The thing about a weekly detective series is that without a compelling lead character, the show is lost. Stories are formulaic (how many times can you revisit the whodunit well, after all?) but with a strong actor and a unique character (Peter Falk, Angela Lansbury, Tony Shalhoub) you have a hit. If you don't (Dick Van Dyke John Larroquette), you're sunk. Fortunately, "Cannon" has William Conrad. Undoubtedly the greatest radio actor of all time, Conrad proved to be no slouch on screen, even if he was far from photogenic. "Cannon" is a show that succeeds entirely because of Conrad - the scripts are mostly pedestrian detective stories, nothing in the class of "Rockford Files," but Conrad sells it. His rich baritone voice and piercing blue eyes add tremendous gravity to whatever scene he's in. Nobody stands up to a corrupt town or consoles a grieving wife like Frank Cannon. Throw in the fact that he's a man of action (Rockford could never handle himself in a fight) and he's even more of a standout among his 70s sleuth brethren. In watching the first season of "Cannon" on DVD, I really am struck by how much Conrad brings to the part. He's an actor who does just as much with his silence as he does with his words. Having only been exposed to him from his radio work before, I'm very impressed. Conrad elevated this show above its average writing and gimmick concept (fat detetective!). I wouldn't say it's the best 70s PI show (that honor still belongs to "Rockford") but it's a close second.
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