In 1974, The Zoo Gang was created at a time where World War 2 was fading away in the memories of those who lived through the war and still alive some 30 years later. The premise of the series is this group of reunited ex-resistance/covert fighters, that have gone their separate ways after the war, were then reunited because of a chance encounter with the man that turned in those in the Zoo Gang to the Gestapo. They have come together to reunite for justice for a dead fellow resistance fighter. Four seasoned and talented actors took the roles of the Zoo Gang. Lili Palmer shines as the only female member of the Zoo Gang, her emotional connection to the character displays itself on the screen and demonstrates her prowess over the actresses at that time. Barry Morse and Sir John Mills join the team as obvious englishmen that are clever and sneaky enough to steal cars and pickpocket. Brian Keith is the token American character, that comes off well as his charm and his deep toned, uniquely accented voice brings in some of the highlights of stereotypically friendly yankee behavior. Brian is the classic John Wayne type cowboy in amongst a pair of Englishmen and a French/German woman, the dynamic couldn’t have been better.
The series follows the Zoo Gang as they stick around the area of Nice in the south of France using the reward money that they earn from their investigations to fund a new hospital. It is hard for me to recognise this concept of this show as a realistic one however a leaning towards realism would not have been as entertaining. The show was popular amongst the 50 yr plus audience, the actors were also in this age group. The six episode run of The Zoo Gang was short but was planned due to the full schedules of the cast. As with most ITC shows, the secondary casting is fantastic, filling roles such as russian spies, gypsies, thieves and more which easily spells out quotable and vividly spectacular television. The series likely benefitted from the shortened season despite the momentum upward the shows achieved as the the series ended. Ken Thorne provides an excellent collection of incidental music that could be considered far too hip for this ageing foursome. The addition of a groovy Brass and String soundtrack with hints of the 1970’s coming through supercedes the intro theme song being composed and performed by Paul McCartney while with Wings.
As the end of the series came to a conclusion, I sensed in the actors a twinge of disappointment for the series ending and I do agree, the chemistry and the collective raw skill of the cast was addictive to watch. I did however not feel cheated for not having a 25 episode season of The Zoo Gang, just disappointed. A great show definitely worth a watch.