Real private eyes wished their lives were as exciting as Peter Gunn
"We get letters from private detectives all over the country," said Craig Stevens.
What's more important to you, excitement or authenticity? Sometimes in TV, one is sacrificed to heighten the other. We might have a show that is an exact, by-the-books replica of what it purports to be. On those shows, history is painstakingly recreated in to serve up the best facsimile of what the events were actually like. Other times though, the specifics are traded in for drama, because that's what people tune in for.
Sometimes, it's easier to get away with exaggerating details within the heightened reality of TV. If a show is set during the Middle Ages, the show's producers can rest assured that nobody from that era will write to them about inaccuracies. Things get a little trickier, though, when a show is set in the present and deals with real-life jobs that people actually have.
Craig Stevens played a private eye on Peter Gunn between 1958 and 1961. During those years, of course, there were real-life private eyes out in the field investigating real cases. Because the show was successful, a lot of these real detectives were aware of the show, as Stevens noted in a 1960 interview with the North American Newspaper Alliance. However, you might be surprised what these actual gumshoes thought of the liberties taken by the Peter Gunn writers.
"We get letters from private detectives all over the country," said Stevens. "Not many of them are the 'who-do-you-think-you're-kidding' type. They recognize our necessity to use a lot of dramatic license and they tell us how dull a private detective's life really is and how they wish it could be as exciting as it is on television."
Maybe it would've helped jazz things up if these private eyes could've hired a team of musicians to follow them around. That iconic Henry Mancini score made all the difference for Peter Gunn.
"When [producer Blake Edwards] told people what he wanted to do, they told him he was crazy. Live music, or at least originally scored music, on a half-hour show? The kind of camera work you expect in a major movie production? They laughed at him."