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Kojak marks its 40th anniversary this year, although technically, the series started with the TV-movie, "The Marcus-Nelson Murders". Few, however, recall the film as fondly as they do the series, which spent 5 seasons on CBS (1973-8).
Crime dramas were becoming more ethnically diverse in the 70's. Credit Universal with starting the trend. Kojak was of Greek descent, as was star Telly Savalas, whose brother, George, alternately known as Demosthenes, was part of the supporting ensemble. Over on NBC, you had George Peppard as Polish sleuth Banacek, and, thanks to Don Mitchell's role as Mark Sanger on Ironside, and Hal Williams on Norman Lear's hit sitcom, Sanford & Son, more African-Americans were being cast as police officers, a trend that continues today.
Kojak, you might know, also helped launch the career of iconic actor Sylvester Stallone, who had a small role in an early episode. Just for fun, the Savalas brothers made a guest appearance, as themselves, on Alice one time, which led to the title character (Linda Lavin) serenading Telly. Oh, that was cheesy but fun.
Following is the series opener, "Siege of Terror":
And now you know where the late Jerry Orbach got the inspiration for some of the sarcastic, snarky remarks Lennie Briscoe made on Law & Order, don't you?