I was just six years old when “The FBI” starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., first premiered on television in 1965, but I vividly remember watching nearly every episode over the next nine years because of the things I associate with the program; it was broadcast on Sunday nights and my family spent nearly every Sunday having dinner at my Grandma Ewing’s home.
When I think of the show, the vision that springs to mind is my dad sitting upright in Grandma’s recliner with a TV tray in front of him, spooning hot chili into his mouth (while never taking his eyes off the TV), Mom sitting on the corner of Aunt Mabel’s old worn chair, and the five of us kids sitting cross-legged on the floor adding oyster crackers to our own bowls of chili and hanging on “Agent Lewis Erskine’s” every word while Grandma kept poking her head into the living room long enough to ask if everyone was getting enough to eat.
Each week’s episode closed with the same voice announcing, “This has been a Quinn Martin Production.”
In the years following the series run, I never gave much thought to whatever happened to Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., and certainly had no idea that once his “fictional” show ended he’d continued his relationship with the FBI, participating in charity events and helping raise money for families of agents killed in the line of duty.
Today’s FBI Press Release showed me just how busy Mr. Zimbalist has been. During yesterday’s ceremony at the Los Angeles Field Office, FBI Director Robert Mueller presented Zimbalist with an honorary special agent badge for embodying the qualities in the FBI’s motto: fidelity, bravery, and integrity.
The FBI says Zimbalist inspired a generation of real-life FBI special agents, and I don’t doubt it for a moment. That’s not counting the number of other FBI-inspired television series over the past four decades.
I’m thinkin’ J. Edgar Hoover would’ve been proud.