TV Detective News: A Sex Change for 'McCloud'

If you really believe that Oz never gave anything to the Tin Man that he didn't already have, you've been listening to America's "Greatest Hits" album too long.

Buddy Ebsen, who died last year at 95, was originally cast as The Wizard of Oz. But instead of singing "If I Only Had a Heart," Ebsen ended up lamenting, "If I only had an allergist."

While rehearsing with Judy Garland and the cast, Ebsen was hospitalized after inhaling aluminum powder used in the Tin Man costume. He was replaced by Jack Haley.

Ebsen's brief portrayal of the Tin Man can be seen in footage released in the 50th anniversary DVD release of The Wizard of Oz.

Ebsen's seven-year run as geriatric detective Barnaby Jones ended in 1980. But he resurrected his gumshoe in one of his final big-screen appearances, the 1993 movie version of The Beverly Hillbillies, starring Jim Varney as Ebsen's other immortal TV character, Jed Clampett.

Quincy, M.E.:

TV's original forensic investigator left one major stone unturned during his seven-year run. He never told anyone his first name.

In the final episode of Sex and the City, TV viewers learned that Mr. Big's first name was John. We even got the scoop on Seinfeld's Kramer. The closest we get to Quincy's first name is in season three, when he hands a woman a business card that reads, "Dr. R. Quincy."

Show star Jack Klugman says he's asked this question all the time and still maintains that Quincy's first name is "Doctor."

Charlie's Angels: One must wonder what would have become of Michelle Pfeiffer, Kim Basinger and Kathie Lee Gifford if they had gotten what they once wanted — a role on Charlie's Angels.

The bra-less detectives who solve crimes while they jiggle and run on the beach in slow-mo are often ridiculed, even though several Angels proved to have enduring careers.

Still, once you're an Angel, you're always an Angel, and that's a career choice.

Cheryl Ladd knew she was replacing a legend when she beat out Pfeiffer and countless others to take Farrah Fawcett-Majors' place in Charlie's detective agency. On her first day on the set, she reportedly wore a T-shirt that read, "Farrah Fawcett Minor." Columbo:

One mystery Lt. Columbo really did solve — the case of the missing raincoat. The disheveled detective's trademark attire is not in the Smithsonian along with Archie Bunker's living room chair, as some people say.

Actor Peter Falk says his character's famously rumpled outerwear, which he purchased in New York City, remains in his Beverly Hills closet. Fans point out that the LAPD detective actually had a few stand-in coats that came and went over the years. But, essentially, Columbo grew old with the same coat, until the show ended its run on NBC in 1978.

By the way, Columbo didn't have a first name, either. The Complete Directory of Prime Time Network TV claimed that he was Lt. Philip Columbo. This error was apparently picked up in an edition of Trivial Pursuit.

The Rockford Files:

Perhaps you heard the famous The Rockford Files theme playing in the Green Grove retirement home featured on The Sopranos. It's actually an homage from Sopranos creator David Chase, who made his bones in TV as a writer/producer on the James Garner detective series.

More than a handful of old fogies remember The Rockford Files. It was No. 1 in a TV Guide reader survey of the best TV detective show.

Columbo was No. 2, followed by Homicide: Life on the Street, Cagney and Lacey, and Kojak. Hawaii Five-O ranked No. 9 and Charlie's Angels was ranked 16th.

What separates Rockford from the pack? Perhaps it's that he always mentioned his rates at the start of the show: "I get $200 a day, plus expenses." That was pretty good money back in the 1970s. If Columbo were to charge as much, he'd have to buy some new duds, but then he wouldn't really be Columbo.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.

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