The 100 Club

In the golden days of radio, having a show run 100 episodes wasn’t a big deal. With many shows doing 50 episodes a year, it was only a matter of lasting 2 years.

In the years, since the Golden Age of Radio, it’s a little more impressive to have 100 episodes out there featuring the same character in the same role. With the loss of so much of our radio heritage,  many radio shows have had lost episodes galore.

Of the 218 episodes of Sherlock Holmes that Basil Rathbone did, about 50 survive.  And of the 221 episodes Howard Duff did as Sam Spade, only 49 remain in circulation.

100? It’s a combination of talent to last long enough to outlive the inevitable lost episodes, while having the good fortune to have your episodes continue to circulate. How many detectives are confirmed members of the 100 club? Six Character/Actor combos have more than 100 episodes in circulation. Let’s take a look.

#1) Bob Bailey as Johnny Dollar-464 episodes (1955-1960)

There’s a reason people clamor for Bob Bailey as Johnny Dollar. He’s the fans consensus choice for top Dollar. Bailey’s episode count is slightly inflated by the popular 5 day-a-week serials. 276 of the 280 episodes from that terrific fifty-eight week run still exists. After the 5-day-a-week serials stopped, Bailey did another 204 half hour episodes of which 178 are still in circulation.

#2: Jack Webb as Joe Friday-309 Episodes (1949-55)

Jack Webb’s most famous character has one of the best story survival rates in the golden age of radio. 318 episodes aired, of which all but 9 are intact. It’s a testament to the collectability and popularity of the series that Joe Friday still remains the golden age’s top cop. Of course, it could be pointed out that there are a few script repeats in the 309 episodes, but even taking away all the repeats of .22 Rifle for Christmas, it’s still way ahead of its third place finisher.

#3 Bob Bailey as George Valentine-188 Episodes* (1946-52?)

I’ve said it on the air before, Let George Do It is underrated in discussion of detective shows with a mix of good mystery, good characters, romance, comedy, and unpredictable action has keep savvy fans attached to the show for years.  This 188 episode total ties the show with with our next show, but George gets the advantage because there are another 29 episodes that have been made available from RadioArchives that are not in general circulation, meaning a total of 217 are available to those who want to spend the money. Note that Bob Bailey is the only person to appear on this list twice.

4) Richard Kollmar as Boston Blackie-188 Episodes:

Kollmar’s Boston Blackie was the most successful syndicated radio detective show ever. While many shows tried for 26 or 52 episodes, Kollmer’s multiple runs of Boston Blackie are a tribute to his success and the staying power of a character who had been popular for 30 years before the radio show came out.

5) Larry Thor as Danny Clover-165 Episodes:

Along with Let George Do It, this is another amazing, little discussed show.  Larry Thor took over the role of NYPD Lieutenant Danny Clover in July 1949 and played the part for 4 years until Broadway is My Beat was cancelled in November, 1953. The show would return for four more episodes between July 11 and August 1, 1954. The Summer series of Broadway is My Beat coincided with the premier of Dragnet and Lt. Danny Clover’s hardboiled New York City police detective was a timely character with Sergeant Friday coming down. Joe Friday was prose, Danny Clover was poetry. Both were far more realistic than radio detective police officers of years past.

6) Dick Powell as Richard Diamond-108 episodes:

Diamond remains Powell’s most popular and most enduring radio detective. A man who sings like an angel, but can knock you down in a heartbeat. Comedy, drama, and action. Diamond had it all.

Honorable Mentions:

Nick Carter, Master Detective may or may not have 100 episodes in circulation. The same thing goes for Dangerous Assignment. There are some sets with more than 100 episodes going around for both series, but  I found in listening that there’s a lot of duplicate and mislabeled shows in those bunches and I’d have to count it out myself to be satisfied.

Gerald Mohr as Philip Marlowe comes close with 97 performances in general circulation. There’s 95 episodes of Rocky Jordan floating around.  Also coming close is Herbert Marshall as Ken Thurston in the Man Called X with 90 + performances out there. Bottom line is that while a lot of detective shows aired, few had the staying power of the six listed above.

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