The F.B.I. (1965–1974)


The F.B.I. (TV Series 1965–1974)

Cases, based on real FBI files, were handled by Inspector Lewis Erskine and several coworkers over the years. Erskine reported to Arthur Ward, assistant to the director of the FBI.
IMDb   7.4 /10
TheMovieDb    4.8 /10
FilmAffinity   6.1 /10
Creator Virgil W. Vogel
Creator Don Medford
Creator Albert Aley
Creator Theodore Apstein
Release Date1965-09-15
GenreCrime, Drama, Mystery
Content Rating
AwardsNominated for 1 Primetime Emmy3 nominations total
CompanyQuinn Martin Productions (QM), Warner Bros. Television, Warner Bros.
Inspector Lewis Erskineas Inspector Lewis Erskine
Arthur Wardas Arthur Ward
Special Agent Tom Colbyas Special Agent Tom Colby…
Special Agent Jim Rhodesas Special Agent Jim Rhodes
Agent Chris Danielsas Agent Chris Daniels…
Document Examineras Document Examiner…
SAC Bryan Durantas SAC Bryan Durant…
SAC Allen Bennettas SAC Allen Bennett…
SAC Chet Randolphas SAC Chet Randolph…
Barbara Erskineas Barbara Erskine
Agent Noel McDonaldas Agent Noel McDonald…
Hair and Fibers Expertas Hair and Fibers Expert…
Dallas Mitchell
Dallas Mitchell
Agent Allenas Agent Allen…
Garrison True
Garrison True
Bellboyas Bellboy…
Clenard Masseyas Clenard Massey…
Glenn Orlandas Glenn Orland…
Michael Harris
Michael Harris
Technicianas Technician…
Alvin Van Doyleas Alvin Van Doyle…

The F.B.I. (TV series)

The F.B.I. is an American police television series created by Quinn Martin and Philip Saltzman for ABC and co-produced with Warner Bros. Television, with sponsorship from the Ford Motor Company, Alcoa and American Tobacco Company in the first season. Ford sponsored the show alone for subsequent seasons. The series was broadcast on ABC from 1965 until its end in 1974. Starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Philip Abbott and William Reynolds, the series, consisted of nine seasons and 241 episodes, chronicles a group of FBI agents trying to defend the US Government from unidentified threats.


Produced by Quinn Martin and based in part on concepts from the 1959 Warner Bros. theatrical film The FBI Story, the series was based on actual FBI cases, with fictitious main characters carrying the stories. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. played Inspector Lewis Erskine, a widower whose wife had been killed in an ambush meant for him. Philip Abbott played Arthur Ward, assistant director to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Although Hoover served as series consultant until his death in 1972, he was never seen in the series.

Stephen Brooks played Inspector Erskine's assistant, Special Agent Jim Rhodes, for the first two seasons. Lynn Loring played Inspector Erskine's daughter and Rhodes' love interest, Barbara, in the twelve episodes of the show's first season. Although the couple was soon engaged on the show, that romantic angle was soon dropped.

In 1967, Brooks was replaced by William Reynolds, who played Special Agent Tom Colby until 1973. The series would enjoy its highest ratings during this time, peaking at No. 10 in the 1970–1971 season. For the final season, Shelly Novack played Special Agent Chris Daniels.

Some episodes ended with a "most wanted" segment hosted by Zimbalist, noting the FBI's most wanted criminals of the day, decades before the Fox Network aired America's Most Wanted. The most famous instance was in the April 21, 1968 episode, when Zimbalist asked for information about fugitive James Earl Ray, who was being hunted for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The series aired on ABC at 8 p.m. Sunday from 1965 to 1973, when it was moved up to 7:30 p.m. for the final season. The series was a co-production of Quinn Martin Productions and Warner Bros. Television, as Warner Bros. held the television and theatrical rights to any project based on The FBI Story. It was the longest-running of all of Quinn Martin's television series, airing nine seasons.


Every detail of every episode of the series was carefully vetted by F.B.I. second-in-command Clyde Tolson. Actors playing F.B.I. agents, and other participants, were given background checks to guarantee that no "criminals, subversives, or Communists" were associated with the show. The premiere episode of the first season, "The Monster," about a handsome serial killer who strangled women with their own hair, so shocked Tolson that he recommended the show be cancelled. J. Edgar Hoover attempted to cancel the show on at least seven other occasions. Upon Tolson's direction, the violence in the show was severely curtailed in the final three seasons.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
132September 19, 1965May 8, 1966
229September 18, 1966April 16, 1967
327September 17, 1967April 28, 1968
426September 22, 1968March 30, 1969
526September 14, 1969March 8, 1970
626September 20, 1970March 21, 1971
726September 12, 1971March 19, 1972
826September 17, 1972April 1, 1973
923September 16, 1973April 28, 1974

Nielsen ratings

  • Season 1: Not in Top 30
  • Season 2: #29, 20.2
  • Season 3: #22, 21.2
  • Season 4: #18, 21.7
  • Season 5: #24, 20.6
  • Season 6: #10, 23.0
  • Season 7: #17, 22.4
  • Season 8: #29, 19.2
  • Season 9: Not in Top 30

Home media

Warner Bros. (under the Warner Home Video label) has released all nine seasons of The F.B.I. on DVD in region 1 via their Warner Archive Collection. These are Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) releases and are available through Warner's online store and The ninth and final season was released on September 23, 2014.

DVD NameEp #Release Date
The First Season, Part 116May 24, 2011
The First Season, Part 216August 2, 2011
The Second Season, Part 116February 14, 2012
The Second Season, Part 213February 14, 2012
The Third Season, Part 116September 11, 2012
The Third Season, Part 211September 11, 2012
The Fourth Season, Part 113February 26, 2013
The Fourth Season, Part 213February 26, 2013
The Fifth Season, Part 113June 4, 2013
The Fifth Season, Part 213June 4, 2013
The Sixth Season26October 15, 2013
The Seventh Season26February 25, 2014
The Eighth Season26June 10, 2014
The Ninth Season23September 23, 2014

Similar series

  • An updated and revamped version of the series, Today's FBI, executive produced by David Gerber for Columbia Pictures Television, aired on ABC from October 1981 through April 1982 in the same Sunday 8 p.m. time slot as its predecessor.
  • A remake of the original series, produced by Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment for Fox, was set for air in Fall 2008, but it didn't materialise.
  • In September 2018, a similar series, titled FBI, debuted on CBS; this series was co-created by Dick Wolf and Craig Turk for Universal Television. Unlike The F.B.I. and Today's FBI, however, the cases presented are largely fictional.

Popular culture

  • The series was featured in Quentin Tarantino's ninth film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, wherein Rick Dalton, the film's main character, portrayed the villain in an altered version of "All the Streets Are Silent" (air date November 28, 1965), the eleventh episode of the first season of The F.B.I. Rick Dalton replaced the character played by Burt Reynolds in the original episode.