The Dastardly Past: the NBC Saturday Mystery Movies.
On September 15, 1971, NBC launches its popular NBC Saturday Mystery Movie “wheel” series. The network’s idea was to feature a revolving series of movie-length episodes with a variety of sleuths. Introduced with theme music composed by Henry Mancini, the initial programs included Columbo, starring Peter Falk; McCloud, starring Dennis Weaver; and McMillan & Wife, starring Rock Hudson and Susan St. James. Hec Ramsey starring Richard Boone was a second-season addition, when NBC shifted its mystery “wheel” to Sundays. The network added another mystery wheel series, first on Wednesday nights and then on Tuesday nights. Some of the detectives featured in these slots included some heavy caliber Hollywood names, such as George Peppard as Banacek, Richard Widmark as Madigan, Dan Dailey in Faraday & Company, and Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick as The Snoop Sisters. The initial three series, however, remained the staples of the wheel’s success and few baby boomers will forget Columbo, McCloud, or McMillan & Wife.