Call To Danger

The HMSS Blog has a terrific piece on the saga of  Call to Danger, a series concept that CBS kept trying to make work during the 60s and 70s.  The idea was that a spy would recruit an ordinary citizen to help him solve a crime.  I also wrote in detail about these pilots in my book, Unsold Television Pilots.

The network commissioned three pilots — in 1961, 1967 and 1973 — but none of them clicked.

Lloyd Nolan starred as treasury agent Robert Hale in the 1961 pilot, which was produced by Perry Lafferty, who later became a top CBS exec.

In the 1968 pilot, Peter Graves played Jim Kingsley, an agent for the Office of National Resources, who used a super computer to recruit citizens to help out…to a rousing Morton Stevens' theme.  James Gregory played his boss. The network liked Graves so much, they made him the star of Mission Impossible. And they liked Stevens'  Call to Danger  theme so much that they re-used it in the score to the Hawaii Five-O pilot and as the "CBS Specials" theme.  

In the 1973 pilot, written by MI producer Laurence Heath, Graves reluctantly signed on again. this time playing Treasury Agent Douglas Warfield, who also uses computers to recruit civilians to help him solve crimes…but with a different theme tune.

Here's the opening to the 1973 pilot

8 thoughts on “Call To Danger”

  1. What was wrong with the original “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum? If the first of these was produced in 1961, I wonder whom had the idea first of “Spy recruits Random Civilian to solve the case?” I know Ian Fleming helped develop the Napoleon Solo show back in the late 50’s (behind the scenes and uncredited because of contractual obligations.) I guess that was the danger of shopping around shows back then with rampant idea theft happening…

  2. James Gregory plays a great boss but I bet he wouldn’t have had a chance to be funny like he did in Barney Miller a few years later.

  3. Diana Muldaur was always one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. As I remember this one, Clu Gulager’s archery skills were used to launch rappel lines into the palace/fortress/whatever they were trying to break in to.
    I really miss the summers when failed pilots were shown. Personally, the ones I’d really like to see are the first version of the American LIFE ON MARS (set in L.A., from what I read about it), MARLOWE with Jason O’Mara (scrapped due to expense; it was a period piece in the 1940’s), and the ‘re-imagined’ ROCKFORD FILES.
    I’m certain there are good reasons none of these made a schedule anywhere, but I’d like to see for myself.

  4. Glen Larson may not necessarily have gotten it right, but he got it on the air for 13 weeks during the 1983-84 season when he cast Rod Taylor in “Masquerade.” Taylor’s character, Agent Lavender, recruited everyday Americans to act as spies for their country. Their rewards: a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and a check equal to their annual salaries. I think it could have been a great series had Larson played it straight rather than being influenced by “The Love Boat.” I remember one episode in which he recruited baseball great Steve Garvey, who saved his fellow agents from ninja assasins by putting on his baseball glove and using it to intercept the ninjas’ deadly throwing stars.

  5. Interestingly, Morton Stevens’ theme to CALL TO DANGER was not only utilized in the pilot soundtrack for HAWAII FIVE-O, but it was also used as the musical source for those ubiquitous “CBS Special Presentation” bumpers used before specials and special episodes on CBS during the 1970s and 1980s. You can see it ( and hear it ( on my website, MyThemes.TV.
    Mark D. Little


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