Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Predating The Untouchables by several months, the NBC series The Lawless Years was the first major network cop drama to focus exclusive on the battle against organized crime during the Prohibition Era. The series was inspired by the real-life exploits of New York City police detective Barney Ruditsky, who acted as the show's technical advisor. Set in the Big Apple in the 1920s and early 1930s, the series starred James Gregory (best known to later viewers as Inspector Luger on Barney Miller) as Ruditsky and Robert Karnes as his assistant Max. Most of the gangsters and thugs depicted herein were genuine, though most of the names were changed for legal reasons: Exceptions to this rule included such infamous miscreants as Dutch Schultz and Pretty Boy Floyd. Although The Lawless Years was praised by critics, it never accumulated much of an audience. Debuting as a mid-season replacement on April 16, 1959, the series was cancelled in March of 1960, eclipsed by the success of The Untouchables. Ironically, it was the popularity of The Untouchables which prompted NBC to commission a package of new Lawless Years episodes one year later: these were seen from May 12 through September 22, 1961.