Question: Help us out here, please. How many actors played cops on The Naked City? We're having a disagreement over who the stars were. Thank you. — Lowell B., Meredith, N.H.

Televisionary: As far as the cops go, the ABC series launched in September 1958 with John McIntire as Lt. Dan Muldoon, James Franciscus as Det. Jim Halloran and Harry Bellaver as Ptl. Frank Arcaro. Muldoon died when his car hit an oil truck during a chase, and Horace McMahon's Lt. Mike Parker stepped in to fill his shoes. After Naked City disappeared for a year and returned as an hourlong show, Franciscus was gone, Bellaver's Arcaro had been promoted to sergeant, and he and McMahon were joined by Paul Burke's Det. Adam Flint until the series left the air in September 1963.

However, the real star of the show, based on a film that was inspired by a book of graphic photographs taken by a New York newspaper photographer, was never a person; it was New York City, as show producer Herbert Leonard readily admitted. "Sure, we have two cops," he told TV Guide in 1958. "But our stories are fictitious — about the city's people as reflected by the two cops."

Mind you, New York was about as demanding and temperamental a star as one could cast, all things considered. For instance, a reporter watched the crew shoot in Manhattan as a passer-by insisted on standing behind a cameraman and shouting, "Cut! Take one! Take two!" And even when things were going smoothly, all the required locations meant a lot of moving around for the cast and crew.

"We've shot Wall Street during the rush hour," production coordinator Hal Schaffel explained. "We've shot in front of and in Yankee Stadium.... We've shot in a car tearing up the East Side Highway. When we shoot in a car, we shoot in it. One soundman sits in the trunk with his equipment. The lighting man sits in the backseat, and so do another soundman and a man with a hand camera. What you see is what's happening — if it looks as though that automobile is going 70 miles an hour, it is.

"We've shot in a courtroom in the Bronx County Courthouse. We've shot on a moving subway train. If you want to make a sequence on a moving subway train in New York, you first get a permit and then hire a car that they hitch onto the regular train. It stops at a designated spot in a certain station, and you wheel on all your gear. You have less than two minutes to get the whole crew and equipment — cameras, lights, everything else — on that damned train. We did it.

"We've shot on the merry-go-round in Central Park. We've shot the Fordham University campus. We've shot the Bowery. There were so many derelicts, and we couldn't keep them away — and we gave a few of them some money and the word got around and that afternoon there were a thousand of them looking for dough."

They weren't the only ones looking for money, either. "I've got only $650 to spend on each script for locations," Schaffel explained. "I'll find, say, a candy store that looks good, and I'll tell the proprietor we'll pay him, oh, a hundred dollars if we can film in it. He says all right. Then the next day we show up with 50 men and a couple of trucks, and all of a sudden our camera, turned on its side, looks to him as though it's shaped like a dollar [sign]. He demands more money. It happens all the time."

And that was just when they were shooting indoors. Shooting outdoors meant kids pelting them with rotten eggs (yup, that happened) and work in the cold when the city was gripped by record-low temperatures, the cameras wouldn't work and saliva froze on the actors' faces. ("It was so cold I could hardly talk," McMahon recalled.)

You might think such difficulties would've tempted producers to do more soundstage shooting, but Schaffel would have none of that. "It wouldn't be the same," he insisted. "Sure, we could send a camera crew out to photograph these locations and we could process them, projecting them behind the actors in the studio. It would look all right. Probably not three viewers in 10 would know the difference. But Bert Leonard, our producer, insists on authenticity. He wants the real thing. He's trying to show this city. Naked, as it really is; the Naked City."

That he did. And while Leonard and crew may not have gotten to all 8 million stories, they gave us a solid few seasons' worth.