Friends, do any of you possibly remember that NBC back on April 10th of 1983 premiered a new television series based on the classic Casablanca from ’42? I personally have no recollection back in the day of this Casablanca series – short lived that it was – and I suppose I never would have if hadn’t stumbled across a promo ad on YouTube earlier this morning.
The first thing I noticed on seeing that NBC promo was they chose David Soul – perhaps best known as Detective Ken ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson from the popular Starsky & Hutch TV show to play the part of Rick Blaine – portrayed by Humphry Bogart in the 1942 film. In all honesty while I grew up watching Starsky & Hutch with my Father, being a Monster Kid I can’t help but always think of Soul as Ben Mears in the exceptional and still unnerving 1979 Salem’s Lot TV mini-series.
There were only five episodes produced for Casablanca which makes me think it was in fact intended as a mid-season replacement for NBC. The show was broadcast for three Sundays in a row before the Network pulled it due to what must have been low ratings – with the remaining two episodes aired on Saturday night of August 27th and September 3rd of ’83.
Casablanca the series acted as a prequel to the film – although taking place only a year before the events from the classic movie as I understand it. As has been pointed out online some of the elements of the 1942 feature film have been tweaked – such as Rick already having dealings with Maj. Heinrich Strasser (Patrick Horgan). What really impresses me is the amount of talent they assembled for the series – not just David Soul but the likes of Ray Liotta (Goodfellas), Hector Elizondo (Pretty Woman), Arthur Malet (Halloween), Kai Wulff ( ¡Three Amigos!), and of course Scatman Crothers (The Shining) as Sam.
In closing of this article I have to add that this attempt in 1983 was actually the second attempt to create a television show from the 1942 classic film – in ’55 it was ABC that brought Casablanca to the small screen as part of Warner Bros. Presents – a series that rotated each week between Cheyenne, King’s Row and of course Casablanca. This Casablanca at least lasted for ten episodes and featured Charles McGraw (The Killers) as Rick – in addition the themes of the series were altered from the film’s World War II setting to one focusing on the Cold War.
I would be very interested to read in the comments if you watched Casablanca back in ’83 or possibly even checked it out on DVD.