Simon  Brothers Follow Success Formula

by John  J. Archibald

Formula for a  hit: Match one slob and one sophisticate and let boil. No recipe is foolproof, but the mixing of characters with contrasting lifestyles is a reliable pattern in show business - the stage, movie and television versions of "The Odd Couple" being prime examples.

And it has worked again. "Simon & Simon," an hour-long drama about two brothers who operate a detective agency, is winding up a third highly rated season.

Jameson Parker plays AJ Simon, the button-down ambitious member of the team. Gerald McRaney is Rick Simon, the grubby older brother who regards detective work as a temporary means of solving his towering financial problems.

A confrontation  in a recent episode was typical. AJ was upset because the phone company  had shut off service to their office.

"What do you  mean, you 'forgot' to pay the bill?" AJ asked.

"Aw, well, I didn't know the little blue card was a final warning."

"What did  you think when they sent us a pink card and then a red  card!"

"I didn't  think they were serious! Relax. I'll give 'em their money and we'll have a phone again tomorrow...or the next day."

The arguments  between the brothers never amount to much, because there's always some distressed person at the door, pleading for them to take over where the  police have fumbled. In their confident, low-key way, they move  in.

Part of the  charm of the series is that the plots tend to be a little offbeat. Obscure  might be the word. One night Simon & Simon were being harassed by John Dillinger, a Public Enemy No. 1 from the 1930s.

Now most folks believe that Dillinger was killed by FBI agents in front of the Biograph Theater in Chicago a half-century ago, but somebody was killing people gangster-style in the '80s and a Dillinger fingerprint was found at the  scene of one of the crimes...

No use giving  the plot away, because it will come up in reruns someday. "Simon &  Simon" appears likely to follow in the flatfoot-steps of "Rockford," "Barnaby Jones," and "Hart to Hart" in the late-night hours.

Viewers often  wonder if there is much similarity between actors and the roles they play in TV series. Philip DeGuere, executive producer of "Simon & Simon," was asked about the off-camera personalities of the title  characters.

"Oh, I suspect that subconsciously a producer is influenced by what type of actor he's considering for certain parts," DeGuere said. "For the Rick Simon role,  for instance, we wouldn't have been likely to pick a Brooks Brothers type.

"It's true,  however, that if a person plays a role long enough, it can influence his  behavior. I hear that Jack Klugman began to think he really was a doctor after a couple of years of 'Quincy'."

One of the real-life interests of actors Parker and McRaney is a factor in their  series, according to DeGuere. They are both avid gun collectors.

"As a result,  we are particularly careful about the use of firearms in the show," the producer said. "The actors insist that guns be used correctly and  safely."

The only other characters on "Simon & Simon" that could be described as regulars are the detectives' mother, played by Mary Carver, and Tim Reid, who plays Downtown Brown, an undercover police lieutenant. Reid, who was disk jockey Venus Flytrap on "WKRP," joined the show this  season.

Brown has an uncomplicated arrangement with the private detective team, which is based on a simple understanding: "You do for me, and I'll do for you."

The compact  cast gives "Simon & Simon" a flexibility, according to DeGuere, that  is absent in shows that have a large group of recurring roles.

"When there are  numerous actors who insist that they be involved each week," DeGuere said, "you are restricted in your choice of stories. But we can build an episode  around some guest star, if we want to, and not worry about including scenes for other people.

"When a show is  a success, the producers can stretch their creative muscles and not worry. If you have an established audience, they'll tune in next week, even if  you have a bummer once in a while."

There have been  a few changes in the basic story line of "Simon & Simon" since its  inception, DeGuere said. The only important switch, he believes, was to  drop the pretense that the detectives are struggling for survival.

"After three years, it would be hard to swallow that. We go on the assumption that the  Simon & Simon agency is well known now and that attorneys refer clients to them for work outside normal police activity."

Production of  the show has run smoothly, according to DeGuere, but the company is concerned now about the problems that the Olympic Games will present to TV shows that are filmed in Los Angeles.

"The Olympics  are going to take over the city for nearly a month," he said, "with travel heavily restricted. We've been told, for example, that some of the freeways will be closed at various times.

"When we change  locations, it means 30 or 40 vehicles moving somewhere quickly, so we'll  have to find an alternative. Right now, we're checking out Paris, where we might do a 2-hour opening episode for next fall."

A less exciting  alternative would be to escape the Olympics by switching to San Diego, where "Simon & Simon" is supposed to be taking place. AJ might suggest it, but Rick would veto that dumb idea in a hurry.


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