It’s time for another dosage of ‘70s television fatsploitation as William Conrad returns to DVD in Cannon: Season Two, Volume 2, the adventures of an overweight Los Angeles private detective who cruises in a gigantic Lincoln Continental Mark IV (complete with car phone — which was mighty fancy for 1973). Det. Frank Cannon (Conrad) has more on his plate than he you’d think he could put away in this half-season, with exploits ranging from kidnapping to smuggling and, of course, murder. But, no matter how tense the situation gets in this classic Quinn Martin production, you can always rest assured that the wise Frank Cannon will get to the bottom of things. Among the guest stars featured in this set are Beverly Garland, David Soul, Sondra Locke, Tim O’Connor (the American TV version of James Mason), David Hedison, and more.
It’s always a delight to see William Conrad in action. His broad presence and stern voice commanded your full attention both onscreen (whether it be in his earlier days, such as in 5 Against The House, or his final series, Jake And The Fatman), and off (he worked as a narrator for many a TV series, and was the original Marshall Dillon when Gunsmoke began as a radio program). In Cannon, it’s apparent that Conrad was having a good time: zestfully chasing after criminals one moment, and wooing his female guest stars with promises of home-cooked Five Star gourmet dinners the next. What a guy.
Some may find that the fat jokes grow tiresome after a while. Others still may find them to be a bit on the offensive side. True, nowadays, where TV shows are only populated by “the beautiful people,” the sight of a lone fat man looks strange unless he’s on Oprah, blaming fast food companies for his condition — and actually hearing someone else joke about a big guy’s weight seems even stranger (insert Kevin Smith/Southwest Airlines joke here). But please remember that this is a TV show from the ‘70s: there were still white actors playing lead Asians, and most black actors rarely saw the outside of a pimp costume. It’s just part of the era.
Besides, a really good fat joke is worth William Conrad’s weight in gold. Ha, ha.
Sadly, though, CBS/Paramount has kept up with their previous DVD releases of this series and not bothered to restore the image or audio of this fun series. Cannon: Season Two, Volume 2 sports a below average video transfer that almost looks like a bootleg at times.
An occasional horizontal video line indicates that this half-season was probably culled directly from a video source. One episode in particular is squeezed in (ever-so-slightly) on the sides. I probably wouldn’t have noticed were it any other show — but in this case, William Conrad looked strangely thinner. It’s possible that the source material was the only one available. Either way, there should be a “Er, it’s not the best, but it’s all we got” disclaimer. Audio-wise, Cannon is brought to us once again in glorious tinny mono without the option of subtitles.
The only special features garnishing this course of Cannon are Episodic Promos for the episodes (which look even worse than the episodes themselves, believe it or not). I’d say that William Conrad would roll over in his grave over the treatment CBS/Paramount is giving his series here, but it would probably just lead into another bad fat joke.