77 Sunset Strip is the first hour-length private detective series in American television history. It was also the first in a series of ABC clones that included Bourbon Street Beat, Hawaiian Eye and Surfside 6—all of which were eventually revealed to share the same fictional universe.
It is further notable for being the subject of an ownership battle between Roy Huggins and Warner Brothers, which was the proximate cause of Huggins' departure from the studio. It was actually based on novels and short stories written by Huggins prior to his arrival at Warner, but, as a matter of legal record, derived from a brief Caribbean theatrical release of its pilot, Girl on the Run. The show ran from 1958 to 1964 and won the 1960 Golden Globe Award for best TV series.
Hanging around for comic relief were Roscoe the racetrack tout played by Louis Quinn, and the rock and roll-loving, wisecracking, hair-combing, hipster, P.I. wanna-be, valet parking attendant next door, Gerald Lloyd Kookson III ("Kookie"), played by Edd Byrnes. Comb sales soared. So much for Huggins' hopes for a straight P.I. series. Hard-boiled drama was out and occasionally self-deprecating humor was common. Many of the episodes were named "capers". The catchy theme song, written by the accomplished team of Mack David and Jerry Livingston, typified the show's breezy, jazzed atmosphere. The song became the centerpiece of an albumof the show's music in Warren Barker-led orchestrations, which was released in 1959.
The Edd Byrnes character Kookie became a cultural phenomenon, with his slang expressions such as "ginchy" and "piling up Zs" (sleeping). When Kookie helped the detectives on a case by singing a song, Edd Byrnes began a singing career with "Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb" (based on his frequent combing of his hair). When his demands for more money were not met, Byrnes left the show, but he came back as a full-fledged partner in the detective firm in May 1960; in 1961, Robert Logan became the new parking lot attendant, J.R. Hale, who usually spoke in abbreviations. In 1960, Richard Long moved from the recently canceled detective series Bourbon Street Beat with his role of Rex Randolph, but he left the program in 1962.
The show's popularity was such that rising young actors clamored for a guest spot. Up-and-comers who made guest appearances included William Shatner, Mary Tyler Moore, Shirley MacLaine look-alike Gigi Verone, Robert Conrad, Dyan Cannon, Jay North, Connie Stevens, Adam West, Tuesday Weld, James Garner, Marlo Thomas, Max Baer, Jr., Elizabeth Montgomery, Karen Steele, DeForest Kelley, Susan Oliver, Peter Breck, Roger Moore, Donna Douglas, Troy Donahue, Ellen Burstyn, Chad Everett, Gena Rowlands, and Diane Ladd. Even established film and TV actors plus older stars guested as well, including Fay Wray, Francis X. Bushman, Liliane Montevecchi, Keenan Wynn, Ida Lupino, Rolfe Sedan, Jim Backus, Billie Burke, Buddy Ebsen, George Jessel, Peter Lorre, Burgess Meredith, Nick Adams, and Roy Roberts, amongst others. The show was so "cool" that even sports stars such as Sandy Koufax had a guest role in an episode.
In 1963, as the show's popularity waned, the entire cast except for Zimbalist was let go. Jack Webb was brought in as executive producer and William Conrad as director. The character of Stuart Bailey became a globe-hopping investigator, with lavish international sets. The show was canceled at the end of the year.
Currently, there is only a mere engraving in the sidewalk commemorating 77 Sunset Strip between La Cienega & Alta Loma Road and the area is slated for re-development as part of " The Sunset Millennium" Project. In a twist of fate, the opposition to the redevelopment of the area is known as "Save Our Strip" or "SOS" and is spear-headed by former 77 Sunset Strip semi-regular Gigi Verone There is no number 77 on the Strip, as all Sunset Boulevard addresses in the area have four digits.
Edd Byrnes wrote an autobiography titled "Kookie, No More." He autographs copies of the book for fans at conventions. Byrnes is a scheduled guest for the September 2008 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Maryland. A retrospective about the television series "77 Sunset Strip" is planned. Byrnes in scheduled to talk on stage about working for Warner Bros. and his role as Kookie.
Episodes of the television series can be seen in reruns, courtesy of syndication packages offered through Warner Bros. Studios. A total of 43 episodes have been (at one time) removed from syndication for various legal reasons. All but 13 can now be seen in reruns.