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The FBI TV Show

PART TWO: Part one here

The first episode may have made Hoover wish he hadn't given his approval. The FBI debuted with a story about a killer who strangled women with their hair.

Jack Gould, TV critic for The New York Times, opined that the episode showed "a lack of taste." Hoover would later complain that the initial episode "frankly fell short of the hope we had held for the series."

Gould wasn't a fan of the series. He bluntly suggested that the FBI "should stay out of show business."

He also wrote: "No one could question Mr. Hoover's determination to do what he feels is best for the bureau, but a sustained commercial television series extolling his men and his policies week after week will look strange to millions for whom the civil rights battle in the United States and the Warren Commission's criticisms of the F.B.I. are vividly in mind. For the F.B.I. at this moment to advance its cause through the instrumentality of a program predominantly designed to sell cars and other merchandise is to be faulted on grounds of taste, if nothing else. It is not the way for a subsidiary of the United States government to explain itself."

Martin dismissed Gould's criticism: "I think Jack Gould takes a hostile attitude toward television, and a pseudo-intellectual approach to build straw men he can try to knock down for the purpose of making controversy." Except for the posthumous comments, Hoover was largely silent on his opinion of The FBI. But he was pleased with how well Zimbalist came across as an FBI agent. "Mr. Zimbalist has captured the espirit de corps of the FBI and what it is like to be an FBI agent. ...the image he projects is important because it is closely intertwined with the confidence and trust American people have in the FBI," Hoover told TV Guide.

Zimbalist became so fixed in the minds of the public with the image of the FBI that Hoover would sometimes get letters that closed with people asking him to give their regards to Inspector Erskine - Zimbalist's character.

Zimbalist met with Hoover once a year before beginning filming on the new season. But Hoover never directly offered any criticism of the program.

"In fact, he never talked to me about any details of the show at all," Zimbalist said. "He would just say in general terms that he liked it very much."


Zimbalist found the FBI's control of the show challenging because of the bureau's restrictions. "From my point of view as an actor, it was interesting because we were denied virtually all of the liberty that most actors are granted. We couldn't have anything to do with women. We couldn't smoke. We couldn't drink. We couldn't put our feet up on the desk. We couldn't take our coat off. We were little good boys. And the fascinating challenge to me was to work within those structures, very defined limitations, and still not be a bore. I found that a fascinating challenge."

PART THREE - How the real F.B.I. affected the stories that were seen on the air...

The F.B.I.
The F.B.I. TV Show - part 2
The F.B.I. TV Show - part 3


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