West is significant as the first woman detective to appear as
the central character an American network television series. While
women had portrayed investigators, police reporters, FBI agents
and undercover operatives in crime drama formats from the earliest
days of television, they typically shared billing as sidekick characters,
worked at occupations more commonplace than detective or were cast
in secondary roles. Examples would include, among others, journalist
Lorelei Kilbourne in the series Big Town (1950-56), international
art gallery owner turned sleuth, Mme. Lui-Tsong, in The Gallery
of Mme. Lui-Tsong (1951) and girl Friday Maggie Peters
in The Investigators (1961). Honey West took this activity
to another level. Her principal work was operating a detective agency
and, unquestionably, she was the star of her show. Featuring actress
Anne Francis in the title role, the ABC series was broadcast for
one season (1965-66) and broke ground for other female detective/spy
programs to follow, such as The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.(1966-67),
Get Christie Love (1974-75) and Police Woman (1974-78).
character of Honey West was created by husband and wife writing
team Skip and Gloria Fickling (a.k.a. G. G. Fickling) in a series
of novels published in the late 1950s to early 1960s. On 21 April
1965 the character was introduced to television audiences in a Burke's
Law episode, "Who Killed the Jackpot?" and true to form, Honey
outwitted the dapper detective played by Gene Barry. Producer Aaron
Spelling spun the character off into a separate thirty-minute series
which premiered 17 September 1965.
her late father's detective agency, Honey West brought many talents
to bear in her fight against crime. She was expert at judo and held
a black belt in karate. Beautiful and shapely, her feminine wiles
were accentuated by form-fitting black leather jump suits, a sexy
mole on her right cheek, tiger coats and "Jackie O" sunglasses.
A la James Bond, she also owned an arsenal of weapons filled with
"scientific" gadgets including a specially modified lipstick tube
and martini olives that camouflaged her radio transmitters.
undercover work, Honey and her admiring partner, Sam Bolt (John
Ericson), drove a specially equipped van labeled "H. W. Bolt & Co.,
TV Service." Her principal base of operation was her Los Angeles
apartment complete with secret office behind a fake living room
wall. Bruce, her pet ocelot, and Meg West (Irene Hervey), her sophisticated
aunt, also lent assistance and comfort as necessary.
West premiered to reasonably good reviews. Citing the show's
sensual aspects, smooth production values and Honey's ability to
bounce Muscle Beach types off the wall with predictable regularity,
Variety's 1965 evaluation predicted some success "as a short
subject warm up to The Man from U.N.C.L.E." Season opening
Nielsen ratings ranked the show in a tie for nineteenth place but
this proved short-lived as her CBS competition, Gomer Pyle,
knocked her quickly out of the top forty.
with Variety's review, Jon Lewis and Penny Stempel note that
while the "Honey West concept was good and the character
deserves credit for working in a man's world, the series suffered
from unimaginative plots and poor production quality." In fact,
say Lewis and Stempel, Honey West is "mostly memorable for
the fight scenes in which a man with a blonde wig was quite obviously
wheeled in to do the stunts."
compared to Emma Peel in the British series The Avengers (U.S.,
1966-69), Honey West simply did not have Miss Peel's style or longevity
and lasted a total of thirty episodes. Providing a notable change
to the male dominated detective genre so prevalent from the earliest
days of network television, Honey West broadcast her last original
show on 8 April 1966.
West ........................................Anne Francis Sam
Holt............................................. John Ericson
Aunt Meg.............................................. Irene
Jules Levy, Arthur Gardner, Arnold Laven, Alfred Perry,
Richard Newton, Mort Warner, William Harbach
HISTORY 30 Episodes
September 1965-September 1966 Friday
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TV Shows 1946-Present. New York: Ballantine, 1992.
Skip. "Take It Seriesly!" The Writer (Boston), May 1966.
Maggie. "From Spurs to Silk Stockings: Women in Prime-Time Television,
1950-1965." UCLA Historical Journal (Los Angeles), 1991.
Larry James. Television Drama Series Programming: A Comprehensive
Chronicle, 1959-1975. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow, 1978.
West." Variety (Los Angeles), 22 September 1965.
Jon E., and Penny Stempel. Cult TV: The Essential Critical Guide.
London: Pavilion, 1993.
Marc, David and Robert J. Thompson. Prime Time, Prime Movers:
From "I Love Lucy" To "L.A. Law"--America's Greatest TV Shows And
The People Who Created Them. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992.
Craig. The Very Best Of The Very Worst Bad TV. New York:
MNA Nielsen Top 10." Variety (Los Angeles), 29 September
Aaron." Current Biography Yearbook 1986. New York: Wilson,
Vincent. The Complete Encyclopedia Of Television Programs 1947-1979,
Volume 1, A-Z. New York: Barnes, 1979.
Vincent. Television Character And Story Facts: Over 10,000 Details
From 1,008 Shows, 1945-1992. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland,