6 overlooked TV shows with Robert Conrad in the lead role

He did far more than The Wild Wild West.

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Robert Conrad was the ultimate man's man on television. The actor proudly performed his own stunts, even going so far as taking a 12-foot fall from a swinging chandelier onto the hard saloon floor while filming The Wild Wild West. He was perfectly cast as the charming, pugilistic special agent Jim West on that pioneering sci-fi western. 

A decade later, Conrad was again the ideal choice to play real-life World War II fighter ace Pappy Boyington on Black Sheep Squadron. No wonder Eveready cast Conrad in commercials to tout the long-lasting power of their batteries. "Come on, I dare ya," he taunted in the ads.

But the legendary TV star headlined far more than those two favorite series. Elsewhere, he was a beefcake beach detective, a hard-hitting prosecutor, a boxer-turned-private-eye, and multiple spies. Let's take a look.

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1. Hawaiian Eye

 

1959–63

Conrad's first major role lasted just as long as The Wild Wild West — 104 episodes — but has since been overshadowed. Warner Bros. had an immediate hit in 1958 with 77 Sunset Strip, so the studio quickly repeated the formula of mixing P.I.s working vacation destinations. Hawaiian Eye, Bourbon Street Beat and Surfside 6 formed a TV universe of crime-solvers with tans and hep talk. Hawaii had just become a state, so the timing was perfect. Conrad played Lopaka, a half-Hawaiian investigator working alongside Tracy Steele (Anthony Eisley) in Honolulu. Much of the cast — Poncie Ponce, Connie Stevens and "Bob Conrad" included — even released pop records around the time to capitalize on the popularity of the show.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. The D.A.

 

1971–72

Conrad's next major role following Jim West was that of Paul Ryan, a hard-boiled Deputy District Attorney that appeared in two made-for-TV movies and a short-lived series. The D.A. tales somewhat applied the Dragnet model to legal drama, from the Los Angeles setting to the matter-of-fact voice-over narration. Oh, and former Dragnet star Harry Morgan himself played Ryan's mentor. The unlikely killer of this show? The Brady Bunch! Some NBC affiliates refused to air The D.A. in competition against ABC's The Brady Bunch.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Assignment: Vienna

 

1972–73

Following the flop of The D.A., Conrad returned to his most comfortable character type — a dashing, two-fisted spy. This series, a sort of James Bond meets Casablanca, cast the star as Jake Webster, a spy operating a bar in Austria. The strength of the show was its location shooting. Yep, they actually filmed it in Vienna. The pilot film had been called Assignment: Munich and featured Roy Scheider as Jake. However, the Munich Olympics massacre forced a change of location, and Scheider left to pursue a film career.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. The Duke

 

1979

When you hear "The Duke," you likely think of John Wayne, and Conrad was certainly as tough. This pilot cast Conrad as Duke Ramsey, a boxer who becomes a private eye in Chicago. Conrad also brought along Red West for the cast, the former Elvis Presley bodyguard who had once traded punches with Jim West on The Wild Wild West. Action maestro Stephen J. Cannell produced the show, but only a few episodes were made. The studio bundled them together and retitled it as an action film called Up Against The Odds for VHS release.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. A Man Called Sloane

 

1979

At the close of the Seventies, Conrad slipped back into what was essentially an modern reboot of Jim West. Here, however, he played a debonair spy named Thomas R. Sloane III, who worked for a secretive organization called UNIT. All good spy agencies need a nemesis. CONTROL had KAOS on Get Smart. UNIT squared off against KARTEL. James Bond was an obvious reference point, and the pilot's title, "Death Ray 2000," underlines that we're talking Roger Moore Bond as influence.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. High Mountain Rangers / Jesse Hawkes

 

1987–89

Later in his career, Conrad settled into a stereotype as a rugged mountain man. High Mountain Rangers, about a rescue squad in Tahoe, was a personal project for the veteran star. His sons, Christian and Shane Conrad, pictured here, co-starred. His daughter, Joan, served as executive producer. Conrad himself wrote and directed many episodes. His character, ex-Marine Jesse Hawkes, even got a spinoff series, essentially the same show in all but name. In 1995, Conrad returned to the mountains for a quite similar series, High Sierra Search and Rescue, though that time his character was named Griffin "Tooter" Campbell.

Image: The Everett Collection

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78 Comments

Lisa24 7 months ago
Conrad was driving while drunk one day and hit head on a young man in his 20s. Both were severely injured. The young man eventually died from his injuries. Conrad got house arrest for 6 months and 5 years probation for essentially killing this man.
JERRY6 12 months ago
I have most of the Hawaaian eye Surfside 6 and a man called Sloane watch them once in a while wish I could find the others mentioned Bring back one or 2 to METV
JERRY6 JERRY6 12 months ago
Have Bourbon Street as well with William Shatner another show Me TV show air
Snickers 12 months ago
Just saw Conrad on a episode of Adam- 12 as D.A Paul Ryan a few days ago.
CaptainDunsel 12 months ago
Let's not forget 'Cannon'! "What?" you ask. "He wasn't in 'Cannon'!"

No, he wasn't. But the executive who greenlit the pilot for 'Cannon' did so when he was told they had secured "Bill Conrad" for the lead. On screening the pilot, that exec asked, "Where's Bob Conrad!? And who's this fat guy running around?"
OldShows 12 months ago
Bring back shows like these. Time to move on. Andy Griiffith has been on too long, as well as MASH, Green Acres, & more.
Snickers OldShows 12 months ago
Even though I like Green Acres and Hogan's Hero's I have to agree. Have shown the same episodes way to many times. I think it's time for something new.
tdigiano 12 months ago
What about Black Sheep Squadron?
Snickers tdigiano 12 months ago
It was called Baa Baa Black Sheep the first season then the name change for season two.
Wiseguy70005 Snickers 12 months ago
That's right. Many sources say the name changed for reruns which is incorrect.
AgingDisgracefully 12 months ago
They won't overlooked.
More likely not looked at a second time.
tootsieg 12 months ago
The only show I am familiar with is Hawaiian Eye.
Bapa1 12 months ago
Some of these shows I never heard of. he was good in the movie 'Jingle All The Way'.
Robertp 12 months ago
Conrad was very competitive. I remember a competition between the stars where Conrad’s ream lost. He refused to accept the outcome and became very difficult. In order to prove he and his team were best he challenged Gabe Caplin to a foot race. Long story short, Gabe cleaned Conrad’s clock. After the way Conrad acted, I was really glad to see Gabe out front.
KJExpress Robertp 12 months ago
Was that the Battle of the Network Stars? I used to love watching those! 🏃‍♂️🏃‍♀️
Snickers KJExpress 12 months ago
Yep, that's the show and I remember that episode.
KJExpress Snickers 12 months ago
I remember Conrad putting one of the network logos on his shoulder and daring anyone to knock it off, which was a take-off on his battery commercials. I wonder if this was the same episode? 🤔
Andybandit 12 months ago
I never heard of any of these shows with Robert Conrad in it. Just TWWW, BSS, and some episodes of Columbo.
Coldnorth 12 months ago
Is the Black Sheep series streaming anywhere?
cperrynaples Coldnorth 12 months ago
Yes, it's on H&I, which is why it's not in the post but in the header!
Coldnorth cperrynaples 12 months ago
I haven’t seen it. I will have to look. Usually I’m up on that stuff. Maybe not in this area? I will seek out where he is hiding
Snickers Coldnorth 12 months ago
Saturday nights at 7:00 P.M on H&I network
Moody 12 months ago
Interesting stuff, I've never heard of any of these shows. And I can't picture anybody calling Robert Conrad "Tooter". 😂
MrsPhilHarris Moody 12 months ago
I thought that was funny too!
Moody MrsPhilHarris 12 months ago
Congrats on your quiz win Friday night. That's a great movie too.
MrsPhilHarris Moody 12 months ago
Thanks kindly Moody! It is a great movie.
MichaelSSanphy 27 months ago
Thank you for bringing back Hawaiian Eye on MeTV+. I was only 9 years old when this first appeared on television. I appreciate it more now then I did back then Robert Conrad and Anthony Eisley would have made good James Bonds. Connie Stevens and Poncie Ponce were good singers on this series and in their present solo careers. I think Connie Stevens is the only surviving cast member. Check it out I recommend it as a light action series with a chance to see many actors that you'll probably remember from their early days on TV.
I wish I could get MeTV+. I can't even get the regular MeTV anymore thanks to the friendly folks at DISH.
MelanieLee 28 months ago
You left out his starring role in the TV miniseries Centennial, where he played a French trapper named Pasquinel in frontier Colorado. It's the first time that I really respected Robert Conrad as an actor, and "not just another pretty face".
Wufferduck MelanieLee 12 months ago
One of my favorite miniseries of all time. What an amazing cast and a great story.
raalongi 48 months ago
One of my favorite Columbia episodes is : "An Exercise in Fatality".
Conrad plays a exercise company owner who murders his business partner after he finds out he is cheating people. Columbo and Conrad truly hated each....in a hilarious scene we see one of the very few times Columbo ever got mad at one of his suspects!!
***** episode!
JacquelineWellsLubinski 49 months ago
I remember a line in High Mountain Rangers when he was with his son. I don't remember exactly what they were doing but his son looked at him and said "Who do you think you are--James West"?
TCKirkham 51 months ago
I LOVED High Mountain Rangers - it was one of the best shows of that decade, I wish CBS had given it more of a chance by putting it on another night instead of Saturday. Jesse Hawkes was ok, but I missed the rest of the cast from the original series. But it was better than nothing....:-)
TCKirkham TCKirkham 51 months ago
I also wish they'd put both shows out on DVD or streaming somewhere, I'd love to see them again. I lost my tapes of them years ago...
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