Filmed on location in New York City, the series centers on the detectives of NYPD’s 65th Precinct, but episode plots were often focused more on the criminals and victims portrayed by guest stars. Primary writer Stirling Silliphant nurtured a focus on intelligent drama with elements of comedy and pathos, leading to significant critical acclaim for the series, and leading film and television actors of the time sought out guest-starring roles. In addition to Silliphant, who went on to win an Academy Award for his script of In the Heat of the Night, writers of Naked City episodes included veteran TV writer Howard Rodman and blacklisted screenwriter Arnold Manoff, writing under the pseudonym “Joel Carpenter.”
In addition, extensive location shooting made New York as much a star of the series as any of the actors. Many scenes were filmed in the south Bronx near Biograph Studios, where the series was produced, and in Greenwich Village and other neighborhoods of Manhattan. The exterior of the “65th Precinct” was the Midtown North Precinct at 306 West 54th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues.
Naked City first aired in the 1958-1959 season, with the title The Naked City, as a half-hour series starring James Franciscus and John McIntire playing, respectively, Detective Jimmy Halloran and Lt. Dan Muldoon—the same characters as in the 1948 film. While critically acclaimed, the series did not garner high ratings. Midway through the season, McIntire quit the show because of his desire to leave New York and move back to his Montana ranch. His departure was handled by dramatically killing off his character in the opening scene of the March 17, 1959, episode "The Bumper." A hired killer rams his car into Muldoon's, which causes it to hit an oil truck and burst into flames. Horace McMahon was then introduced in the same episode as his more crusty replacement, Lieutenant Mike Parker.
In its first season, the half-hour version of Naked City preceded the ABC crime/police reality show called Confession, in which Jack Wyatt, later an Episcopal priest, interviewed assorted criminals to determine why they had rejected societal mores and turned to a life of lawlessness.
Even with the cast change, Naked City was cancelled by ABC at the end of the 1958-1959 season. One of the show's sponsors (Brown & Williamson), along with production staff, successfully lobbied the network to revive the show as an hour-long series, which premiered in 1960.
The 1960 version featured Paul Burke as Detective Adam Flint, a sensitive and cerebral cop in his early thirties who does much of the legwork in the episodes. The preceding season, Burke had appeared with David Hedison in the short-lived NBC espionage drama, Five Fingers. Horace McMahon returned as Lieutenant Mike Parker as did Harry Bellaver as the older, mellow Sgt. Frank Arcaro. Nancy Malone appeared as Adam Flint's aspiring actress girlfriend, Libby. The hour long version of the show was broadcast on ABC in the 10:00 p.m. slot on Wednesday nights.
There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.
— The famous closing narration
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