Honey West is an American crime drama television series that aired on ABC during the 1965–1966 television season. Based upon a series of novels that had launched in 1957, the series starred Anne Francis as female private detective Honey West and John Ericson as her partner, Sam Bolt.
Only 30 half-hour episodes were produced.
The Honey West character was created by Gloria and Forrest E. “Skip” Fickling under the pseudonym “G.G. Fickling” in the late 1950s. Skip had been a United States Army Air Forces Air Gunner during World War II, then enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve after the war where he was called back into active service during the Korean War. The G.G. represented the initials of his wife, Gloria Gautraud whom he married in 1949 with initials being used so the sex of the author would remain vague. Though Gloria said that most of the writing was done by Forrest, Forrest said Gloria’s ideas were used to make a plausible female character with Gloria also providing Honey’s dress sense. Forrest told the Los Angeles Times, “I first thought of Marilyn Monroe, and then I thought of Mike Hammer and decided to put the two together ... We thought the most used name for someone you really like is Honey. And she lives in the West, so there was her name.”
West was one of the first female “private eyes” to ever appear on television. Francis first played West in the second season episode of Burke’s Law, entitled “Who Killed the Jackpot?”, broadcast on April 2, 1965, which led to this series being commissioned as a spin-off. West drove a Jaguar convertible in the Burke's Law episode and was twice referred to as the “private eyeful.” She carried a gun and was trained in martial arts. Honey West was intended to be the American equivalent of the popular characters Emma Peel and Cathy Gale in the British series The Avengers.
Produced by Aaron Spelling, his first choice for the role of Honey was Honor Blackman, whom Spelling had seen in England playing Cathy Gale on The Avengers and as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. Blackman turned the role down. Anne Francis’ fashions in the Honey role were by Nolan Miller with her action scenes choreographed by Gene LeBell. The series was developed for television by Gwen Bagni and Paul Dubov, writers of several Burke's Law episodes.
As in the Burke's Law episode introducing her, West has a partner and man-Friday, Sam Bolt (John Ericson), who communicates with Honey via a radio hidden in her lipstick case. In the television series, she keeps an exotic pet ocelot named Bruce. (In “The Fun-Fun Killer”, which originally aired on March 4, 1966, the African series Daktari is showing on Honey’s TV, and Honey asks, “Oh Bruce, why do we always have to watch your show?”)
Honey’s alluring feline qualities were reflected in her animal-print wardrobe and apartment decor. For sneaking around at night and engaging in energetic fight scenes, she wears a black fabric bodystocking reminiscent of Emma Peel’s leather jumpsuit. Like Peel’s Lotus Elan sports car, Honey’s similar-looking AC Cobra convertible emphasized her independence and vitality. Although the racy content of the novels was excised for television, West often went on solo undercover missions that required a provocative or revealing outfit.
She uses a number of James Bond-like gimmicks: a high-tech surveillance van, an exploding compact, a garter-belt gas mask, and tear-gas earrings. West is a black-belt in Judo, as is Sam, who is an ex-Marine.
Some episodes of this series, including the final one, were scripted by Richard Levinson and William Link, who would later be affiliated with such noted series as Columbo and Murder, She Wrote.
Honey West was cancelled after just one season. This came down to two factors: competition from Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., and the network reportedly decided it would be cheaper to import The Avengers and run it in the same time-slot than to keep producing Honey West. Francis nonetheless received a Golden Globe Award and a Best Actress Emmy nomination for her performance.
Among those appearing during the series' 30-episode run were Joe Don Baker, James Best, Lloyd Bochner, Edd Byrnes, Dick Clark, Charlene Holt, Nancy Kovack, Kevin McCarthy, Maureen McCormick, Bert Parks, Michael J. Pollard, Wayne Rogers, Everett Sloane and Bobby Sherman.