Anthony's Film Review
(TV Series, 1973-1978)
Kojak definitely stands out among television crime drama shows...
The TV crime drama series Kojak, which ran for five seasons from 1973 to 1978, is a show that works for two reasons: the title character and the realism. Actor Telly Savalas is well cast as Lieutenant Theo Kojak of the 11th Precinct (Manhattan South) of the New York Police Department, and the look and feel of the setting combined with sharp dialogue among all the characters in each episode provide a realistic portrayal of police work in the Big Apple. I would even go as far as to say that Kojak is a great show to watch for anyone who is interested in becoming a police detective someday. Both the ups and downs of the profession are shown quite well.
To illustrate, let me briefly discuss the show's first episode, "Siege of Terror." It begins with a robbery of an armored truck, which leads to a police chase that ends with the robbers hiding out in a store. But the situation gets even more intense when the police and the suspects engage in a firefight, leaving at least one officer dead. And to make matters worse, the innocent people inside the store are held hostage. With the situation becoming a long standoff, Kojak enters the scene as a negotiator. His plan involves talking some sense into the robbers while secretly carrying out a plan to create a passage into the store and get the hostages out.
When I first saw this episode, I was thrilled. This was something I thought was both exciting and suspenseful, like watching an engaging crime thriller movie. In fact, I would definitely say that each one-hour episode of Kojak is like a one-hour movie, not a more simplistic one-hour television episode. It's a sign that the various writers put great care into the story in each episode. Speaking of which, each episode stands alone, without any story arcs spanning several episodes. You can pretty much watch any episode of Kojak in any order without a problem.
Let's talk about the characters. Theo Kojak is a man who is tough, sometimes with his colleagues but definitely tougher with suspects and criminals. At the same time, he is warm and even charming towards the innocent, especially witnesses. With all of these characteristics, Kojak is a detective whom you can trust to solve the mystery of any crime. He reflects both the challenging nature of police work and the professionalism that is needed for it. In addition, Kojak often thinks ahead in ways that other detectives don't, even if it doesn't go by the book, because all that matters is that justice is served. Most importantly, Kojak is dedicated to his job. Only bits of his personal life are shown throughout the series, if at all.
Besides Kojak, there are three equally memorable supporting characters. Stavros, played by George Savalas, one of Telly's real-life brothers, is an overweight detective who is nevertheless skilled in the field. Bobby Crocker, played by Kevin Dobson, is a detective who follows Kojak's orders but is definitely capable of independently getting the info needed for a case. Then there is Captain Frank McNeil, played by Dan Frazer, who may be Kojak's superior but doesn't really act like it. McNeil may sometimes question Kojak's methods, but in the end, he goes along with whatever the lieutenant thinks. That's how good Kojak is.
You can expect all the episodes to present these fascinating characters in the context of solid storylines. There are plenty of interesting episode premises throughout the series. In "Death Is Not a Passing Grade," a criminal Kojak is pursuing also turns out to be attending a police academy class Kojak is teaching. In "The Chinatown Murders," Kojak gets caught up in a heated feud between Chinese and Italians. In "A Long Way From Times Square," Kojak and Crocker face danger as they attempt to extradite someone from Nevada. In "Birthday Party," Kojak looks for the people who kidnapped his niece. In "A Strange Kind of Love," Kojak pursues a man who kills people being criticized by a radio host he is obsessed with. If all of this sounds good, juat wait until you check out the rest of the series.
In the end, the show holds together because of its star. Telly Savalas has played a variety of characters, including Feto Gomez in the 1962 film Birdman of Alcatraz and the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the 1969 James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service. But it's the role of Theo Kojak where he truly shines. He portrays the character as a real hero who sticks in our minds, especially with his witty dialogue in a New York accent. Overall, Kojak stands out as one of the most memorable shows of the 1970s. As Kojak would say, "Who loves ya, baby?"
For more information about Kojak, visit the Internet Movie Database.