Was Jake and the Fatman Moved Back to Los Angeles Because of Joe Penny’s Health Problems?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Joe Penny forced Jake and the Fatman to move filming from Hawaii to Los Angeles because of his health problems.

Jake and the Fatman starred Joe Penny and William Conrad as Jake and the Fatman, respectively.

Jake was an investigator who worked for J. L. “Fatman” McCabe, a Los Angeles district attorney.

As you may or may not know, Magnum P.I. was originally created to put to use the Hawaiian sets CBS already were renting for use for Hawaii 5-0.

Well, at the end of the decade, Magnum P.I. was also coming to an end, and CBS still owned a lease on the Hawaiian sets.

So, to avoid wasting money, CBS decided that Fatman would retire and become a lawyer in Hawaii (Fatman, apparently, was from Hawaii originally – a useful coincidence, eh?) and he would bring his investigators with him, just in time for Season 2!

Some have said that CBS had actually CANCELED Jake and the Fatman after Season 1 when this idea was offered up as an alternative to cancellation. That might very well be true (it sounds logical enough), but I haven’t seen anything definitive to back that assertion up.

During the fourth season of the show in 1991, two things happened.

One, the show moved from Hawaii back to Los Angeles.

Two, Joe Penny lost a lot of weight.

“Shockingly,” when a never-married actor in his mid-30s suddenly started losing weight, rumors began popping up that Penny was gay and now had AIDs and that was why the show was moving back to Los Angeles (for more access to medical care for Penny).

Is it true?

It is not and sadly, Penny ended up doing a pretty depressing (in the sense that it was “necessary”) “I’m not gay and I don’t have AIDS!” tour on the various chat shows (plus doing a number of television interviews).

As it turned out, Penny had a gastrointestinal virus that turned any food he ate essentially liquid (if you know what I mean). Effectively, he had dysentery.

Diseases like these are difficult to treat absent a hospital stay, but eventually he was cured and the weight returned, and he’s been in fine health ever since.

So his problems did not really require a move to Hollywood.

The real reason for the move was that with the show running down its run (it only lasted one more year), CBS just did not feel like renewing the (expensive) lease on the Hawaiian sets, and since the show had begun in Los Angeles already, they shifted filming back to L.A. for the rest of the fourth season and all of the fifth season.

So it was cost, not any health problems of Penny that brought Jake and the Fatman back to Los Angeles.

The legend is…

STATUS: I’m Going With False

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

One Response to “Was Jake and the Fatman Moved Back to Los Angeles Because of Joe Penny’s Health Problems?”

  1. ParanoidObsessive on October 24th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Considering William Conrad died shortly after the series ended, if I’d heard rumors that the show switched from Hawaii to LA for “actor health reasons”, I’d have assumed it was for HIM. Being “The Fatman” really only makes it more blatant in that respect.

    I’d actually assumed this article/urban legend WAS about him until I did a double take at the title and realized it was about Joe Penny.

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