THE UNMUTUAL PRISONER ARTICLE ARCHIVE
THE PROJECTION ROOM (The Prisoner Compared...)
MUST BE THE THING THAT CAN SET ME FREE" --
CORONET BLUE: History & Review
by Tom Mayer
Do you feel like watching that cult television series from the 1960s that ran for just over a dozen episodes? The one that features an isolated protagonist battling mysterious enemies, as he struggles to maintain his identity while on a journey toward personal freedom? If you think I’m referring to The Prisoner, you'd be right, but that summary just as accurately describes Coronet Blue, a fascinating, yet obscure program virtually unknown to modern TV audiences. It first aired on CBS in the U.S. in 1967 as a summer replacement, then vanished almost never to be seen again.
It featured an offbeat premise, even for the 1960s: Frank Converse (Movin' On, N.Y.P.D.) plays a man pulled out of New York City's East River after being attacked and left for dead. Suffering from amnesia, he remembers nothing about his previous life except the mysterious phrase "Coronet Blue," which he was mumbling after being pulled from the water. Adopting the name Michael Alden, he embarks on a quest to discover who he was and to break through his amnesia. Throughout his journey, he encounters various people who he helps with their problems while pursuing leads that might provide clues to his past life. Meanwhile, it becomes clear that his enemies are close by, waiting to finish him off should he get too close to discovering the truth.
By now you're probably thinking, "What's so original about this? It sounds just like The Bourne Identity." Indeed, the premise is strikingly similar, but the first Jason Bourne novel was published in early 1980 -- a full thirteen years after Coronet Blue aired. It's possible Robert Ludlum recognized a good story when he saw it, and remembered the basic idea for his book over a decade later. Regardless, the thirteen-episode run of Coronet Blue is worth checking out, especially now that it is available again in time for its 50th anniversary. Thanks to a welcome DVD release, admirers of classic television can take part in a long-overdue rediscovery of this unique program.
HISTORY & SCREENING
If the premise is not intriguing enough, the series underwent an eventful journey in real-life as well. In early 1965, producer Herbert Brodkin was president of Plautus Productions, a company which had several shows in various states of filming. These included For The People, The Doctors and The Nurses and The Defenders, the latter of which writer/producer Larry Cohen (It's Alive, Phone Booth) had written several episodes for. Brodkin asked if Cohen had ideas for potential new programs, since Cohen had just created Branded with Chuck Conners (modeled on The Fugitive, as the "man on the run" premise was popular at the time). Cohen pitched Coronet Blue to Brodkin, who liked it enough that he worked out a deal with CBS to have a 22-episode season begin airing the following fall.
However, because of schedule shifting and a change in network presidents, CBS passed on Coronet Blue, promising to run it the following season. Brodkin and Cohen had enough faith in the show (along with financial backing), that they went ahead and filmed throughout the spring and summer of 1965. CBS then had a change of heart and reduced their order of episodes, wanting to use the show instead as a mid-season replacement sometime in 1966. This plan was eventually abandoned as well, and production was shut down for good with only thirteen episodes having been filmed. The program then sat on the shelf for over a year, with industry insiders sarcastically referring to it as "Coronary Blue." In a final attempt to recoup some of their investment, CBS decided to burn off the series during the summer of 1967.
In an ironic twist, when Coronet Blue finally aired, it became the highest rated series of the season (a time of year when reruns and unsold pilots were usually the only things to watch). Audience reaction was positive, with Frank Converse popular among young viewers, while the rest of the audience was no doubt intrigued by the mystery of Alden's past. Many viewers wrote in to the network (or their local papers) to praise the show, voice concern over its short run, or ask if the mystery would ultimately be solved. Larry Cohen was certainly surprised by it all. "Coronet Blue is getting more attention than any successful show I've ever worked on," he said. "It's amazing."
Reviews were positive as well, with Variety extremely pleased. "None of the link sausages currently in the network prime time could have the special fascination this delayed bomb holds for the [TV] industry," the magazine quipped. "Here it is, two seasons later, unshelved and dusted off for a summer run . . . [it] has youth and booze and broads and sexual innuendo and romantic New York locations in posh tint. In other words, it is tough sudsy pulp [where] photography, scoring and editing are exceptional." Critic Robert J. Boyle was surprised as well. "It has the type of plot which is easy to dislike," he said. "It took courage (and a lack of anything else on TV) to watch this show, but it turned out to be surprisingly good. The photography is excellent and the characters are believable . . . [so] instead of a dud, it turned out to be explosive." In a review of the episode "Man Running," the column TV Scout said, "Coronet Blue has been quite excellent except for the single negative aspect of losing touch with logic or reality. Can any amnesiac wander about namelessly, forever, in these modern times?"
It was obvious that CBS had a hit on their hands, but even though they wanted to keep the show going, it simply was not to be. With production long since shut down, the cast and crew had moved on to other projects. Likewise, the network was probably anxious to wash their hands of the whole thing, never having had complete faith in the show from the beginning. A CBS executive confirmed, "We've always felt that Coronet Blue was a well-acted, well-produced show, but that it didn't hang together conceptually." In a further example of bad luck surrounding the series, only eleven episodes aired, with the remaining two being pre-empted twice and never shown. To add insult to injury, the program ended up advertising Converse's next show on a rival network, the police drama N.Y.P.D., which premiered on ABC September 5, 1967 -- the night after CBS aired the final episode of Coronet Blue!
The show left behind two items of related merchandise. First was a 45rpm single of the title theme by Lenny Welch (famous for 1963's "Since I Fell For You"). It was the B-side to his minor hit, "Run To My Lovin' Arms," which scraped the bottom of the chart at #96 in December 1965. For the few who bought the record (and bothered to play the flip-side), it must have been strange hearing music from a TV show that wouldn't air for another two years. The second piece of merchandise was the sheet music to the title theme published by Chappell & Company. Tellingly, it had a double copyright date of "1965 & 1967" proving that it was a last-minute release meant to coincide with the program's screening. For a B-side tucked away on an obscure two-year-old single, somebody must have thought they had a potential hit on their hands if they went to the trouble of issuing sheet music for the theme to a limited-run summer series!
AFTERLIFE & LEGACY
There were several references to the show throughout 1968, since it was still fresh in viewers' minds. Many questions, all variants on the same theme, were sent to newspapers throughout the country. “Is Coronet Blue going to come back as a replacement show as it did last year?” asked one fan. “I loved this show and I really hated to see it taken off the air." Their paper's response: “Coronet Blue seems to be the favorite series of the diehards -- our mailbag gets at least 10 to 12 letters a day from fans who still praise the show and hope for its return. I'm sorry to report that Coronet Blue is not likely to ever return."
Over the next few decades, the show was virtually forgotten. During the boom of film and TV nostalgia in the 1980s, early home video releases rarely included such obscurities, while the chance of a televised rerun was practically nonexistent. In 1989, TV historians Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik praised the series in their book, Favorite TV Shows. "The amnesia angle is very odd," they observed, "[and there] is little of the surface trappings of fancy gadgets or beautiful women found in popular spy sagas . . . [but] it is, however, just these touches of quirkiness that turn Coronet Blue into such a gem." The authors must have had fond memories of the show, since they wistfully concluded that, by the end of the series, "both Michael Alden and the viewer still are not much closer to resolving who Alden really is or what 'Coronet Blue' means. Perhaps, someday, Frank Converse will star in a TV movie sequel to wrap up the loose ends. Some people have been waiting two decades for an answer."
Notably, three series from the 1990s and 2000s captured the spirit of Coronet Blue (along with shades of The Fugitive and The Prisoner). The Fifth Corner aired on NBC in 1992, and starred Alex McArthur as a man who awakens in a hotel room next to a dead woman. He has no recollection of his past, and attempts to find out who he was and what he was involved in. Six episodes were made, with only three airing before the show was cancelled. Then in 1995, Nowhere Man ran for one season on Fox. It starred Bruce Greenwood as a man who discovered that his entire life had been "erased" -- his identity was gone, and everyone he knew no longer recognized him. He eventually uncovered a conspiracy while being pursued by those intent on wiping out his past. Finally, in 2002, John Doe starring Dominic Purcell also aired on Fox for a lone season. Purcell's character awoke on an island off the coast of Washington State with no memory of his previous life, but was discovered to be highly intelligent with a vast range of knowledge and information. None of these series were huge successes, but each proved that the "hero-without-a-past" hook was durable enough to be resurrected every now and then.
During this time, Coronet Blue made two "blink-and-you'll-miss-'em" appearances on opposite ends of the world. Sometime in the 1980s, an Australian network screened the original eleven episodes, while in 1997, the U.S. cable network "TV Land" showed four installments as part of a weekend marathon of short-lived programs. Obviously, the series wasn't completely forgotten if the bosses of two networks on different continents remembered (and liked) the show well enough to screen it again.
When the internet became ubiquitous at the turn of the millennium, viewers who remembered the series spoke highly of it online. The Internet Movie Database, in particular, amassed several comments from those who saw the show as youngsters in 1967. But apart from the same facts repeated in TV reference sources over the years, information on the show was still scarce. Thankfully in 2008, the excellent website TV Obscurities published an article on the troubled history of the series. Their write-up gave an informative account of the program's difficult journey to the screen, documenting what had happened behind the scenes.
By the mid-2000s, a small, but dedicated, group of fans had formed the “Coronet Blue Collective,” a preservation effort that attempted to gather and document all known copies of the episodes. Jim Beaty, head of the Collective, seemed pessimistic that the series would ever see an official release. "Due to the timeliness of the show," he said, "it is highly unlikely it will ever see the light of day again -- including DVD. It's a bit dated since it was shot in the '60s and the plots centered around 1960s themes, [so] there just does not seem to be a demographic market for this series." He then cautioned, "We hope these episodes will not waste away in an unnumbered warehouse somewhere on this planet. It's a race against time and time is winning."
While the Collective did not immediately succeed in getting the series officially released, it inspired fans to track down and circulate all known copies. Within a few years, DVD sets of the eleven aired episodes were available through collector websites. The picture quality varied from episode to episode, with the four "TV Land" copies mixed in with dubs from the Australian screening, but at least the show was finally able to be seen in some form. Surprisingly, the two unaired episodes then surfaced on a DVD apparently manufactured through a professional archive or studio. The recordings were uncut and of very good picture quality, with only a time-code counter burned into the edge of the screen. It was a small price to pay to finally have the complete run of Coronet Blue available for those willing to search it out.
Almost another decade of relative unavailability would go by until March 2017, when the news hit that Coronet Blue would be officially released on DVD later that year. Fans of classic television were at first shocked, then quickly rejoiced upon hearing the announcement. Many positive comments appeared on Classic TV and Home Video forums, since almost everyone familiar with the show had assumed it would never see the light of day again. Interestingly, the set was being issued by Kino Lorber, a studio known primarily for deluxe editions of classic, silent and foreign films. An obscure TV series seemed a bit out of their usual territory, but it was nonetheless an encouraging sign, since it promised that the release would be of excellent quality.
When the set finally appeared on July 18th, it exceeded expectations. The episodes were spread out across four discs housed in a sturdy case with beautiful artwork. The picture quality was near perfect -- the prints used were in fantastic condition and excellently mastered, with solid colors and clear, sharp quality. The occasional speck or scratch was still noticeable, but not enough to be distracting. The audio was just as good, sporting a nice balance between music and dialogue in the original mono mix (remastered in Dolby Digital). The episodes were presented in airdate order, with the two unaired stories placed at the end of the run.
A welcome bonus was a new twelve-minute interview with Larry Cohen. His insight into the series was fascinating to hear, especially his frank comments about the way the project ultimately differed from his original concept. "Unfortunately, when the show got on the air, things changed," he says in the interview. "The network didn't want to do a spy/suspense series, they wanted to turn it into an anthology series, [where] every week, this guy would run into people and get involved in their stories. There was no element of suspense anymore. It was all dramatic stories that were hooked together by a guy trying to find his identity . . . pretty soon, the whole thing sank down and became 'flat.' It wasn't the show I created anymore." As essential as Cohen is to the program's history however, it's too bad that Frank Converse himself didn't appear in the documentary. Hearing his thoughts on the series today would have closed the circle perfectly and, as such, his absence is the only thing marring an otherwise flawless set.
Not surprisingly, the DVD's release went virtually unnoticed, since the program is still very obscure. Nonetheless, a handful of reviews still appeared, with Gary Tooze of DVD Beaver saying the show is "remarkable as an excellent mystery, thriller TV series . . . [and] a very welcome release. I loved watching it -- for the narrative as well as the 'star-spotting.' This is very cool stuff. Recommended to any classic television and thriller drama fan." Michael K. Anderson of Zekefilm, on the other hand, was underwhelmed. "I’d like to say that the legend holds up," he confessed. "[But] unfortunately . . . I was ultimately disappointed. [The] episodes center around then-topical concerns like student protests, pop music, and the emerging martial arts, and many times the connection to the central mystery is a real stretch . . . Coronet Blue was an excellent and pioneering idea that ultimately fell down in the execution . . . It’s a fine series, but it had the potential to be so much more." Happily though, a third review praised the show while making an appropriate comparison to another cult classic. "This series has been something of a legend among TV cultists because of its unusual premise," said Michael Barrett of Pop Matters. "[It] bears a passing similarity to Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner, another short-lived spy drama full of paranoia and fake-outs, and which is loved by many as one of the best shows ever . . . [Now] that we’re finally blessed with a DVD of bright shiny prints with only minor flaws, we can see that, while it’s not as daring a mind-bender as The Prisoner, Coronet Blue is a good, versatile, well-made show."
Each episode features Michael Alden investigating a clue about his past which gets him involved in that week's story. Rarely does it have anything to do with his amnesia -- each clue, of course, is a red herring meant to pull him into the action. Regardless, the series delivers well written, stand-alone tales that are quite enjoyable, involving everything from a campus protest group, to a small-town murder mystery, to an assassination conspiracy, to a dead pop singer -- even space travel and the occult!
The show is a textbook example of the "isolated/wandering protagonist" programs that were popular during the 1960s. The genre began with two of the best of its kind: Route 66 (1960-63) which told the story of two friends (Martin Milner and George Maharis) roaming the country in a flashy Corvette, having adventures and helping people along the way; while The Fugitive (1963-67) featured the innocent Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen) running from the law while trying to find the one-armed man who killed his wife. Many similar shows followed over the next few years, including Run For Your Life (Ben Gazarra wandering the world after learning he has two years to live), Man In A Suitcase (Richard Bradford as a discredited intelligence agent roaming Europe as a private detective), The Invaders (Roy Thinnes trying to warn mankind about an extra-terrestrial takeover), Branded (Chuck Connors as a Civil War Army captain falsely accused of deserting his troops), and Blue Light (Robert Goulet – yes, Robert Goulet! – as an American spy deep undercover in Nazi Germany). The latter three series were also created by Larry Cohen, who evidently had a liking for the genre. Of course, into this mix appeared The Prisoner in 1967, with Patrick McGoohan's unnamed hero abducted to The Village and fighting for his freedom and identity.
Yet Coronet Blue managed to tweak the formula enough to set it apart from the others. Whereas The Fugitive was "external" and wide-ranging (Richard Kimble roamed the country looking for his wife's killer), and The Prisoner was "internal" and claustrophobic (No.6 spends the majority of the series trapped in The Village), Coronet Blue occupied a realm somewhere in between. Michael Alden is threatened by external forces that require him to run for his life, but he is equally a prisoner of his mind due to his amnesia. The ultimate goals of Richard Kimble and No.6 are well-defined (capturing the one-armed man and escaping from The Village, respectively), but the nature of the premise of Coronet Blue creates a unique conflict for Alden. Was he a "good guy" about to catch some "bad guys," or was he a "bad guy" about to be done in by his own people? As much as he wants to learn the truth, sometimes he feels he'd rather not know who he used to be. The answers he seeks may come at a price.
The series is a perfect time capsule of the mid-sixties, with cultural references touching on everything from Shakespeare and Shelley to Bob Dylan and Doctor No. The burgeoning "mod" era is evident throughout, with Alden embodying the "hip" youth of the time – the generation isolated from the values of their parents and "lost" in the modern world trying to find their identity. Alden quickly establishes a base to work from -- a Greenwich Village coffee house appropriately called The Searching "I." It's the type of hangout where young hipsters are either "frugging" to instrumental rock music or listening with rapt attention to folk singers, thereby giving the series a helping of sixties relevancy. Likewise, New York City appears as a sunny, welcoming place where the era's youth can "find" themselves and have fun along the way (Brodkin himself described the show's themes as the "the rootlessness and isolation of the young American generation").
The Searching "I" is run by middle-aged Max Spier, who becomes a friend and father figure to Michael, helping him follow up leads, fending off bad guys, or just dispensing advice on what Alden should do next. Played by character-actor Joe Silver (Shivers, Switching Channels), Max is great to watch and steals almost every scene he is in. He's especially good for wry comments or exasperated reactions when confronted with Michael's latest complication. Another friend shows up in Brother Anthony, a monk in whose monastery Michael hides from his enemies. Played by UK actor Brian Bedford (Grand Prix, Disney's Robin Hood), Anthony later leaves the monastery for civilian life, getting a job at the coffee house and becoming involved in Michael's adventures. The spirit of friendship and camaraderie that Silver and Bedford bring to the series is welcome, and helps alleviate some of the loneliness of Michael's predicament. The two actors have a fantastic rapport with Converse, and their scenes together are some of the series' best.
The guest stars are top-notch as well. The producers drew primarily from a pool of New York-based talent, refreshingly different from the usual Hollywood actors. This gives Coronet Blue an astonishing roll-call of guest appearances: Alan Alda, Candice Bergen, Jon Voight, David Carradine, Richard Kiley, Janet Margolin, Hal Holbrook, Brenda Vacarro, Roy Scheider, Sally Kellerman, Dick Clark, Susan Hampshire, Denholm Elliot, Keye Luke, Daniel J. Travanti, Joseph Wiseman and Billy Dee Williams, among others. The series is worth catching on the basis of these stars alone.
Like The Fugitive (which rarely dealt with its premise directly), Coronet Blue consists of stand-alone episodes that have no connection with what came before. Modern viewers expecting a serious drama with large-scale action sequences in a tightly-woven narrative of serialized plotlines will be disappointed. With little continuity throughout the run, the tone varies from story to story depending on the writer or director. Some episodes are uneven, with occasional dialogue-heavy scenes slowing the momentum of the story. Likewise, Alden is barely developed as a character, due to his amnesia rendering him a complete blank. Converse does the best he can with the role, portraying Alden as carefree and content, yet perpetually troubled by the mystery of his past. But without being able to fully establish who Alden was, he ends up being a mystery for the entire run.
The elaborate premise is limited as well. How long could Alden's amnesia really last? More importantly, how long would the viewing audience have tolerated such an open-ended story before turning the channel? Alden obviously can't make any major discoveries about himself, since that would spell the end of the show. Similarly, the premise had to be flexible enough for hired writers to create self-contained stories without having to worry about established narrative or past continuity. As a result, there's almost no way Coronet Blue could have become a long-running series lasting several seasons. It's a shame that miniseries didn't exist at the time, since the premise seems tailor-made for a limited run (albeit, with a definite ending).
But when the show works (which is, thankfully, most of the time), it is a genuine pleasure to watch. The direction (by, among others, David Greene and actor Sam Wanamaker) is solid and consistent without being showy or expressive, and puts to good use Andrew Laszlo's excellent cinematography. When the occasional "arty" moment comes up, it is well-executed with tilted camera angles, slow motion, rack-focusing or stylized close-ups (usually when a character is disoriented or dreaming). Production design is well done with elaborate sets and costumes. Notably, most colors are subdued, keeping "blue" prominent in everything from the props to Alden's wardrobe (usually a navy polo shirt or light blue dress shirt). The producers were also smart to not overuse studio sets, taking the show outdoors as often as possible. As a result, there is a wonderful abundance of New York City location footage from the spring and summer of 1965. Greenwich Village and Central Park figure prominently in several episodes, as do locations in the Bronx, Long Island and upstate-New York. This gives the series a gorgeous appearance with an added feeling of authenticity. The score by Laurence Rosenthal is quite good, neatly combining orchestra, brass and electric guitar; while the title song by Lenny Welch is a fantastic piece of contemporary sixties pop/rock that is incredibly catchy (it'll be stuck in your head for weeks).
While viewing the series, there are several moments to look out for:
-- Two memorable guest appearances: First, Susan Hampshire in "A Time To Be Born" as a flirtatious socialite who falls for Michael; then, Dick Clark in a rare acting role as a shady record producer in "The Flip Side of Timmy Devon."
-- The eerie dream sequence that opens "Faces." In slow motion, Michael walks into a cemetery to visit the grave of a young girl while a fantastic orchestral version of the theme plays over the scene.
-- The clever plot of "A Charade For Murder" that borders on high comedy. Anthony gets mistaken for Michael as the latter's enemies attempt to frame him, resulting in several mishaps and misunderstandings. Brenda Vaccaro is enjoyable as Julie, a struggling actress, who gets caught in the confusion.
-- The brilliant opening sequence of "Saturday," which features Alden scoping out Lincoln Center Plaza on his way to meet a man who promised him information. The scene runs over six minutes with hardly any dialog, as Michael slowly approaches the rendezvous point with two men watching his every move. The peacefulness is soon shattered by gunfire, followed by an exciting foot chase out into the streets. Construction on Lincoln Center had been completed a year earlier, so the producers must have jumped at the chance to use this location. As a result, it's one of the best scenes in the entire series.
-- The intelligent, intriguing premise of "Six Months To Mars," which examines the effect of space travel on amnesia, along with Alden's feelings of isolation in regard to his predicament. The unintentional atmosphere of finality throughout the story makes it an ideal choice for a "substitute" final episode.
Which brings us to the elephant in the living room concerning Coronet Blue -- the total lack of an ending to the series. Today, in this current Golden Age of Television, the concept of a program not wrapping up its premise must seem totally alien to modern audiences. It is this fact that will most likely prevent potential viewers from sampling the series. However, it must be stressed that this is how prime time television was in the 1960s. Coronet Blue was the product of an era when TV series did not wrap up their premises when the show ceased production. The evolution of television eventually led to the serialized storytelling and concluding installments that flourished in the late-70s and early-80s, beginning with large-scale miniseries (Roots, Centennial), nighttime soap operas (Dallas, Dynasty) and early quality dramas (Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere). But in 1965, with no precedent for limited story lines or concrete endings, Coronet Blue had to end exactly where it was (remember, the climactic final episodes of The Fugitive and The Prisoner were still two years away). It would have been especially difficult to wrap up a show that was more or less cancelled before it even aired. Filming a conclusion was likely the last thing on anybody's mind.
Yet, while the central mystery was never resolved, some writers managed to slip in revelations about Alden's past life. Over the course of the show, we learn that he is fluent is several languages, and is adept at martial arts and hand-to-hand combat. Likewise, random memories of his mother, a mysterious woman on a beach, a college campus and a seaside mansion all surface at various times. In fact, one episode ends with Alden finding a man who definitively remembers seeing him with a young woman in Central Park at some point. It is unlikely that these discoveries would have had any bearing on the ultimate secret, but they are nonetheless welcome additions to the backstory of the show.
But the central mystery remains: who was Michael Alden, and what was the meaning of "Coronet Blue?" Larry Cohen, as creator, knew right from the beginning. "Yes, I know how it ends," he teased audiences in 1967. "But I can't tell you. I can say this. All the clues to Michael Alden's identity are contained in the first episode." Yet it would be another three decades before Cohen would, at last, finally reveal the secret. He told his biographer, Tony Williams, in 1997:
"The actual secret is that Converse was not really an American at all. He was a Russian who had been trained to appear like an American and was sent to the U.S. as a spy. He belonged to a spy unit called 'Coronet Blue.' He decided to defect, so the Russians tried to kill him before he could give away the identities of the other Soviet agents. And nobody could really identify him because he didn't exist as an American."
This quote has been recycled several times over the years, but in case anyone was questioning its validity, Cohen confirmed everything (with additional details) in the 2017 DVD interview:
"The revelation was supposed to be that no one could identify him. His fingerprints don't match anybody else's, nobody can pick out his picture when they see it . . . no one can figure out who he could possibly be, because he has no identity. The solution was going to be that he was a Russian agent trained to pose as an American, having been put through a special school in Moscow. He was posted in the United States as a sleeper agent, then decided to defect because he didn't like what the Soviets were doing. His group -- with the code name 'Coronet Blue' -- tried to kill him and they failed. Now they want to try again before he can regain his memory and name the other members of the 'Coronet Blue' organization that has infiltrated the United States."
Had the show lasted long enough to reach a planned conclusion, one wonders if this scenario would have been used, or if an alternative would have been thought up instead. At the height of the Cold War, the revelation of the show's hero being a Russian agent might not have gone over well with audiences (unless it could have been established that Alden was truly about to renounce his past to join the American cause). Regardless, viewers today now have the opportunity to watch the series with a unique perspective, having full knowledge of the ultimate secret. Fans can decide for themselves which scenario ultimately works better – a story with this particular solution or one left forever unresolved?
So, after fifty years, the series is now easily available for anyone to watch if they are interested. Rarely in life do we get exactly what we wish for, but in the case of Coronet Blue, the official DVD release is just what longtime fans have always wanted. For those who haven't seen it, the show is a charming, satisfying discovery with well-written stories, intelligent themes, appealing characters, beautiful photography, and a great soundtrack. Admirers of classic television (especially those who love short-lived cult programs) should definitely check this one out. Unlike Michael Alden, you won't soon forget Coronet Blue.
Anderson, Michael K. "Legendary
Amnesiac Adventure Series Surfaces, Proves Forgettable.” ZekeFilm (September
Barrett, Michael. "Through the Fog of TV Amnesia: Remembering The Briefly Lived Coronet Blue.” PopMatters (August 9, 2017).
Beaty, Jim. Coronet Blue Preservation Effort, ca. 2006. (www.tvparty.com/reccoronet.html.)
Boyle, Robert J. "A Different Slant." The [Pottstown, Pennsylvania] Mercury (August 15, 1967).
Castleman, Harry and Walter J. Podrazik. Harry And Wally's Favorite TV Shows. Prentice Hall Press, 1989.
Classic TV Archive. Coronet Blue entry. (http://ctva.biz/US/Adventure/CoronetBlue.htm)
Dean, Richard. "Between Channels." Salem (Ohio) News (January 21, 1965).
Drenner, Elijah. "Blue Ruin: Larry Cohen on Coronet Blue" (DVD documentary). Kino Lorber, 2017
Humphrey, Hal. "Man-On-The-Run TV Plot Has Networks Scrambling." Beckley (West Virginia) Post-Herald (April 14, 1965).
Internet Movie Database. Coronet Blue entry. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061242/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt)
Lambert, David. "Coronet Blue: The Short-Lived 1967 Classic Coming to DVD Soon." TV Shows On DVD (March 21, 2017).
Scheuer, Steven H. "TV Questions And Answers." [Mansfield, Ohio] News-Journal (January 27, 1968).
Tooze, Gary. "Coronet Blue DVD review." DVD Beaver (July 2017).
TV Obscurities. Coronet Blue article (December 29, 2008). (http://www.tvobscurities.com/articles/coronet_blue/)
"TV Series Mystery To Remain." San Antonio Express (July 17, 1967.)
Variety editors. Coronet Blue review. Variety (May 31, 1967).
Williams, Tony. Larry Cohen: The Radical Allegories of an Independent Filmmaker. McFarland, 1997.
Episodes are listed in recommended viewing order. Ratings are as follows: **** (Excellent), *** (Good), ** (Fair), * (Poor).
01 A TIME TO BE BORN ***
A man found in the New York harbor suffering from amnesia renames himself "Michael Alden," and begins searching for answers about his past. In the premiere, Michael becomes involved with a flirtatious socialite, while her father offers to help get Michael back on his feet with a job and contacts. Meanwhile, his enemies are keeping a close eye on his movements...
02 WHERE YOU FROM AND WHAT
YOU DONE? *
On a bus ride from Virginia to New York City, Michael ends up traveling with a sweet ol' Southern girl, who is revealed to have numerous secrets and mental issues.
03 THE ASSASSINS **
Michael is apparently reunited with his parents and fiancée, but they are hesitant to answer specific questions about his past. Meanwhile, a visiting foreign dignitary is marked for assassination.
04 THE REBELS ***
Michael gets involved with a campus protest group, while the university's doctor tries to help him break through his amnesia. This episode features a fantastic line-up of guest stars: Jon Voight, David Carradine, Candice Bergen and Richard Kiley.
05 A DOZEN DEMONS ***
While taking refuge in a monastery, Michael is amazed to find a likeness of himself as St. Anthony in a stained-glass painting. He and one of the Brothers (also named Anthony) attempt to track down the artist who they believe could provide information about Michael's past.
06 TOMOYO **
Michael sees a young Asian woman on the street and remembers her from somewhere. His following her leads him to a martial arts training center with mysterious members who have something to hide.
07 FACES ***
Michael sees himself in a group photo taken at a young woman's funeral two years previously. He travels to the small town to question its residents about her death and his presence in the picture. His investigation uncovers a controversy surrounding her murder.
08 MAN RUNNING ***
After saving a man from being shot on the street, Michael learns that the man is a British exile from a Caribbean country. He wants help in finding his daughter who he hasn't seen in ten years. After Michael finds the woman attending a nearby college, complications ensue.
09 A CHARADE FOR MURDER
Michael's enemies attempt to frame him for a murder to do away with him for good. However, the now defrocked Brother Anthony (impersonating Michael) gets framed instead and several cases of mistaken identity pile up.
10 SATURDAY **
After running from a failed meeting with a man who promised information about his past, Michael bonds with a young boy in Central Park who just learned that his father has died.
11 THE PRESENCE OF EVIL
A magician rumored to have a connection with the devil (when using his young female assistant as a medium), eerily predicts that a man fitting Michael's description will show up inquiring about his unique stage prop -- a "sapphire crown."
12 THE FLIP SIDE OF TIMMY
Michael hears a song on the radio and recognizes the lyrics. He is then shocked to learn that the song was only just released from the vaults -- and that the singer died a few months earlier. So how does he know this song?
13 SIX MONTHS TO MARS ****
Michael is recruited by a program experimenting on the effects of long-term space travel. The program's doctor is particularly interested in Michael's amnesia -- could an astronaut without memories fare better in space than someone with an emotional connection to family and friends back on Earth?
Another area where Coronet Blue is similar to The Prisoner is in the various running orders of the show's episodes. According to production numbers, this is the order in which the installments were filmed in 1965:
001 A Time To Be Born
002 Where You From and What You Done?
003 A Dozen Demons
005 Six Months To Mars
006 The Assassins
008 Man Running
009 A Charade For Murder
010 The Flip Side of Timmy Devon
011 The Rebels
013 The Presence of Evil
After episode shuffling and several pre-emptions, this is the order in which they finally aired (or didn't) on CBS in 1967:
5/29/67 A Time To Be Born
6/05/67 Where You From and What You Done? (Pre-empted)
6/12/67 The Assassins
6/19/67 The Rebels
6/26/67 Tomoyo (Pre-empted)
7/03/67 A Dozen Demons
7/17/67 Man Running
7/24/67 A Charade For Murder
8/07/67 The Presence of Evil
8/14/67 Six Months To Mars
8/21/67 Where You From and What You Done? (Pre-empted again)
8/28/67 Tomoyo (Pre-empted again)
9/04/67 The Flip Side of Timmy Devon
Like The Prisoner, when analyzing the entire run of Coronet Blue, the episodes fall into a natural order, resulting in the occasional story that should be placed before or after certain others. Obviously, "A Time to Be Born" should be watched/aired first, since it sets up the entire series. Next, "Where You From and What You Done" is the program's weakest episode, but it slips in nicely as #2, since it was filmed second and originally scheduled to air second. Later episodes that feature Brother Anthony ("Charade For Murder," "Presence of Evil," "Timmy Devon") should obviously be watched after "A Dozen Demons," since that is where he and Michael first meet. Likewise, "The Rebels," "Faces," "Presence of Evil" and, especially, "Six Months To Mars" should all be placed later in the run, since these stories feature Michael discovering facts about himself or actually remembering something from his past.
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