Tenspeed and Brown Shoe

Tenspeed and Brown Shoe is an American detective/comedy series originally broadcast by the ABC network between January and June 1980. The series was created and executive produced by Stephen J. Cannell. Most of the show's creative staff (Cannell, Juanita Bartlett, Gordon T. Dawson) were veterans of the private detective series The Rockford Files, which concluded its run about two weeks before Tenspeed and Brown Shoe debuted.

Tenspeed and Brown Shoe
GenreDetective fiction/Comedy
Created byStephen J. Cannell
StarringBen Vereen
Jeff Goldblum
Theme music composerPete Carpenter
Mike Post
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes14 (list of episodes)
Executive producerStephen J. Cannell
ProducersJuanita Bartlett
Alex Beaton
Chuck Bowman
Running timeapprox. 50 minutes
(per episode)
Production companiesStephen J. Cannell Productions
Paramount Television
DistributorCBS Television Distribution
(pilot episode only)
Sony Pictures Television
20th Television
Original networkABC
Original releaseJanuary 27 (1980-01-27) –
June 27, 1980 (1980-06-27)


The one-hour program revolved around two private detectives who had their own detective agency in Los Angeles. E. L. ("Early Leroy") "Tenspeed" Turner (Ben Vereen) is a hustler who worked as a private detective to satisfy his parole requirements. His partner Lionel "Brownshoe" Whitney (Jeff Goldblum) is an archetypal accountant, complete with button-down collars and a nagging fiancee (in the pilot episode), who had always wanted to be a 1940s-style Bogart private investigator. A running joke was his penchant for reading a series of hard-boiled crime novels, subtitled "A Mark Savage Mystery", written by Stephen J. Cannell (though he never wrote such a series of novels), with Goldblum reading some passages in voice-over. He was sharper than he seemed, although a little naïve and more reasonable than his career path demanded, and he had studied karate to black-belt standard.



This was the first series to come from Stephen J. Cannell Productions as an independent company (it was distributed through Paramount Television, one of only two such collaborations; the other was Riptide). It is also the only one not to carry the famed Cannell logo on any episodes, having "A Stephen J. Cannell Production" appearing in-credit (the logo was not introduced until 1981, when The Greatest American Hero began airing).

The show had broad similarities to the later television series Simon & Simon and Moonlighting, in that it was a lightly dramatic program with many comedic moments about two dissimilar detectives who attempt to solve cases together. Cannell later recycled the basic idea of Tenspeed and Brown Shoe (a crime-solver on the right side of the law working with and taking responsibility for the rehabilitation of an ex-criminal) as the successful Hardcastle and McCormick.


No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date
1"Tenspeed and Brown Shoe: Part 1"E. W. SwackhamerStephen J. CannellJanuary 27, 1980 (1980-01-27)
E.L. is out of prison and quickly involved in a new scam - stealing a million dollars from the Mob. Unfortunately, he's unaware that the Mob got it from fencing Nazi diamonds. Meanwhile, accountant Lionel Whitney is in town to marry his dominating fiancée, and quickly finds his plans gone awry when Tenspeed hides the diamonds in his limousine. Both groups are now after both him and Tenspeed.
2"Tenspeed and Brown Shoe: Part 2"E. W. SwackhamerStephen J. CannellJanuary 27, 1980 (1980-01-27)
Lionel finds himself being pursued by Nazis and mobsters who are after the diamonds that Tenspeed hid on him. Lionel manages to talk Tenspeed into doing the right thing by appealing to his conscience (such as it is) and running a scam to get everyone arrested. With Tenspeed out on parole and needing a job, Lionel decides to finance a new detective agency with the reward money to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a hard-boiled detective.
3"The Robin Tucker's Roseland Roof and Ballroom Murder"Arnold LavenStephen J. CannellFebruary 3, 1980 (1980-02-03)
Lionel and E.L. form a detective agency and get their first case: an unidentified man who is willing to pay much money to find a woman.
4"Savage Says: There's No Free Lunch"John PattersonStephen J. CannellFebruary 10, 1980 (1980-02-10)
Lionel takes a fancy to a client who claims someone is trying to kill her and then leads Lionel and E.L. around in circles while putting killers on their trail.
5"Savage Says: What Are Friends For?"Reza BadiyiShel WillensMarch 2, 1980 (1980-03-02)
Lionel and E.L. must deal with a motorcycle gang when a nervous stockbroker asks Lionel to check out two of his clients who threatened him when he asked them for needed tax information.
6"The Sixteen Byte Data Chip and the Brown-eyed Fox"Arnold LavenRudolph BongheriMarch 9, 1980 (1980-03-09)
Pressure is put on Lionel and E.L. to create a phony investigation for their client: a woman looking for her missing brother who was working on a super computer.
7"The Millionaire's Life"Georg Stanford BrownStephen J. CannellMarch 16, 1980 (1980-03-16)
When E.L. uses a con to collect the rent money, he picks the wrong mark and gets himself and Lionel involved with the mob.
8"Savage Says: The Most Dangerous Bird Is the Jailbird"Reza BadiyiStephen J. CannellMarch 23, 1980 (1980-03-23)
A mobster goes after Lionel and E.L. after they help his girl friend dump him so she can run off with a lounge singer.
9"It's Easier to Pass an Elephant Through the Eye of a Needle Than a Bad Check in Bel Air"Ivan DixonJuanita BartlettMarch 30, 1980 (1980-03-30)
E.L.'s nephew's appearance is concurrent with that of thugs who are after a book which E.L. knows nothing about.
10"Loose Larry's List of Losers"Rod HolcombStephen J. CannellMay 20, 1980 (1980-05-20)
Lionel receives a hot birthday present from E.L., while E.L.'s probation officer is trying to find a way to get E.L. put back in prison.
11"This One's Gonna Kill Ya"Stephen J. CannellStephen J. CannellJune 6, 1980 (1980-06-06)
Someone tries to kill Lionel and E.L. after Lionel decides to solve a forty-year-old murder case involving a celebrated beauty queen.
12"Untitled"Rod HolcombStephen J. Cannell,
Juanita Bartlett
June 13, 1980 (1980-06-13)
E.L. comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme when he learns that the Agency's cleaning lady is a descendant of the Russian royal family.
13"The Treasure of Sierra Madre Street"Harry WinerGordon T. DawsonJune 20, 1980 (1980-06-20)
Lionel and E.L. set out to discover if a "random" killing by a mental patient was in fact the work of a hired killer.
14"Diamonds Aren't Forever"Chuck BowmanJuanita BartlettJune 27, 1980 (1980-06-27)
E.L. helps Lionel impress his visiting parents by arranging for him to gain access to a luxurious office, belonging to diamond thieves, which Lionel can claim as his own.


The show was heavily promoted by ABC at the time it premiered in late January 1980. The series attracted a substantial audience for its first few episodes (the series was the 29th-most watched program of the 1979–80 U.S. television season, according to Nielsen ratings), but viewership dropped off substantially after that, and the series was not renewed for the 1980–81 season.[1]

Home mediaEdit

On March 9, 2010, Mill Creek Entertainment released Tenspeed and Brown Shoe on DVD in Region 1 for the first time. Because CBS, who held ownership of the pilot, refused to come to an agreement on its use, MCI revealed in January 2010 that it would not be included on the DVD.[2] However, the full-length pilot is included in the German DVD release.


Year Award Result Category Recipient
1981 Edgar Award Nominated Best Television Episode Stephen J. Cannell (For episode "Tenspeed and Brown Shoe")


Ben Vereen later reprised his role as Tenspeed on five episodes of J.J. Starbuck, another Cannell production:

  • "The Rise and Fall of Joe Piermont" (1988)
  • "Rag Doll" (1988)
  • "Permanent Hiatus" (1988)
  • "A Song from the Sequel" (1988)
  • "Cactus Jack's Last Call" (1988)


  1. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (1999). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-present. Ballantine Books. p. 1012. ISBN 0-345-42923-0.
  2. ^ "Tenspeed and Brown Shoe - The Complete Series Shown Off in Early Box Art and Online Trailer". Archived from the original on 2010-01-18.

External linksEdit