In the Heat of the Night is an American television series based on the motion picture and novel of the same name starring Carroll O’Connor as the white police chief William Gillespie, and Howard Rollins as the African-American police detective Virgil Tibbs. It was broadcast on NBC from 1988 until 1992, and then on CBS until 1994. Its executive producers were Fred Silverman, Juanita Bartlett and Carroll O’Connor. TGG Direct released the first season of the series to DVD on August 28, 2012.
In the premiere episode, Virgil Tibbs, a Philadelphia police department detective, has returned to his childhood home (the fictionalized Sparta, Mississippi) for his mother’s funeral. By virtue of his previous dealings with Gillespie, he is eventually persuaded by local politicians to remain in Sparta as its police department’s new head Chief of Detectives, in an effort to improve the local squad’s poor reputation of being racist and underskilled. Although the team have their friction such as with Tibbs’ dissatisfaction with the department’s limited resources and racial attitudes while Gillespie is annoyed at Tibbs’ condenscending suspicion of his hometown, they prove highly effective enforcing the law in Sparta and the surrounding area.
Scenes from the film…
Eventually, Tibbs entered the bar as a lawyer and resigned from the force to practice in Jackson, Mississippi with occasional cases in Sparta while Gillespie was finally dismissed as Police Chief by Sparta city council and replaced by Hampton Forbes (Carl Weathers) the town’s first African American in that position. Fortunately, Gillespie finds a new post of equivalent authority as County Sheriff and the two senior police officers find they get along in excellent fashion both in the professional and personal spheres as they deal with their home’s problems.
The first season of the show was filmed in Hammond, Louisiana. There were many conflicts between the first executive producer, Juanita Bartlett, and series star Carroll O’Connor. A total of eight episodes (the two-hour pilot, plus six regular episodes) were filmed. O’Connor threatened to quit the series at the end of season one if Bartlett remained executive producer, so she was eventually replaced.
The episodes this season were mostly “recycled material from other crime shows,” in O’Connor’s words.[where?] O’Connor was promised the head writing position of Story Editor, but scripts would come back marked, “FINAL NO REWRITES.” Episodes often focused on grisly murders or crimes, not the lives of the “New South“-era characters. Anne-Marie Johnson, who played Virgil’s wife Althea, summed up what it was like to film the show in the little town of Hammond: “My high school was bigger than this town.”