Bourbon Street Beat, Hawaiian Eye, 77 Sunset Strip and Surfside Six

Bourbon Street Beat (1959-1960)
Hawaiian Eye (1959-1963)
77 Sunset Strip (1958-1964)
Surfside Six (1960-1962)
Type: Spin Off / Crossovers
Group: 26

   Wow. Here I thought Richard Belzer's Detective Munch (from Homicide and Law And Order: Special Victims Unit) and lawyer Eli Levinson (from Civil Wars and L.A. Law) were the only characters to jump from being a regular on one show to being a regular on another that wasn't a direct spin off. Bourbon Street Beat had two characters do it!

   Now even though the actual crossovers/spin offs directly involve Bourbon Street Beat, we need to back up to the show that came first and technically started this whole mess, 77 Sunset Strip.

   77 Sunset Strip was a show about cool jet setting L.A. detectives. It redefined detective shows. It had cool handsome leads, hot babes and a kick ass sidekick. In an odd way it puts me in mind of the more recent Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

   Think I've lost my mind? Well hold on. While the main premise seems different both shows have similar appeals. Both shows are adventures about a couple of heroic leads and the funky group of friends. With 77 Sunset Strip the audience gets to play hipster action detectives, with Buffy the audience gets to play hipster action monster hunters. And technically, a monster show like Buffy plays a similar mystery angle. But both put viewers into a larger than life world of adventure and fun.

   Both shows had a huge impact on pop culture, spawning imitation shows, impacting musical tastes and influencing popular slang. Buffy spawned the spin off Angel and 77 Sunset Strip... well I'm getting to that. Buffy features tons of popular music (enough to spawn an album) and has a rocking theme. 77 Sunset Strip spawned a hit single with Kookie Lend Me Your Comb not to mention another with its kick butt theme and lots of other musical work for its various stars. Finally, Buffy is largely known for its sort of sub-language of catch phrases. Buffy's monster hunting group of friends is called The Scooby Gang, evil vampire slayer Faith's phrase for "I'm okay" is "I'm 5 by 5". Good lord the list goes on and on. Those aren't even the highlights. On 77 Sunset Strip, supporting player Kookie, who started out as the parking attendant next to the detectives building, and his replacement as attendant when he became a detective himself were both known for their additions to popular language. The most memorable was perhaps "You're the ginchiest" meaning "You're the best". Past that, most of Kookies phrases sound very similar to the sort of stuff the Buffy gang says today.

   Okay okay okay. I know - spin offs and crossovers. Geeze, gimme a break. You write enough of these you want a change of pace once and awhile okay? So 77 Sunset Strip becomes this monster hit and both the producers and the network say, hey, we should exploit this formula for even more ratings with another show just like it. Thus was born Bourbon Street Beat... and two days after it Hawaiian Eye. I'm telling ya, TV gets a formula and they run with it.

   Bourbon Street Beat and Hawaiian Eye were NOT a spin offs but a knock offs. At the start they had no connection to 77 Sunset Strips reality but merely hijacked the elements that made it a hit. Cool detectives working in a cool location, this time New Orleans and Hawaii, with hot babes and lots of action. The results for the new shows were mixed. Hawaiian Eye had a respectable four year run. The audience couldn't have cared less for Bourbon Street Beat and after a season it crashed and burned... but its stars and their characters survived! (We'll get back to Hawaiian Eye in a minute)

   The next season after Bourbon Street Beat was cancelled ABC started ANOTHER clone show called Surfside Six. I think you can guess at the plot: detectives, hot babes and adventure in a cool locale: Miami, Florida. Given the success of 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye, I think they figured what they had goofed on in Bourbon Street was losing that beach town element. Well one of the detectives on Surfside Six was Ken Madison who had been one of the gang on Bourbon Street Beat. So is Surfside Six a spin off? Yeah, I guess technically. It was the same character on a new show but I look at it more as a character being salvaged and recycled. Its not like Bourbon Street was this popular hit that demanded a spin off. It was more like they hated to see a good character wasted and they had this new show so... what the heck, lets include him in it.

   Also salvaged from the wreckage was Bourbon Street character Rex Randolph. He moved to the opposite coast and sunny L.A. where he joined up with the Sunset Strippers... I mean the guys at 77 Sunset Strip... as a partner in their detective firm for a single season. After that Rex disappeared off the TV radar for good. Over in Miami, Ken and his Six hung on for an additional year.

   But let's not forget Hawaiian Eye. The guys on this show were a couple of ex-Chicago cops who moved to the islands and became undercover detectives for the Hawaiian police. But as you can probably guess, once in awhile they had some additional help from 77 Sunset Strip's Stu Bailey who would come out from L.A. for an island adventure. Actually... I'm getting deja vu right now. L.A. detectives helping the white guy P.I.'s in Hawaii... sounds very similar to the whole Magnum, P.I./Simon And Simon crossovers...

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