In the Heat of the Night (TV series)
||This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page.
|In the Heat of the Night|
|Format||Crime / Drama|
|Created by||John Ball|
|Developed by||James Lee Barrett|
Howard Rollins (seasons 1–6)
Carl Weathers (seasons 7–8)
Anne-Marie Johnson (seasons 1–6)
Lois Nettleton (season 2)
Geoffrey Thorne (seasons 2–6)
Randall Franks (seasons 2–6)
Crystal R. Fox (seasons 3–8)
Denise Nicholas (seasons 3–8)
Christian LeBlanc (season 1)
|Theme music composer||Quincy Jones
|Opening theme||Performed by Bill Champlin|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||8|
|No. of episodes||142 + 4 TV movies (List of episodes)|
|Running time||60 minutes
|Production company(s)||The Fred Silverman Company
Juanita Bartlett Productions (Jadda Productions for season 1 until name change)
MGM/UA Television (1988-1993)
MGM Television (1993-1995)
|Original channel||NBC (1988–1992)
|Original run||March 6, 1988– May 16, 1995|
In the Heat of the Night is an American television series based on the motion picture and novel of the same name. It was broadcast on NBC from 1988 until 1992, and then on CBS until 1995. Its executive producers were Fred Silverman, Juanita Bartlett and Carroll O'Connor. TGG Direct released the first season of the series to DVD on August 28, 2012.
In the Heat of the Night starred Carroll O'Connor as the white police chief William Gillespie, and Howard Rollins as the African-American police detective Virgil Tibbs. In the premiere episode, Tibbs, a Philadelphia police department detective, has returned to his childhood home (the fictionalized Sparta, Mississippi) for his mother's funeral. He is eventually persuaded by local politicians to remain in Sparta, as they are desperate to improve the local squad's reputation of being anti-black and underskilled.
The show dealt with a variety of issues. These included racism, drug abuse, rape, AIDS, incest, government corruption, homophobia and drunk driving, among others.
Season-by-season overview 
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2012)|
First season 
The first season of the show was filmed in Hammond, Louisiana. There were many conflicts between the first executive producer, Juanita Bartlett, and series star Carroll O'Connor. A total of eight episodes (the two-hour pilot, plus six regular episodes) were filmed. O'Connor threatened to quit the series at the end of season one if Bartlett remained executive producer, so she was eventually replaced.
The episodes this season were mostly "recycled material from other crime shows," in O'Connor's words.[where?] O'Connor was promised the head writing position of Story Editor, but scripts would come back marked, "FINAL NO REWRITES." Episodes often focused on grisly murders or crimes, not the lives of the "New South"-era characters. Anne-Marie Johnson, who played Virgil's wife Althea, summed up what it was like to film the show in the little town of Hammond: "My high school was bigger than this town."Template:TV Guide, 1988
Second season 
Season two began airing in December 1988, due to a writers strike. The series had a new look, and a new set of executive producers. On-location shooting was moved from Louisiana to Covington, Georgia. The season premiere was aired as a two-hour TV-movie, “Don’t Look Back”; the plot revolved around a copycat murder that Gillespie had investigated 20 years earlier. It introduced two new regular characters: Joanne St. John (played by Lois Nettleton), the chief’s sometime-girlfriend and owner of the local diner; and Officer Wilson Sweet (played by Geoffrey Thorne). It also introduced the first of several new recurring characters: Doctor (or, "Doc") Robb, the county coroner (played by veteran actor Dan Biggers). The episode "The Creek" saw the introduction of the first new police character "Officer Randy Goode" (1988–1993) played by Randall Franks cast following the show's move to Georgia introducing the second prominent Georgia performer to claim a regular role on the series. Franks was already an established bluegrass music star performing for the Grand Ole Opry pursuing a new path.
Other episode plots in this season included: a prominent citizen being murdered due to sexual abuse in his family; Virgil’s ex-partner and Althea’s ex-lover coming back to Sparta and being exposed as a murderer; Chief Gillespie having to confront the legacy of his own bigoted past when he's duty-bound to arrest a close, lifelong friend—who is also the sheriff of the neighboring county—for committing a racially-motivated murder in his jail; Bubba getting caught up in a love triangle; Althea’s niece visiting from Philadelphia; Virgil and Althea going to an all-white church; Joanne being stalked by a murderous ex-con, which eventually exposes that she had been a prostitute out of necessity in a different city, long ago; the arrest of councilwoman White’s son; Chief Gillespie witnessing, and being deeply affected by, an execution; a plant strike that leads to murder; Bubba being accused of rape; and, a manhunt for a drunk driver who killed three of Sparta's most popular high school cheerleaders, and crippled a fourth.
During the last four episodes of this season, Joe Don Baker guest-starred as Capt. Tom Dugan, who was brought in as acting chief-of-police, while Chief Gillespie was at a month-long police conference in Quantico, Virginia. In reality, Baker was brought in to substitute for O’Connor, who was undergoing open heart surgery.Template:Dan Biggers In the storylines, Dugan is a good ol' boy with a mysterious side; he often works without consulting Detective Tibbs, and is unaccounted for on several occasions. The working relationship between Dugan and Tibbs becomes increasingly strained, in some ways reminiscent of Tibbs' and Gillespie's formerly combative relationship from season one. Eventually, Tibbs and Bubba Skinner become completely distrustful of Dugan, and Dugan increasingly feels that the entire police department will never accept him as one of its own, and views Tibbs as the rightful "chief", in Gillespie's absence. Ultimately, it is revealed that Tom Dugan was working undercover for the FBI, part of an effort to prevent the assassination of a prominent southern civil rights preacher. The second season ended in a cliffhanger: Chief Gillespie returns, only to be kidnapped (and JoAnne shot) at his home by two men wearing pig masks. Inexplicably, season three opened without any explanation or reference to this, as if it never happened. Only later in season three was any mention made of it—and only a passing one. Carroll O'Connor wanted his open heart surgery to be written into the story line, but the writers refused and came up with the kidnapping idea, instead. The kidnapping episode is resolved in the third season premiere "Anniversary"—which aired out of order, later in season three, because O'Connor wanted Althea's rape story line to be the season opener.
Third season 
The third season saw a number of changes to the show. The character of Joanne St. John was eliminated to make room for councilwoman Harriet Delong. Althea grappled with the effects and aftermath of rape. We learn that Parker was a Vietnam veteran, and someone abandons a baby on Bubba's doorstep. Dee Shaw also joined the cast as officer Dee Sheppard.
In "First Girl," Gillespie hires Christine Rankin, the Sparta PD's first female black officer. Her life is tragically cut short, making room for her replacement, Luanne Corbin, played by Crystal Fox. Luanne would remain a prominent character throughout the rest of the series, although Crystal Fox was listed in the ending credits as a guest star until season seven where she finally appeared in the opening credits.
In the two-part episode, "Citizen Trundle," written by O'Connor, Cynthia Deming & William J Royce, Harriet DeLong's sister, Natalie, is murdered.
Fourth season 
The season begins with the birth of Virgil and Althea’s twins. William and Sarah Tibbs were welcomed into the world on September 18, 1990. While Althea was waiting to go into labor, Tibbs's friend from the Philadelphia police force is murdered and he heads up to the “big city” to clear his friend's name, only to be arrested himself. It is now up to Chief Gillespie to find out the truth, clear Virgil’s name, and make it home in time.
Other topics this season include the murder of a prostitute; a teacher falsely accused of molesting a child, who commits suicide when he is fired from his job in spite of his proven innocence; a woman with an intellectual disability getting pregnant and burying her child; the introduction of Bobby Johnson, after his brother is killed in a drug shootout; a scam involving another one of Virgil’s friends; a bounty hunter; and a serial rapist stalking Sparta.
Virgil arrests his cousin, who shoots himself in the struggle for a gun, becomes a paraplegic, and goes to prison. The boy's mother, Virgil's Aunt Ruda, blames Virgil for the incident and cuts herself off from the rest of the family, insisting, “There ain’t no family. Not for me...not no more”
Another story involves the conviction of Harriet DeLong’s ex-husband Vic for plotting to rob his former employer in a revenge scheme. Three men, on a misty Sunday morning, shoot a security guard at the Lambry plant and steal a bundle of money waiting to be paid out on Monday morning. Harriet’s son Eugene also gets involved when he tries to assist his father and almost loses his life. The case brings Bill and Harriet closer together, while it drives a wedge between Harriet and Eugene. As the relationship between Harriet and Bill begins to evolve, all of Sparta wonders how a relationship like that could exist and be accepted in the South. Harriet’s ex-husband eventually gets the death penalty for his crime, leaving Harriet and her son at odds. They continue to resent each other because of conflicting loyalties to Vic and Bill.
The season closes with Althea almost having a breakdown over the stress of Virgil’s job on the police force after he is almost killed by a stray bullet and does not tell her about it. On top of that, she is also worried that her children will grow up without their father, and she begs him to try something different. Chief Gillespie burns up the wires and gets Virgil on his way to law school, and Althea apologizes for not being more understanding as she & Virgil share a glass of wine together.
Fifth season 
The fifth season begins with the revelation Chief Gillespie has a daughter by the name of Lana Farren. The Chief is now good friends with her mother, Georgia. Georgia is asking Bill to help her put some of her affairs in order, and to keep all of her ‘boyfriends’ as well as her ex-husband away from her assets which she intends to leave to Lana. Bill immediately puts Ted Marcus on the case. In the meantime, Georgia returns to Gulfport and is murdered. The chief takes this very personally and sets out to find her killer. At the end of the episode, Lana finds out that Bill is her father but does not want to have anything to do with him. This cuts deeply into Bill and he has a hard time dealing with it. Note: The character of Lana will not be seen again until the season six episode “Random’s Child”.
Bobby Short plays blues musician Ches Collins in the award-winning episode "Sweet, Sweet Blues," one of the most powerful episodes of the season. (Based on the true story of Medgar Evers.) Officer Wilson Sweet learns there was a witness to the murder of his grandfather back in 1948. When he learns the murderer is still alive, Sweet is determined to see that justice is served.
Also, Bubba gets involved with yet another baby, a teacher is stalked by an obsessed taxidermist, a game of high stakes poker leads to murder, Bubba gets reunited with Pat Day, Bill and Harriet share their first public kiss, and Sweet solves the forty-year-old murder mystery involving his grandfather and a 1948 Packard. Also, the estrangement between Virgil's aunt Ruda and the Tibbs family comes to an end in the episode, “Ruda's Awakening”, after Ruda witnesses a robbery-in-progress where a young man is killed while fighting over a gun with Bubba. Ruda initially believes Bubba is responsible, but after visiting her son, Tyrell in jail (where he confesses the accident that crippled him was his fault and not Virgil's), her memory of the incident clears and Bubba is exonerated. This leads to a joyful reconciliation between Virgil and Ruda at the end of the episode.
Other episodes include Sheriff McCombs deputy growing marijuana, Darnell’s daughter being kidnapped, a wife who kills her husband for beating her, a doctor who kills his wife and his mistress to keep them from talking to each other, a real estate developer being killed in an insurance scam, the return of Emily Trundel, and one of the best episodes of the series “Family Reunion” in which, an insurance investigator is on the trail of stolen money and is murdered. Roy Paxton is reunited with his estranged family in an attempt to recover the money that the matriarch has run off with and it ends up in Sparta.
In the final two-part episode of the season, which was originally advertised as the series finale, Gillespie and Tibbs are brought up on charges when they help an escaped road gang prisoner of McCombs and he is offered sanctuary in a local monastery. After he escapes McComb feels betrayed by Gillespie and Tibbs for not upholding their sworn duty. The gang corners the escaped prisoner but he runs the road block and deputy Ferrell shoots him. Gillespie and Tibbs are put on administrative leave.
Judge Simms presides over the case. After hearing both sides the jury is not able to reach a verdict and Gillespie and Tibbs are freed.
A sub-plot in this episode sees Councilman Waters and Alvin Epp teaming up to keep Gillespie and Tibbs off the police force because Gillespie vehemently objects to them overtaking Sparta’s south side. This plot is explored further in the season six two part episode “Even Nice People and Lake Winahatchie”.
The episode and season end with Althea and Virgil celebrating and Bill and Harriet spending the night together.
Sixth season 
||This section's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (February 2010)|
At the beginning of Season 6, In the Heat of the Night moved from NBC to CBS. Originally, CBS opted only to pick up the series for a set of six two-hour movies. However, it was eventually picked up for a full 22 episode order. The first two episodes of the season saw the affair between Gillespie and DeLong intensify only to be interrupted by a crack war waged on Sparta involving Eugene. Althea Tibbs saw new trauma this season as she witnessed the suicide of one of her students (played by Walton Goggins), causing a near mental breakdown. Only with the help of a tough psychologist (played by Allan Arbus) recommended by Dr. Day is Althea able to come out of her “funk” and return to teaching at Sparta High School. Ruda Gibson makes another appearance as she is diagnosed with cancer and Virgil does all he can to help her. Her recovery is implied in season seven when Etta mentions that, after Virgil and Althea left Sparta, she comes to visit and sometimes stays the whole week.
Also of interest this season, Bill Gillespie’s daughter, Lana returns for a three-episode stint to resolve the case started in "A Woman Much Admired." She is testifying against the New Orleans thugs that her mother was involved with before her death. The case finally comes to a conclusion as the mob led by their main Sparta connection Lewis Alvin Epp orders Lana’s farm house burnt down after she refuses to be bought out giving them access to Sparta’s south side. The events in that storyline lead into Bill’s and Lana’s reconciling. In “Random’s Child,” this episode also becomes a musical feature performance for "Officer Randy Goode," as Franks performs "The Sparta Impound Blues" with actor Thomas Byrd in a scene written specifically by O'Connor to feature Franks musically after letters flooded in from viewers.
Other highlights this season included the return of Luanne’s brother (played by Designing Women's Meshach Taylor), a faded country music singer who ends up committing murder, Bubba being stalked by an obsessed admirer, Sweet being falsely accused of accepting a bribe, and a two-part episode involving the “white supremacy” that still exists in the new South.
The season comes to a close when Eugene works hard to get his father’s death sentence stayed by the state of Mississippi, only to have his efforts stopped by a mad man who runs the prison pastor off the road. Harriet also makes a critical decision at this point: not to let Eugene influence her relationship with Bill anymore. He may disapprove, but as she tells him, “One of these days you’re going to walk away from me, and I’m just going to tell you to keep on going”.
After the season Howard Rollins, Anne-Marie Johnson and Geoffrey Thorne left the series. Rollins would return occasionally as a guest star, while Johnson took a starring role on Fox’s In Living Color. Thorne left to pursue a career as a novelist and screenwriter. Unlike the characters played by Rollins and Johnson, Thorne's character simply vanished with no explanation for why he was absent from the show.
Seventh season 
||This section's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (February 2010)|
Season 7 began with Bill Gillespie being forced out of office and former Memphis, TN Police Department Inspector Hampton Forbes hired as the new police chief. After nearly three decades on the Sparta police force, the city council decided not to renew Bill's contract because of his open relationship with Harriet DeLong. However, Gillespie is soon appointed as the acting Sheriff of Newman County when Nathan McComb suffers a heart attack and is too ill to continue his duties.
Hampton Forbes, meanwhile, is getting to know his new town and his new officers, who are not happy that Gillespie is gone. Gillespie's last official act on his way out the door is to give several of his officers a promotion.
Finally, the marriage of Bill Gillespie and Harriet DeLong takes place in the seventh season.
In the beginning of this season, Virgil is mentioned as being in Jackson getting his law degree. He is often talked about but only seen in three episodes the entire season credited as a special guest star. When Virgil returns to Sparta as an attorney, he and Althea have separated and she has moved back to Philadelphia with the twins. Lonnie Jamison takes over the role of Chief of Detectives in Virgil’s absence.
Notable episodes this season include "A Depraved Heart" about the daughter of a friend of Bubba’s contracting AIDS from someone who knowingly gave it to her, and "Singin' The Blues" involving Luanne, which includes her singing at a blues club and helping take care of an abandoned baby—with whom she comes to love as her own. It is later revealed that she can not have children of her own and she decides to sign up to be a full-time foster parent. Other episodes include Parker being accused of police brutality, Bubba trying to help his nephew deal with recovering from drugs, a deeper look at Lonnie’s life off the police force which is controlled by his cantankerous Aunt Cora, and Harriet DeLong taking a bigger part in the story lines. Actor/director Larry Hagman directed several episodes.
In "Ches and the Grand Lady" Bobby Short reprises his role as the blues musician from "Sweet, Sweet Blues." The episode also guest stars Jean Simmons as the dying grand dame of Sparta who also happens to be Ches' old flame and the overbearing great-aunt of Lonnie Jamison. Another episode involves the return of Maybelle Chesboro,(played by Elizabeth Ashley) the ex-madam. She has returned to operate a legal phone sex business. One of her employees tries to blackmail one of Holly Colmer’s friends and ends up getting shot. Maybelle decides to give up working in the business for good, but not before visiting Bill and attempting to get romantic with him.
The season wraps with the two-hour movie of the week, "Give Me Your Life" starring Peter Fonda as Marcantony Appfel. The story (by O'Connor and written by Cynthia Deming & William J Royce) is loosely based on the real-life drama unfolding in Waco, Texas with David Koresh and his followers.
Eighth season 
The show aired four made-for-television movies during the 1994-1995 season. This is considered to be the eighth season of the show. Each movie was two hours in length, making them equivalent to eight regular episodes. The movies were:
- A Matter of Justice
- Who was Geli Bendl?
- By Duty Bound
- Grow Old Along with Me (the series finale)
Series co-star Hugh O'Connor committed suicide 2 months before the series finale actually aired. When aired in its original, 2-hour format, there was a black screen in between the intro tag and the opening title, which read "In memory of Hugh O'Connor: 1962-1995".
Writing Staff 
- Mark Rodgers (1989–1990)
- Edward Deblasio (1989–1990)
- Nancy Bond (1989–1990)
- William J Royce (1989–1994)
- Cynthia Deming (1990–1995)
- Robert Bielak (1990–1991)
- Mitch Schneider (1990–1995)
- Joe Gannon (1991–1995)
The cast 
|Carroll O'Connor||Starred in the lead role of William O. "Bill" Gillespie. Gillespie was a tough but honorable small city police chief. At first somewhat resentful of Virgil Tibbs, he would later become very close to Virgil and the rest of the Tibbs family. It should be noted that their relationship in the TV series is much less adversarial than it is in the film version. For the first six seasons he was the chief of the Sparta Police Department until he was fired by the city council at the beginning of the 7th season. He would then become interim County Sheriff after the previous Sheriff became too ill to continue his duties. Gillespie would become the permanent Sheriff by the end of the series. Gillespie was married at one time to Anna, his Italian war bride whom he brought home from his WWII service in Italy. Anna became pregnant - both she and their son would die in childbirth. He also had an older daughter, Lana, by Georgia Farren. Gillespie eventually fell in love with Harriett DeLong. Throughout the series run, O'Connor was one of the actors to appear in every episode of the series on both networks (NBC) and (CBS), with the exception of four shows near the end of the 1988-89 season that he missed while recovering from open heart surgery.|
|Howard Rollins||Starred in the lead role of Virgil Tibbs. Virgil had grown up in Sparta but later moved north and became a police detective in Philadelphia, PA. He would later return to Sparta after being offered a job as chief of detectives and the rank of Captain with the city police department. At first Tibbs and Gillespie butted heads, but would soon become close friends - Gillespie even became a godfather to Virgil and Althea's twins. He also initially clashed with Bubba early in the series, but after Virgil helped Bubba clear his name during a case where he was falsely accused of rape, they became good friends as well. Even though some city council members wanted to make him chief, Tibbs firmly rebuffed their offers, preferring to work with Gillespie. After continued legal problems, Rollins was dropped from the series in 1993, and Tibbs was written out of the series as having left the community following his graduation from law school and becoming an attorney in private practice. Rollins would return as a guest star several times during the 7th season in his new profession, attorney at law.|
|Alan Autry||Played "Bubba" Skinner. At first Bubba was something of a redneck. Intimidating and physically powerful, he was never afraid to use force when needed, but despite his rough exterior, he was a good man deep down. He was also a sort of ladies man around Sparta as he always seemed to have a new girlfriend on hand. Bubba was deeply resentful of Virgil's presence on the police force at first, clashing with him on several occasions. He eventually became close friends with the Tibbs family, particularly after Virgil helped clear his name in a false allegation of rape. As the series progresses Bubba is shown to be a brave and honorable man who is more complex and intelligent than people give him credit for at first glance. Bubba was also from a large family. Eventually he rose to the rank of Captain after Gillespie left the Sparta Police. In Season 5, it is revealed that Bubba's first and middle initials are V.L. Bubba also always wore "white socks" with his uniform.
Original Rank: Sergeant Final Rank: Captain
|Anne-Marie Johnson||Starred as Virgil's wife Althea Tibbs. She starred in that role for six seasons. Althea's life in Sparta was difficult, she was raped at the beginning of the third season, and suffered a mental breakdown later after witnessing the suicide of one of her students. Althea did not reappear for the seventh season, and her character was written out as Althea had been separated from Virgil and moved back to Pennsylvania. Johnson left the show for a role on the Fox Television sketch comedy show In Living Color.|
|Lois Nettleton||Played Joanne St. John from 1988 to 1989. She was the owner of the Magnolia Cafe, a popular eatery in Sparta (as seen in the show's opening). After it was revealed that Joanne was once a prostitute, she eventually left Sparta.|
|David Hart||Played Parker Williams. Parker generally sat behind the dispatcher's desk, although he would also be assigned to patrol duty. He finally in 1994 rose to the rank of Senior Sergeant. Parker was a Vietnam veteran. As a comic relief Parker would always have a Mason jar of sweet tea on his desk.
Original Rank: Officer Final Rank: Sergeant
|Christian LeBlanc||Portrayed Junior Abernathy, a patrolman seen only during Season 1.|
|Geoffrey Thorne||Joined the cast as Wilson Sweet in 1988. Aside from Tibbs, Sweet was one of the first African Americans to join the force. His ambition was to rise in the ranks of the Sparta police force and become Sparta first black Police Chief-a part which was played by Carl Weathers. The character disappeared in Season Seven after Thorne left the show and was never mentioned again.
Original Rank: Officer Final Rank: Sergeant
|Hugh O'Connor||Played the role of Lonnie Jamison, an officer and senior investigator on the Sparta police force. Lonnie eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant and Acting Chief of Detectives. Lonnie was a very capable officer and took his job seriously. He usually had a serious and straightforward personality, but was an amiable and friendly person overall. Lonnie was a crack shot with a rifle and was often selected by Chief Gillespie to handle a situation requiring a long range rifle shot. He was also the coach of Sparta High School's track team and good friends with Harriet DeLong's son, Eugene. Hugh was the adopted son of Carroll O'Connor.
Original Rank: Corporal, Final Final Rank: Lieutenant / and then Acting Chief of Detectives
|Carl Weathers||Joined the cast in the final season as Police Chief Hampton Forbes. He was picked to lead the department after the controversial firing of Bill Gillespie. Forbes was the first African-American chief of the department. Forbes was a twenty-year veteran of the Memphis, TN Police Department rising to the rank of Inspector. An Inspector in the MPD commands of one of the four police districts in the city of Memphis. He retired from the MPD to become the new Police Chief in Sparta. Forbes became friends with Gillespie, and would often work closely with him when Gillespie became county sheriff.|
|Crystal R. Fox||Played Luanne Corbin. After the first African American woman to join the force died in the line of duty on her first day on the job, Corbin was recruited to take her place. Crystal was featured in the episode "Singin' the Blues" which gave her the opportunity to display her talent as a singer, as well as a fine actress.|
|Denise Nicholas||Played Sparta City Councillwoman Harriet DeLong. Harriet's relationship with Chief Gillespie was deeply adversarial in the beginning, due to his somewhat racist personality and the two clashed often when she first appeared on the show. But over the course of the series, Harriet saw Gillespie's softer, more caring side and began to think more fondly of him. By the time Denise Nicholas became a series regular, Harriet and Gillespie were becoming a couple, much to the disapproval of her son, Eugene. It was shown in the two-part episode, "Citizen Trundle", that Harriet's sister, Natalie was the mistress of conniving businessman, V.J. Trundle, who later had her murdered. They had a son named Eric from their illicit affair and Harriet eventually gained custody of him after Trundle committed suicide by deliberately crashing his private airplane after a confrontation about the murder with Gillespie. Emily Trundle, V.J.'s estranged widow attempted to gain custody of Eric in the following season, but only succeeding in gaining visitation rights, something Harriet deeply opposed.|
|Randall Franks||Played Officer Randy Goode (1988–1993) Randy Goode began his work on the series as a partner to Wilson Sweet in "The Creek"; he soon began driving Chief Gillespie and Detective Tibbs around.|
|Harvey E. Lee Jr.||Played Officer Ken Covey. ( Joined the show in the sixth season.)|
|Mark W. Johnson||Played Luke Everett. (Joined the show in the sixth season. )|
Recurring cast 
|Jen Harper||Dr. Day|
|Thom Gossom Jr.||Ted Marcus|
|Fran Bennett||Ruda Gibson|
|Karen Carlson||Sarah Hallisey|
|Rugg Williams||Eugene Glendon|
|Christine Elise||Lana Farren - Gillespie's daughter by Georgia Farren as the result of a long ago love affair. They had no relationship while Lana was growing up.|
|Adair Simon||Emily Trundle|
|Bob Penny||Alvin Epp|
|Scott Brian Higgs||Randy Calhoun|
|Afemo Omilami||Jimmy Dawes|
|Burgess Meredith||Judge Cully|
|Stuart Culpepper||Judge Henry Sims|
|Joe Don Baker||Captain Tom Dugan - A retired Mississippi Highway Patrol police captain, Dugan appeared on the last four episodes of the second season. Baker was brought in as a stand-in for Carroll O'Connor while O'Connor was recovering from open heart surgery. Dugan was placed in the department by the FBI to uncover a plot by white supremacists to assassinate a civil rights leader. Dugan was murdered by these same white supremacists at the end of the second season. His nephew, who had become involved with these people, later agreed to help the police.|
|Ron Culbreth||Sheriff Nathan McComb - the former county sheriff. Culbreth appeared on nine episodes as Sheriff McComb. In the 7th season, McComb became too ill to continue his duties, and Gillespie was appointed as acting sheriff in his place. Prior to his appearances as McComb, Culbreth also appeared on the episode Missing in another guest role.|
|Maureen Dowdell||Tracy Boggs|
|Pat Hingle||Roy Eversole - Parker Williams' step-father. Hot tempered, Eversole had a great deal of difficulty maintaining steady employment. Eversole was once a murder suspect after getting into a heated argument with a former employer, who was subsequently found dead a short time later.|
|Tonea Stewart||Virgil's aunt Etta|
|Dee Shaw||Dee Shepard|
Guest stars 
During the series' seven and 1/2-season run, many unfamiliar actors and/or actresses have made guest appearances, and others were newcomers who have gone on to become well-known, among them appearing in Heat of the Night episodes: Frances Fisher, Mel Stewart, Nana Visitor, Gail O'Grady, Don Galloway, Dana Barron, Marco St. John, Ted Lange, Mickey Jones, Mitchell Laurance, Laura Johnson, Jordan Vaughn, Martha Byrne, Walton Goggins, Maury Covington, Earl Holliman, Randy Brooks, Wayne Brady, Art Evans, Nicolas Cowan, Lou Walker, Robert Goulet, Bobby Short, William Sadler, Michael Spound, Bill McKinney, Lisa Pelikan, Mark Rolston, Jennifer Bassey, Marc Macaulay, Jean Simmons, Thomas Jefferson Bird, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Matthew McConaughey, J.D. Hall, George C. Scott, Stephen Root, Bruce Kirby, Lisa Rieffel, Ernest Lee Thomas, Ken Marshall, Laurence Fishburne, Josh Lucas (as Joshua Lucas), Ted Manson, Mariska Hargitay, Meshach Taylor, Francesco Quinn, Jeffrey Buckner Ford, Gary Anthony Williams, Richard McKenzie, Craig Shoemaker, Stephen Nichols, Mitchell Anderson, James Best, Sonny Shroyer, Byron Cherry, Whitman Mayo, among many others. Future Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman stars, Helene Udy, William Shockley and Chad Allen made guest appearances. Future Desperate Housewives star Doug Savant and veteran actor Kevin McCarthy also made their guest appearances on the two-part pilot episode, as well as former football star later turned convicted felon O. J. Simpson in a cameo appearance.
Broadcast history and ratings 
The series debuted as a midseason replacement for the short-lived NBC series J.J. Starbuck, premiering on March 6, 1988. The series ran on the network until May 19, 1992, then was shown on CBS until its finale after an eighth season, on May 16, 1995.
TV ratings 
- Season 1: #18-15,639,200
- Season 2: #19-15,564,900
- Season 3: #21-13,871,900
- Season 4: out of the top 30
- Season 5: out of the top 30
- Season 6: #46-10,630,000
- Season 7: NA
- Season 8: NA
DVD releases 
On October 23, 2012, TGG Direct released an 8-disc best-of set entitled In the Heat of the Night - 24hr Television Marathon.
The television series also took place in a fictionalized version of Sparta, Mississippi. While there is a real Sparta, the version of Sparta shown on television is very different from the real town. For example, the TV Sparta is situated along Interstate 20, while the real town is nowhere near any interstate. During the first season, Hammond, Louisiana was the site of the show's production. In the second season, the show was moved to Georgia, and it remained there for the rest of its run. The principal area of Sparta was in fact downtown Covington, Georgia. Rural scenes were filmed in a wide surrounding area, in the Georgia counties of Newton (where Covington is located), Rockdale, Walton, Morgan, and Jasper. In fact, during the series run, many of the cast members had homes in the area and were often spotted in local restaurants and retail stores. The cast members would also go around to local schools to speak to students.
The theme song, "In the Heat of the Night," was recorded by Quincy Jones, and is usually paired with "They Call Me Mr. Tibbs" on albums. Bill Champlin of the band Chicago sang the opening theme song for the television series.
Randall Franks and Alan Autry co-produced the cast CD "Christmas Time's A Comin'" for Sonlite and MGM/UA featuring the entire cast and a host of music stars and it was released Christmas 1991 and 1992 and was among the top holiday recordings of those years around the South and Midwest.
- In the Heat of the Night Fan Club
- In the Heat of the Night at the Internet Movie Database
- Crystal Reel Award