When people ask my favorite TV show of all-time, I answer, "Burke's Law." I was too young to see this show when it originally aired, but I was introduced to it as a teenager when it aired in between two other favorite TV shows ("Department S" and "The Champions") on an independent TV station. It stood out, not because it was the only U.S. show on the channel on Saturday nights, but because it was rich in comedy and suspense simultaneously.
Each episode title begins with the words "Who Killed..." Nearly every episode also begins with Amos Burke, so deliciously played by Gene Barry, either at a party or romancing a woman. He would get a call that he, as the Captain of the Homicide division, was needed on a murder case. Off he went in his chauffeured car to the crime scene. As the car drives toward the scene we hear the theme music, interrupted by a sensuous whisper of a woman's voice: "It's Burke's law!" How can you NOT love this?
The shows had great suspense, presenting a list of possible suspects in true 60's crime drama fashion. Also, the person who answered the "who killed" question wasn't always the obvious choice (or the least likely choice). However, "Burke's Law" had two other features that made it most unique. First, although the plots centered around murder, the show had more than its fair share of humor. Some episodes were more laugh-out-loud funny than a lot of sitcoms. Secondly, it was the first series to make judicious -- and frequently hilarious -- use of the cameo. In one great example, Edd "Kookie" Byrnes is featured as a tour bus driver in "Who Killed Mr. Colby in Ladies' Lingerie?" He points out a house, saying it's the home of Kirk Douglas (while impersonating him). A woman on the bus says that she had been on the tour the day before and the house in question did NOT belong to Kirk Douglas but Edd Byrnes. "Yeah, sure, lady," Kookie replies, "but I don't DO him!"
The other thing that makes "Burke's Law" worth watching is the recitation of the laws. Amos will make a comment about something then inform his listener, "it's Burke's law." (The show summary has a good list of "Burke's Law"isms included.) He would state his comment and leave, usually leaving others with blank stares on their faces.
This remarkable series needs to be on DVD for new generations to see. It is not only a classic of the 1960s, but one of the greatest shows television ever saw.