Mike Connors, Principled Private Detective on ‘Mannix,’ Dies at 91

Mike Connors played Joe Mannix for eight seasons on CBS.

Mike Connors, who took a punch as well as anyone while playing the good-guy private detective on the long-running Saturday night action series Mannix for CBS, has died. He was 91.

A former basketball player for legendary coach John Wooden at UCLA, Connors died Thursday, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed. No other details were immediately available.

Mannix, the last series from Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s famed TV company Desilu Productions to air, ran for eight seasons from September 1967 until April 1975. Created by Richard Levinson and William Link and developed by executive producer Bruce Geller (Mission: Impossible), the hit show featured an electric theme from jazz great Lalo Schifrin and starred Connors as a noble Korean War veteran.

The first season of the series had Mannix employed at Intertect, a large Los Angeles detective agency run by Lew Wickersham (Joseph Campanella). But he wasn’t the corporate type, and starting with the second season, Mannix was on his own, working out of his home office at 17 Paseo Verde.

Mannix drove several hot automobiles during the series’ run (some souped up by George Barris), including a 1969 Dodge Dart, a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda convertible and a 1974 Dodge Challenger. He was often seen bailing out of these cars when the brakes were tampered with — that is, when he wasn’t getting beaten up or shot at by the bad guys. (By one count, Mannix was shot 17 times and knocked unconscious 55 times on the show.) His athleticism and striking dark looks were perfect for the role.

Though Mannix was criticized for being excessively violent when it aired, Connors said in a 1997 interview with the Los Angeles Times that the series was tame by modern-day standards.

“We did have car chases and fights,” he recalled, “but when you compare them to shows that are on now, we were very, very low-keyed.”

For all the physical abuse, the broad-shouldered Connors became one of the highest-paid stars on television, earning $40,000 an episode at the height of the show’s ratings run. (He sued CBS and Paramount in May 2011, claiming he was never paid royalties on the show and was owed millions of dollars.)

Connors received four Emmy nominations from 1970-73 and six Golden Globe noms from 1970-75 but won just once, picking…