Assignment: Vienna

Assignment: Vienna was a short-lived international-intrigue drama from M-G-M that premiered on ABC in the fall of 1972. Robert Conrad (The Wild Wild West) starred as Jake Webster—the American proprietor of a Vienna jazz club—occasionally swept up in espionage and adventure owing to his mysterious past. The 90-minute series alternated with Jigsaw and The Delphi Bureau on Thursday nights in a “wheel” format that NBC had pioneered with Columbo, McCloud and McMillan & Wife: originally, ABC aired the three series under the umbrella title The Men, with a funky theme by Isaac Hayes (included on FSM’s Shaft Anthology, FSMCD Vol. 11, No. 8).

Dave Grusin was the principal composer on Assignment: Vienna—a brilliant choice given his capabilities for creating catchy, jazzy TV theme music (The Name of the Game, It Takes a Thief), international-espionage dramatic scoring and the jazz source music required for Jake’s Bar & Grill. Disc two (and the first two tracks of disc three) feature Grusin’s three scores for Assignment: Vienna along with the extended source pieces (recorded along with the first episodic score) for Jake’s nightclub; listeners will note that the series’ title music does triple duty as the theme for the main character and the basis of most of the jazz source cues.

John Parker composed two episodic scores for Assignment: Vienna, presented on disc three. (Three episodes of the series—only eight were produced—were tracked with existing cues.)

Initially, Assignment: Vienna had no main title sequence of its own, as Isaac Hayes’s The Men theme served as an umbrella theme for the “wheel” concept. When ABC abandoned that approach, three versions of Grusin’s theme were recorded as a main title: Grusin’s version heard with the broadcast episodes (disc 2, track 2); an unused alternate arrangement by Grusin (disc 2, track 30); and an unused alternate arrangement by George Romanis (from one of Grusin’s score cues) recorded at the same time as one of the John Parker scores (disc 3, track 3).

Romanis, incidentally, had been the composer for an Assignment: Vienna prototype: a spring 1972 TV movie called Assignment: Munich with a different European city and a different American star (Roy Scheider) playing the same character. The Assignment: Munich music, although entirely by Romanis, was a hybrid of re-recorded score cues from Romanis’s 1971 score to Chandler (a Warren Oates private-eye film) and newly written source music for the TV-movie version of Jake’s nightclub. FSM presents a representative source cue on disc 1, track 35.