'Mannix' star Mike Connors dead at 91

Mike Connors, who played a suave, hard-hitting private eye on the long-running TV series "Mannix," died Thursday, The Associated Press reported. He was 91.

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Connors’ son-in-law, Mike Condon, said the actor died Thursday afternoon at a Los Angeles hospital from recently diagnosed leukemia. His death comes a day after another late 1960s/early ‘70s TV star — Mary Tyler Moore — passed away.

"Mannix" debuted on CBS in 1967 and ran for eight years. Connors played a smartly dressed, well-spoken Los Angeles detective who was not afraid to get dirty and fight with criminals. Most episodes on the hour-long series climaxed with a brawl, and critics opposed the violence on the show.

Connors once said that until "Mannix," TV private investigators were hard-nosed and cynical, while Joe Mannix "got emotionally involved" in his cases.

In the first season, Mannix was a self-employed Los Angeles private investigator hired by a firm that used computers and high-tech equipment to uncover crime. But after tepid ratings the show was revamped, with Mannix opening his own office and striking out against criminals alone. The ratings soared, Fox News reported.

In the second season Mannix hired a secretary, played by black actress Gail Fisher. CBS was concerned that affiliates in the South might object to her character but "there wasn't any kind of backlash," Connors said.

Another highlight was the brassy theme music by legendary screen composer Lalo Schifrin.

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