Hazell joins the ranks of TV’s private eyes 

5 June 2023 tbs.pm/77981


Hazell is television’s newest private eye. A rough and ready cockney, he may drop his aitches but he never loses his determination to solve the cases that come his way. Private eyes have been a main ingredient of TV drama for years — and they are still compulsive viewing. But from Los Angeles to Liverpool, Holland to Hawaii, the private eyes of the world have had to ring the changes to keep pace with the times and become super sleuths. Here’s an introduction to Hazell and a reminder of some of his predecessors.


Cover of TVTimes

From TVTimes for 14 January 1978

CRIME-BUSTING private eyes have come a long way since Philip Marlowe buttoned up his trenchcoat, demanded that the crooks button their lips, and free- wheeled his way down mean streets.

Television cracked the image of the old-style detectives over the years, and though the knives still come out, and the boots go in, the old hat brigade of private eyes have been surrounded, many to surrender unconditionally. The super sleuths have taken over. Some of them even lose cases.

Remember that nice, unsinkable Ironside who was pushed all the way to a pension in his wheelchair? Sexton Blake and Paul Temple at least seemed to slog harder for their results.

There were old world detectives like J. G. Reeder and the deliciously urbane Mr. Rose who moved elegantly in a mist of epigrams.

Lord Peter Wimsey had a brilliant deductive mind, and though he worked with the police, he usually beat them to the solution.

Ellery Queen was the master of the whodunnit, and there was nothing quite like the purist, Sherlock Holmes. He’s still going strong, and his success is elementary. And although Roger Moore has since become James Bond, he is still seen on TV as The Saint.

The private eye personality cult has taken over on television. There is Banacek, the million dollar Pole; Longstreet has his guide dog; Cannon his stomach, and Rockford a file and a genial Dad.

Tenafly solves his cases for the glory, and Harry O gets a little bit of cash into the bargain.

Public Eye, and the disenchanted, weary, Frank Marker, really started the new personality trend. His capacity to slog put him in the Chandler tradition, though he never found girls “cute”, and got results by cutting corners.

Now comes Hazell, a man with a murky background, a noisy, brash, private eye, the creation of Gordon Williams and Crystal Palace football manager Terry Venables, who created him in books, written under the joint pen name P. B. Yuill.

Hazell is the second product of the Williams and Venables association. In 1971 they published a football novel called They Used to Play on Grass.

The first episode comes from the plot of the first book Hazell Plays Solomon, and is about two women who discover they have the wrong babies through a hospital mix up. Venables thought up the plot. And Williams adds: “It came to him during a match against Queens Park Rangers.”

A match winning combination themselves, Williams and Venables say: “Hazell is a new type of private eye for British television. He’s a bit like Philip Marlowe, and certainly more cheerful than Frank Marker. We would describe him as a Jack the Lad. We both went to the casting sessions, and believe actor Nicholas Ball ideally represents him.”


Sleuths all. Marker, Tenafly, Banacek, Ironside, The Saint, Cannon, Longstreet, Jim Rockford.


Who’s who in TV crime-busting


New boy Hazell

played by Nicholas Ball

An East End lad, once a copper. Tall, blond, baby face, he’s not the type to play with physical violence. He doesn’t like fighting, but he’s no coward.

played by William Conrad

Former cop turned private eye. Enjoys good food and wine, and when he’s not eating, helps friends by solving their complicated problems.

played by Alfred Burke

Seedy, dirty mac type from Public Eye. Ex-convict, a tea drinker and prepared to work for next to nothing.

played by Raymond Burr

Former cop who was shot and confined to a wheelchair. Still known as “The Chief”. Employs the drawing room mystery style.

played by Hugh Burden

Home Office official of the 1920’s. An eccentric who applies logic to detection.

played by Ian Carmichael

Another 1920’s crime stylist. An experienced amateur in crime. Makes it look easy.

played by George Peppard

Has the credentials and reputation of an independent 20th century bounty hunter. Makes his living from the rewards paid by insurance companies.

played by James Franciscus

Blinded by villains who blasted his home. Learns braille and gets a dog.

played by David Janssen

Started TV life as a down-at-heel private eye after being invalided out of the police force with a bullet wound injury.

played by James McEachin

Loves the excitement and challenge of a crime. Usually takes along time to solve a case, but has the loose ends all neatly tied up before the commercials.

played by James Garner

Easy-going private eye who suffers more physical attacks in each episode than others do in a whole series. Never seems to get paid for his work, and lives in a caravan on a California beach.

played by Roger Moore

Casual but stylish approach to crime. Usually seen going to the rescue of damsels in distress or dealing with international villains.


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