Friday, July 12, 2013

Classic TV: Kojak (1973)

Hey, who loves ya, baby?

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?

Rating: A-.


magicdog said...

Love me some Kojak!

It was on late nights in syndication on WWOR. I didn't get to watch much of it until relatively recently. It was airing on ME-TV weekdays at 1230am-130AM PST. I think that was the time it aired on Ch. 9 come to think of it!

My dad had the pleasure of meeting Telly Savalas in person when he was shooting scenes for the show in NYC. He told me the man you saw onscreen was pretty much the man in real life - very earthy, and friendly, but no fool! I'm told everyone who ever met him, loved him!

He told me about this one scene they were shooting in which the cops were supposed to be hiding in a white truck on a stake out, and that they were supposed to come running out of it to make the arrest. He told me the crew spent 9-12 hours setting up the scene (lighting, etc.). Then they yelled, "ACTION"! The cast members jumped out of the truck, you heard, "CUT! Print. That's a wrap!". My dad found that hilarious! Spending all that time to set up the scene and for it to come down to one 10 second shot (if that) and it was all done!

Sly Stallone wasn't the only up and comer on the show - James Woods played a criminology student who was also a thief trying to outsmart Kojak. I think he filmed "The Onion Field" shortly after that.

I prefer to think the "Black Kojak" reboot never happened.

hobbyfan said...

We'll get around to the reboot with Ving Rhames sooner or later, probably when we get closer to the reboot of Ironside.