HOLLYWOOD -- Rich Little rescued the final three episodes of the 'Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer' detective series this season by dubbing in the voice of imprisoned star Stacy Keach, the impressionist said Thursday.
Producer Jay Bernstein, meanwhile, said he expects CBS to renew the series -- now officially in hiatus -- next season and said production could resume in the summer after Keach ends his nine-month term for smuggling cocaine into England late last year.
Little, who has done similar work in the past for actors who died before their work was completed, said he was used only for the star's narration, a distinctive feature of the series.
'Stacy had done all the dialogue but not the narration,' Little explained. 'I had to learn to do his voice in three days.
'It was tougher than when I did the same for David Niven and Peter Sellers when they died before completing movies.
'Stacy's voice isn't as distinctive. It's deep and masculine, not one you can easily pick out. But viewers would have noticed if it was wrong. So I listened to his previous narrations on tape for three days.
'Then I went into the studio and did only one sentence for one show. The other two shows took me four or five hours each. All three shows have been on the air and nobody complained, so I guess it worked okay.'
Bernstein said noted that CBS and Columbia Pictures TV paid the actors for half of the show's eight unmade episodes this year in order to hold the cast for next season.
'I think the show has a good change of being picked up this May,' he said. 'Stacy has already paid heavily for his mistake. He is not being blacklisted.'
'The show hasn't been canceled. It is on hiatus. Stacy is scheduled to be released June 7, when he will address the House of Lords on drug control.
'We hope to be back in production in July.'