There are many exploitation genres in the world of television and film. For example, entries from the blaxploitation genre focus on African American characters (usually made for African American audiences) who wade through just about every stereotype in the book (just ask Tyler Perry). Dwarfsploitation films feature little people dealing with the big problems of an even bigger world. Sexploitation — well, I’m pretty sure you can figure that one out on your own.
But of all the various exploitation genres made available to us by TV and filmmakers around the world, none is as ignored as “fatsploitation.” And, while I’m not entirely positive that such an offshoot even technically exists, fatsploitation deserves some recognition. Take the television classic Cannon for instance. Each week, producer Quinn Martin (the brain behind The Fugitive and The Invaders) delivered to us the weekly standalone adventures of an overweight-ex-cop-turned-private-investigator named Frank Cannon.
Playing Frank Cannon was one William Conrad. Although he was the butt of many a fat joke (who could ever forget the epic invention of the William Conrad Fridge Alert on Mystery Science Theater 3000?), William Conrad was a marvelous actor (with an equally marvelous voice) and played every part to the hilt. With Cannon, William Conrad found himself playing a part written specifically for him: no one is all that shy about commenting on his physique. He loves to indulge in rich, elegant foods, too — and loves preparing meals for his clients and friends.
Seeing as how William Conrad was a big guy, the series (which lasted five seasons from 1971-1976) wisely worked around that. Scenes of Cannon pursuing criminals on foot were few while other “exotic” quests were toned down considerably (such as an unforgettable nightmarish scene of William Conrad scuba diving in a wetsuit in season one). Instead, Frank Cannon almost wholly operated out of his faithful Lincoln Continental Mark IV — and would just as soon run the bad guys down with that as opposed to chasing them. Who could argue with that technique? Why, even the industry‘s current overweight good guy, Steven Seagal, would be proud of it!
CBS/Paramount has now delivered another half-season of fatsploitation fun with Cannon: Season Two, Volume One. The three-disc DVD set contains the first twelve episodes from the show’s 1972-1973 season. While I love that fact that CBS/Paramount is putting the effort into releasing these classic series on disc, I find it a huge letdown that these episodes have not received any digital restoration/mastering treatment (they did with the first season of Cannon). Put simply: these episodes all look pretty murky — especially when you look at some of CBS/Paramount’s other, better-quality releases like Hawaii Five-O, Mission: Impossible, or even Quinn Martin’s The Fugitive. Mono English sound is the only audio option here, and there are no subtitles — so you’ll have to turn the CC on if you want to translate some of Cannon’s mumblings.
Like the previous DVD releases, special features are limited to a few episodic promos and a couple of bumpers for other CBS/Paramount titles (I will give CBS/Paramount kudos for the new logo, though — it’s rather nice, fellas).
Despite the enormous disappointments that are to be found in the audio, video, and supplemental departments, Cannon still makes for some enjoyable entertainment. It’s nice to see the fat guy being the hero for once. Sure, Steven Seagal may be doing the same thing nowadays, but William Conrad did it long before Seagal. He did it better, too, without ever having to rely on any martial arts or fantasy elements to achieve his goal. Go, Cannon, go!