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Ace Crawford, Private Eye aired from March until April 1983 on CBS.
Imagine Bogie's Sam Spade played for laughs, and you've got Ace Crawford. A hard-nosed private detective, attired in the requisite trench coat, Ace ( Tim Conway) was all business. But blind luck and fortuitous accidents were more responsible for his solving cases than his sleuthing skills.
His incredible run of luck had given him an undeserved reputation and brought him a continuous stream of clients. It also made Ace irresistible to the ladies, although he was usually too busy fumbling through cases to pay any attention to them.
Ace's bumbling part-time assistant Toomey( Joe Regalbuto), a full-time CPA, idolized Ace and hung out with his "boss" at the Shanty, a sleazy club located on the wharf. Inch (played by midget Billy Barty) was the owner and bartender at the Shanty, where Ace's not-quite-girlfriend Luana( Shera Danese) was the featured singer. Mello, Luana's blind accompanist was played by jazz great Bill Henderson.
Also featured was an incredulous Lt. Fanning( Dick Christie), who couldn't understand how Ace seemed to solve difficult cases without any effort.
An Article from the Associated Press
Published: March 11, 1983
Tim Conway sure new series is going to succeed
LOS ANGELES (AP)-"I think this is my sixth TV series," Tim Conway is saying, "and I know it's going to succeed because six is my lucky number."
He pauses. His cherubic face is a blank."Then again, if it doesn't make it, seven is also my lucky number."
Conway stars in a new CBS comedy series called "Ace Crawford, Private Eye," which makes its debut Tuesday. He's a detective of the trench-coat school who solves his cases in the accidental manner of Inspector Clouseau.
Conway starred for four years as Ensign Charles Parker on "McHale's Navy " and spent another four years on " The Carol Burnett Show."
But on his own he's had such quick cancellations that for a while his license plate said "13 WKS." He was the first-and-only guest star on ABC's "Turn-On," which made its debut on February 5, 1969 and died the same night.
Perry Lafferty, an NBC programming executive and former CBS programmer, sits at a nearby table. Conway says, " Perry once called me into a meeting and canceled my show. But before the meeting was over he hired me for another show. I think I was out of work for 11 minutes."
As recently as five years ago, he says, his mother suggested he return home to Ohio and get a good job in a hardware store.
"Ace Crawford" is a departure for Conway, whose career has been built on playing lovable, goofy, bumbling, RUBBER-FACED nincompoops. He co-created the series with Ron Clark, a Broadway playwright and screenwriter.
" It's not what I normally do>" says Conway as he sips a cup of coffee. "CBS said create a character. Not unlike Inspector Clouseau. Something different from Ensign Parker.
" So I had the confidence to turn the production over to other people. Then I began to see it was developing well. It worked. Ron would tell me not to revert to safe comedy. Not to do something silly just to get a laugh. I had to establish a character who was consistent. He's a straight character and the craziness revolves around him.
"This character really does believe he's the world's greatest detective. Woman chase him. He sets his sights on a crime and off he goes.He will use any disguise or method.I'll do some of the characters you've seen on 'The Carol Burnett Show.'The old man, Mr. Tudball."
Much of the craziness comes from Joe Regulbuto, who plays Toomey, the detective's accountant who is regularly enlisted as his Dr. Watson.
Ace and Toomey hang out at a waterfront bar called The Shanty. The bartender is Inch, played by Billy Barty, and all you ever see is the top of his head behind the bar.Shera Danese is the sexy singer, Bill Henderson is her blind accompanist, and Dick Christie is the police lieutenant who is awed by Ace Crawford's abilities to solve tough crimes.
If all this sounds a bit like "Peter Gunn," a popular detective series from the 1950's, Conway is the first to admit it.
"It's 'Peter Gunn' with a screwed-up Peter Gunn," he says. "The crime is set up in the first two minutes. I come in out of the fog and at the end of the show I go back into the fog. I have no past."
So, while Conway does not mug or fumble his way through the show, he is a carrier. A sort of Typhold Mary who provokes other people into silliness.
Conway's most recent appearance was in the movie "The Private Eye". He says" "That's completely different. He was really an idiot, who was companioned with another idiot, Don Knotts, and the two idiots went through life hand-in-hand."
Conway, who is divorced, is the father of six children. "Five boys and a girl," he says, "or a basketball team and a cheerleader. They're really into sports. My 12-year-old just told me he wants to be a jockey. He's small. I was an exercise boy when I was in high school. Now I own a couple of horses at Santa Anita. I guess that rubbed off on him.
" I think I've spent thousands of dollars on sports equipment. Each time they find a new sport. And they love to watch sports on television. Anything with two men sweating. Or one man sweating."
Three of the children live with Conway and three live a mile away with their mother.
His association with Clark began last summer when he appeared in Clark's play "Wally's Cafe" in Ohio.
"'Wally's Cafe' was the first time I played a real character without going goofy. It scared me. But it also prepared me for this series. You know it's going to work.I had to stretch for the play and stretch more for this show."
To read an article about Ace Crawford, Private Eye go to
For more information on this short lived series go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ace_Crawford%2C_Private_Eye and www.thrillingdetective.com/eyes/ace_crawford.html
For more on Ace Crawford, Private Eye go to http://nostalgiacentral.com/television/tv-by-decade/tv-shows-1980s/ace-crawford-private-eye/
for a website dedicated to Tim Conway go to http://www.timconway.com/
For some Ace Crawford, Private Eye-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/ace-crawford-private-eye
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGklXwGO9zU
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Keywords: Ace Crawford, Private Eye Cast (Links Updated 7/13/18)