"A girl's place is in the home." Someone forgot to tell Honey West (Anne Francis), a "private eye-ful" unlike any character American television had ever seen. Created in the 1950s by Skip and Gloria Fickling for a series of steamy pulp fictions, Honey was introduced on TV in an episode ofBurke's Law
, in which she matched wits with Gene Barry's playboy chief of homicide (that would have been a nice extra in this set).
A woman of exotic charms, Honey was seriously sexy, glamorously outfitted, proficient in karate and judo, and kept a pet ocelot. Who wouldn't want to see her in her own weekly series? Honey ran her late father's Los Angeles detective agency with hot-headed Sam (John Ericson), a former junior partner, who provided her with such Bondian gadgets as tear gas earrings and an radio transmitter disguised as a martini olive.
The first episode, "The Swingin' Mrs. Jones" establishes the show's cool vibe and cult appeal. Honey sets herself up at a resort as "blackmail bait." And over the course of the 30 episodes, it only gets hotter, as Honey pursues a gang of thieves that includes a Honey look-alike (and is fronted by Alan Reed, the voice of Fred Flintstone!), solves the mystery of a kidnapped rock and roll musician (Bobby Sherman), protects a woman receiving death threats, and foils an insurance fraud scam (in the award-winning episode, "The Grey Lady," written by futureColumbo
collaborators William Link and Richard Levinson). Along the way, she inevitably runs afoul of the police ("When your father was head of the agency, I never had any trouble") or enrages Sam with her impulsive actions.
The cleverly plotted half hour black-and-white episodes feature witty dialogue, jazzy scores (dig the accordion!), and great action (Honey is a knockout in more ways than one). By 1965, when Honey West
premiered, spies and detectives rivaled cowboys in popularity.
Honey was the first female detective to front her own series, and certainly the first detective to be spied luxuriating in a bubble bath.Honey West
only ran one season. For this, we can reportedly blame the top-ratedGomer Pyle
and the arrival on the same network ofThe Avengers
, with Diana Rigg's Emma Peel. ButHoney West
still delivers retro kicks. As one high society hostess remarks to Honey in one episode, "You're welcome at any party of mine."--Donald Liebenson