot of money either just like the Simon brothers didn’t.
Rick & AJ also lived an eccentric lifestyle like Rockford did too since Rick lived on a boat in AJ’s backyard in Venice just like Rockford lived in a ragged trailer in a parking lot in Malibu by the beach barely able to make ends meet.
It was also nice being able to watch each episode of this detective drama complete & uncut like they were shown on their original air-dates on CBS as well as commercial-free as opposed to how they were shown on WGN and A&E which provided too many deleted scenes with too many commercial interruptions.
So for those of you classic private detective drama fans out there, MATT HOUSTON-Season 1 will be released on DVD on March 9th, 2010 which is only 4 weeks before SIMON & SIMON-Season 4 gets released on DVD, which brings us 2 private eye dramas underway for us to look forward to next Spring.