As part of The Untouchables Retrospective, chapters from author Dan Lynch’s comprehensive and previously unpublished “making-of” book CHICAGO STORIES: The Network Television History of THE UNTOUCHABLES will be released periodically to coincide historically with the conception, life, controversy, retooling – and ultimately, the death of the series. Detailed episode reviews will be posted to coincide for their anniversary date in our Episode Guide.
The Network Television History
A television series with few neutral observers during its network run, The Untouchables was either loved or hated. Why celebrate one television’s most sensational and enduring programs today?
Against mounting financial pressure, Desi Arnaz gambles on a Prohibition-era cops-and-robbers drama for his struggling Desilu Playhouse program and after facing down Al Capone’s son, gathers a talented assortment of Hollywood creatives to produce The Untouchables. But with principal photography only hours away, Arnaz still has yet to secure an actor for the role of Eliot Ness.
NEW KIND OF SERIES
Under Executive Producer Quinn Martin’s leadership, The Untouchables will go-to series, but only if Robert Stack can be persuaded to stay on as Eliot Ness.
SWEET & SOUR SMELL OF SUCCESS
The Untouchables becomes an well-oiled, Emmy-winning machine as it enters its most successful and difficult year. Under the leadership of new executive producer and Desilu confidant Jerry Thorpe, the program’s production qualtity increases – as does trouble with Italian-Americans.
THE ITALIAN PHONE TRICK
As the series enters its third season, threats of actual violence against The Untouchables mount, with a mob hit ordered on Desi Arnaz and a phone call to the Desilu lot threatens the show with a bombing. Eliot Ness is about to face two of his greatest adversaries – a television variety hour and network ordered changes to its powerhouse formula.
Requiem For A Heavyweight
Desi Arnaz’s departure from Desilu has ramifications not only for his number one television series, but Desilu Productions in general. New executive produce Leonard Freeman assembles a new slate of writers and directors to remake The Untouchables into something “new, improved” and less offensive, to disastrous results.