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. 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.”
# Title Director Writer Original airdate Production Code
1 “Pilot: Part 1” David Hemmings James Lee Barrett March 6, 1988 7801A
Virgil Tibbs returns to Sparta and joins the police force as chief of detectives. His arrival is met with resistance from police chief Bill Gillespie – who, despite his good relationship with Tibbs, resents having an officer hired without his approval. Virgil has trouble adjusting to the small, antiquated police force. Tibbs’ first case is a racially charged murder case that is soon complicated when the suspect is murdered in his cell.
2 “Pilot: Part 2” David Hemmings James Lee Barrett March 6, 1988 7801B
The investigation into the brutal murders of a young girl and the suspect in her death, leads Tibbs and Gillespie to the son of one of Sparta’s wealthiest and most influential citizens. As they come closer to the truth things become dangerous for Virgil.
3 “Road Kill” Leo Penn Kathy McCormick March 15, 1988 7802
The affair between the husband of a wealthy woman and her distant cousin leads to her murder. Virgil immediately suspects the pair. But he has a difficult time persuading Gillespie, who is a long time friend of the man and Bubba, who has been seeing the cousin. Bubba and Virgil clash again and Virgil is frustrated when the Chief rejects his theory about the crime.
4 “Fate” Anthony Wilkinson Richard Fielder March 22, 1988 7804
Racial tensions run high when a married white woman has an affair with a black businessman from New York. Meanwhile Virgil is not happy when the Chief enlists his aid in tracking down Bubba’s cousin, a suspected moonshiner.
5 “Blind Spot: Part 1” David Hemmings William Gray March 29, 1988 7805
Virgil refuses to let go of a grudge against a wealthy former classmate who cheated him out of a scholarship. The man has promised city leaders that he will move his business to Sparta, but not all of his business interests are legal. The nephew of an old friend of Gillespie’s finds his life in danger after he steals drugs stored in the businessman’s mansion.
6 “Blind Spot: Part 2” David Hemmings William Gray April 5, 1988 7806
An angry Gillespie seeks answers when an old friend is shot. And Virgil narrowly escapes death after trying to ascertain the real reason behind an old adversary’s return to Sparta. Nan finds herself in danger after she finds out the truth about her new love.
7 “A Necessary Evil” Winrich Kolbe Josef Anderson April 12, 1988 7803
In this humorous episode Virgil and the Chief arrest a man for bigamy. It soon becomes a polygamy case after an endless parade of wives come to visit their husband.
8 “…And Then You Die” Anthony Wilkinson Kathy McCormick May 3, 1988 7807
The Sparta police search for a killer and his girlfriend. But the case becomes personal when they take Althea and the grandson of one of the victims hostage.

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