Big news! Warner Archive just released Search: The Complete Series on DVD. Hooray!
Okay, the truth is, you probably don’t even remember this show but it’s not your fault, it’s the name. Search sounds like an adventure series about treasure hunters or a high-mountain rescue crew. But this show is actually a quirky spy-fi series about a quasi-secret organization that uses high-tech gadgetry to solve crimes of international or political importance.
Another thing that could be tripping up your memory is the rotating cast. Hugh O’Brian headlines some episodes, other times it’s Doug McClure or Tony Franciosa. Though pretty uncommon in today’s market, there were plenty of shows using this technique back in the 60’s and 70’s – The Bold Ones, Name of the Game, Maverick, even Bonanza tended to feature one Cartwright or two to the exclusion of all others. The one constant was Burgess Meredith, the man behind the high-tech curtain. He and his team of scientists at Probe Control could monitor an agent’s every move through the use of miniature cameras, ear implants and bio-feedback devices.
The bio-feedback in particular was often played for laughs when a Probe agent got too close to a lovely lady. “Pulse and respiration are rising above normal levels, sir. Should we call a med team?”
Actually, quite a lot of the scenes in Search are played for laughs which is what makes the show so darn frustrating! These agents are supposed to be up against dangerous, international thieves, counterfeiters and killers and yet they wander through each episode like the whole mission is a joke. I guess they were going for that devil-may-care James Bond attitude but it never really works.
Search should better than it is. The series was helmed by Leslie Stevens the creator of The Outer Limits and Star Trek producer Robert Justman. All three leads were well-known, experienced actors and the guest cast list reads like a television who’s-who of the era: Stefanie Powers, Bill Bixby, Barbara Feldon, Edward Mulhare, Ina Balin, Anne Francis, Wally Cox . . . it goes on and on.
Is it worth watching? Absolutely. Because for all of its faults, it’s a fascinating look at what we thought was fantasy level, high-tech at the time. When an agent at a control desk in the US can tell that an agent in New York is unconscious after a car accident – that was pure scifi. But companies are already selling wearable tech that can not only monitor your vitals, it can call your doctor if your insulin drops or you have heart palpitations.
When an agent scans a room, his miniaturized camera sends images to Probe Control where they run facial recognition software and gather names to go with the faces in a matter of minutes. Says CNN, “Facial recognition is a key part of the agency’s ambitious $1 billion Next Generation Identification System (NGI) — a state-of-the-art biometric identification system that also includes iris scans, DNA analysis and voice identification.”
As a matter of fact, almost every high-tech trick they use to fight crime on the show is now or is close to becoming a reality. Still, you have to watch this show wearing your 1970’s glasses because Probe uses antiquated reel-to-reel computers and gigantic push buttons to activate these modern marvels. I also feel for the poor lab-coated extras who were forced to talk in computer speak. “File 6-zero-niner-niner. End transmission.”
If you’re a fan of spy shows or just a fan of 70’s TV, you have to check out Search: The Complete Series on DVD. Some episodes are much better than others so skip around, look for your favorite guest actors, figure out which Probe agent you like the best then press play.
If you’re an Irwin Allen fan like I am, check out “The Gold Machine” with Land of the Giants Star Kurt Kasznar and here’s a glimpse of his Giants co-star Deanna Lund in “The Adonis File.”