|Created by||Blake Edwards|
|Written by||Steffi Barrett
Gene L. Coon
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||114|
|Executive producer(s)||Blake Edwards
|Running time||30 mins.|
|Original run||September 22, 1958 – September 18, 1961|
Peter Gunn is an American private eye television series which aired on the NBC (produced by Revue Productions) and later ABC (produced by MGM Television) television networks from 1958 to 1961. The show's creator (and also writer and director on occasion) was Blake Edwards. A total of 114 thirty-minute episodes were produced.
The title character (played by Craig Stevens) is a private investigator in the classic film noir tradition, which was a popular genre on American TV in the late 1950s. However, a few traits differentiate him from the standard hard-boiled detectives, such as Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. Gunn was a sophisticated "hipster", a dapper dresser who loved cool jazz; where other gumshoes were often coarse, Peter Gunn was portrayed as the epitome of "cool". He operated in a nameless waterfront city, and was a regular patron of Mother's, a wharfside Jazz club; his girlfriend, Edie Hart (Lola Albright), was a sultry singer employed there. Herschel Bernardi played Lieutenant Jacoby, a police detective.
Edwards developed Peter Gunn from an earlier fictional detective that he had created. Richard Diamond, Private Detective starred Dick Powell and aired as a radio series from 1949 to 1953. David Janssen later starred in the television adaptation from 1957 to 1960. It was this character's success that prompted his creator to revisit the concept as Peter Gunn. Edwards had earlier written and directed a Mike Hammer television pilot for Brian Keith.
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The show's use of modern jazz music, at a time when most television shows used a generic, uninspired orchestra for the background, was another distinctive touch that set the standard for many years to come. Innovative jazz themes seemed to accompany every move Gunn made, ably rendered by Henry Mancini and his orchestra (which at that time included John Williams), lending the character even more of an air of suave sophistication. Famous jazz musicians occasionally made guest appearances, such as trumpeter Shorty Rogers in an early episode.
Most memorable of all was the show's opening (and closing) Peter Gunn Theme, composed and performed by Mancini. A hip, bluesy, brassy number with an insistent piano-and-bass line, the song became an instant hit for Mancini, earning him an Emmy Award and two Grammys, and became as associated with crime fiction as Monty Norman's theme to the James Bond films is associated with espionage. The harmonies fit the mood of the show, which was a key to success.
The soundtrack album by Henry Mancini was a smash, reaching #1 in Billboard's Pop LP Charts. Ray Anthony won the singles war, reaching #8 on Billboard's Hot 100 with his 45 of the title theme. Mancini's single made the Variety magazine Top 25 retail chart, selling well in the Boston area.
"The Peter Gunn Theme" has been covered by numerous jazz, blues, and rock artists since, including Ray Anthony, Elvis Presley (on the '68 Comeback Special), Duane Eddy, Quincy Jones, The Remo Four, The Blues Brothers, Croon & The Creepers, Brian Setzer, The Cramps, Jimi Hendrix, Bosse-de-Nage, Gary Hoey, Aerosmith, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Roy Buchanan, Melvin Taylor, The Disco Biscuits, Umphrey's McGee, Pulp, They Might Be Giants, Dick Dale & The Del-Tones, Johnny Guitar Seven, 1981 Pittsburg band 'The Silencers, album, Rock'n' Roll Enforcers' and many others. A version by Art of Noise, with guest artist Duane Eddy reprising his original 1959 performance on twang guitar (taking the piano riff) earned a Grammy Award in 1987. Furthermore, the riff has been incorporated into many blues and jazz songs. The theme is also used as the background music for the 1983 arcade game Spy Hunter, with Saliva recording a song which used the main theme, with added lyrics, for the 2001 remake. Versions of the theme have appeared in countless films, including The Blues Brothers and Sixteen Candles. The song was used by Monty Python in their sketch The Bishop. In 2004 the theme was used in The Lion King 1½ when Timon and Pumbaa try to break up Simba and Nala. Today, many people with no knowledge of the original show still can identify the theme. The show's theme was used as background music in the 1993 video game Rock 'N' Roll Racing.
After the two-season run on NBC and the single season on ABC, Edwards made numerous attempts to revive the character in other media. A novel and a comic book were released in 1960. A feature film, Gunn, was made in 1967, and ABC carried a pilot in 1989 with Peter Strauss in the lead role, but they failed to catch on. In 2001, Edwards joined Norman Snider in developing an updated television series, but the project was scuttled when John Woo and David Permut began developing a big screen remake for Paramount. Both projects remain stuck in development.