Sunday, July 31, 2011

Film Recommendation of the Week...

Television series
Aired October 24, 1973 to March 18, 1978
Number of episodes-118

The consummate television detective of the 1970's was Theo Kojak. The wise-cracking, ball-busting, dapper lieutenant of the Manhattan South precinct broke the mold before there even was a mold. Sure, there were "The Rockford Files", "The Streets of San Fransisco", "Colombo" and a couple of other bullshit cop/private detective shows on TV, but never before and never again was there an actor who played a cop with such charisma, wit, sarcasm and integrity as Telly Savalas.

His squad room consisted of detectives Crocker, Saperstein, Stavros (Savalas' real-life brother), and Rizzo. Kojak tackled all manner of crime from homicide to organized crime to Wall Street embezzlement, and he did it in style with those fly-ass tailored Botany 500 suits and his ubiquitous hats. He combed the gritty streets of New York City with unbridled panache, streets that were never grittier than in the 1970's. He could charm a sweet-looking babe off a barstool, sweet-talk a witness until they ate out of his hands, and bust some punk junkie or hardened career criminal without breaking a sweat. He was one cool motherfucker. And when that black 4-door Buick pulls out of the station house with the siren blaring, you know it's on.

Kojak and Crocker on the case-
Kojak was the template for his genre, the detective who sometimes bent the rules just far enough to get his man but not far enough that he'd get busted by Internal Affairs. He always played it smooth and was never overwhelmed despite the odds against him. He always cracked the case. The only characters who came remotely close to matching his intensity, grit and authenticity were the officers who worked the Baltimore scene in the HBO crime series "The Wire". Those cats could hold their own against the best of them, but no one has come close to doing it like Telly Savalas, with his trademark cigarillos (which he chain-smoked on and off the screen), Tootsie Roll lollipops and his world-famous catchphrase "Who loves ya, baby!!!".

What set this series apart was the neo-noir authenticity of the plot lines. The stories were, incredibly for a TV series, extremely well-written. There were moments of brevity and comedy that never sunk to childish buffoonery. The viewing audience were never going to be subjected to a jive-ass turkey like Huggy Bear from "Starsky and Hutch" written into any of the scripts. The setting itself became a central character, with the constant shots of New York City at all hours of the day and night permeating the atmosphere and setting the tone for each individual episode.

One underrated aspect of the series was the manner in which Lieutenant Kojak busted the balls of his own detectives. Though he maintained an air of authority that for the most part went unquestioned (one could feel the undercurrent of unquestioning respect everyone had for him in the station house, denoting Kojak's years of experience and unflinching integrity), he was still the boss at a very difficult job and expected his men to rise to the occasion.

You can catch the episodes from the first three seasons on Don't miss what is hands-down the best detective show ever produced for television. Kojak was the fucking man, and no one has done it better. Fuck "Law and Order". That show can't hold a candle to my man Telly Savalas. Word up.

And what TV drama had the best opening theme music? You guessed it-

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