Ving Rhames taking over the role of Kojak on USA Network's newly
configured version of the
series, there's been newfound interest generated in the pioneering
seventies drama and the actor who made bald cool and classy.
during the polyester decade,
the term "Who Loves Ya, Baby?"
one of Kojak's trademark expressions
took its rightful place alongside other beloved cultural perennials as
hockey and The Partridge Family. Acclaimed Emmy and Golden Globe
winning actor Telly Savalas
had previously been best known for his role -- with hair! -- as Pontious
Pilate in the biblical epic
Greatest Story Ever Told)
inhabited the role of a lifetime as Lieutenant Theo Kojak, a wise
detective manning the mean streets of the Big Apple.
A new 3-DVD set, Kojak
Season One (Universal) assembles all 22 episodes from the show's first
the compelling story of this wily detective's valiant attempt to fight
crime in the
mean streets of New York during the era that the city was at its most out of control.
Handling himself with smooth,
aplomb, signature lollipop permanently pursed between his lips,
(apparently Savalas took on the lollipop as an affectation because he
didn't want to be seen as promoting smoking)
Lieutenant Theo Kojak has his work cut out for him. Prowling the city
limits, Kojak has constant run-ins with NYC's most
notorious bad asses including drug addicts, jewel thieves, pimps,
murderers, street urchins, kidnappers, hookers, low life vigilantes and
sundry street scum. A hardened detective with a heart of gold, Kojak is a
master investigator, ensuring no homicide is left unsolved.
The stories found on Season One are captivating and handsomely constructed;
packing enough excitement, thrills and pathos to keep you on the end of
Watching these episodes now, you can't help but have a
few minor quibbles.
vernacular is a bit dated
(though, amazingly for a show from the heart of the seventies, the
fashions aren't all that outmoded.) The
plot lines are often a tad predictable.
For example, the pilot episode had Kojak in the middle of a big police
stand-off with a group of gun-toting bank robbers (including a very young
Harvey Keitel) holding a group of innocent (and ethnically diverse -- this
is the seventies) hostages.
The bad guys insist on a plane to fly
them out of the country or else they will start to kill. The
story is obviously based on the real-life incident that also inspired the
classic Al Pacino film Dog Day Afternoon; though in all fairness to
the makers of Kojak, they did beat that film to the punch in
telling the story by almost two years.
as the Law & Order franchise keeps proving today, you can do a lot
worse than scouring the newspapers to come up with interesting story
even if some of the stories were a little familiar,
22 episodes on hand stand up as
a result of Savalas' impeccable acting chops. Unpretentious and
unpredictable, Kojak means business, whether viciously jacking up a
criminal against a wall or mowing down his prey by blazing a trail of
fiery gun shots. Adding to the fun, there's
whole bunch of
famous faces you'll recognize in this first season including acting
icons Harvey Keitel, James Woods,
Jackie Cooper, song-and-dance
legend Scatman Crothers, and past and future
John Ritter (Three's Company), Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky &
Hutch), Isabel Sanford (The Jeffersons), Ann Jillian (It's
Yvonne Craig (Batgirl
on the campy sixties series
Directed by Sean Penn's father, Leo, the episode, "Die Before They Wake"
includes not one, not two,
but three sitcom stars; the luscious Tina Louise, Ginger from
Gilligan's Island, who portrays a whore with a drug problem, minor
parts are handled by Ann Jillian and Isabel Sanford. John Ritter is
particularly outstanding in the episode "Deliver Us Some Evil,"
going way against his later type by
playing a bad guy. It's fun to see Ritter acting convincingly as a slimy
the run after committing a
In "Web of Death," a nicely jaded Hector Elizondo plays a good cop who
goes bad -- real bad -- when his wife (played by ubiquitous 70s TV
sexpot Barbara Rhoades) has an extramarital affair.
Championed by People Magazine as "a TV classic, slick,
well-plotted and entertaining," the first season of
turns out to
all that and more. "Who Loves Ya, Baby?" We do,
Telly, we do.
All rights reserved. Revised:
September 21, 2021.