Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2023 September 06 • Wednesday

The assertion that all good things come to those who wait is insane but certainly some good things do. Or at least things.

It's been over thirty years since I heard of a late-1950s television show called 21 Beacon Street, a precursor to Mission: Impossible, so much so that the creators of the earlier show sued the creators of the later show for plagiarism.

The show definitely has some Mission: Impossible-type plots: getting information from a document in a mobster's safe without letting the mobster know that anyone has had access and posing as a film crew shooting a scene in a Mexican bank to cover up the team's theft of sensitive information from a safe deposit bank are two examples.

In the first episode they fake the death of a state witness so the mob will stop trying to kill him. The leader of the team, Dennis Chase, who lives at the titular address, introduces the other characters.

"Joanna is beautiful and a Phi Beta Kappa."

"Brian [is] a law school graduate and an ex-Marine."

"And Jim, a jack of all trades."

It's pretty easy to see how these track to the Impossible Missions Force. Instead of opening each episode with Chase receiveing an assignment, 21 Beacon Street generally shows the criminals in action first, then an appeal to Chase and his staff, after which they begin their planning.

Chase himself narrates the program and gives a bit of a teaser for the next episode, a la Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone.

The theme music for 21 Beacon Street is a very slow, moody, almost static piece for small jazz combo with baritone sax as the voice. It's not especially melodic and if it swings at all, it's only in trace amounts.

No composer is credited in the show itself but "the internet" claims it's Dave Kahn, a name not known to me.

So after watching the first four episodes, my impression is that 21 Beacon Street is definitely a neat idea and, while it's really interesting that this prototypical Mission: Impossible exists, presumably created to appeal to the same audiences that were making Peter Gunn such a popular show, it's just kind of boring.

And while suspension of disbelief is part of the standard package for a show of this sort, 21 Beacon Street makes it a little too difficult, often by imposing ticking-clock deadlines that just don't seem feasible and are probably only there to manufacture tension.

I intend to slog through the whole thing, however, even though I've already fallen asleep during a couple of episodes.