Like any television show in its First Season, The Untouchables displays marks of greatness – and the occasional misstep.
Challenged with what to do with Eliot Ness and his squad after nailing Capone, producer Quinn Martin and a mixed-bag of writers dip early and often into the bin of name-brand criminals, weaving Ness in and out of stories with Ma Baker, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Bugs Morgan, Mad Dog Coll and a thin retelling of Bonnie and Clyde, tearing at the guise of truthfulness and raising the ire of the FBI as early the second episode.
There is also some early experimentation in fleshing out Ness’ relationships as best they can in an anthology series in The Unhired Assassin and Head of Fire, Feet of Clay. At the same time, there is an initial (and misconceived) tendency to write as Ness more of a James Bond/John Wayne mashup with awkward and limited success (see Mexican Stakeout and Syndicate Sanctuary). Faced with the possibility that Robert Stack would only appear in a handful of episodes early on, the writers also reached for some near Ness-less hours in The George “Bugs” Morgan Story, You Can’t Pick The Number and Little Egypt.
On its own, the quality of the First Season is pretty good, but compared to the following two seasons, its sum is weaker than its parts. Standouts are largely contained to the second half of the season and include One-Armed Bandits, The Tri-State Gang, The Big Squeeze, Unhired Assassin, Three Thousand Suspects and The Frank Nitti Story.