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Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 3 Episode 19

Colors

0
Aired Friday 10:00 PM Apr 28, 1995 on NBC
9.0
out of 10
User Rating
36 votes
4

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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Colors
AIRED:
Tim's cousin shoots a Turkish exchange student and his partnership with Pembleton may be in jeopardy when they both stand on opposite sides of the case. Lewis hires his grandmother to cook at the bar.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • By far the least interesting episode and an "after-school special" attempt at dealing with race.

    2.5
    Up until this episode, I really enjoyed the series and I'm watching it for the first time chronologically about one season every six months. If more episodes are like this, I'm going to stop.



    This episode basically pulls a bunch of emotional punches to "deal with" the issue of race. It comes across like it was written by kids in high school. The penultimate point was the cheering in the grand jury chambers...from the members of the public, no less. The media were also there in the grand jury chamber. NEVER MIND that grand jury proceedings are secret (www.courts.state.md.us/juryservice/grandjury.pdf) and that nothing that is said during the proceedings should leave them. To add insult to injury...Frank Pembleton turns to Bayliss and asks him...would they cheer if the victim was white? The obvious inference is that everyone there was racist. A heavy-handed approach makes the episode unrealistic and almost unwatchable. I cringed at the shooter testifying at his own grand jury proceedings. Sorry NO defense testimony is heard by a grand jury. Worst of all, this episode did not use the usual format of following simultaneous cases. Instead, it was all about this afterschool special race case. If there was more than this one case in this episode then I could at least be distracted from this awful racist killing or whatever it was.



    The final problem was Pembleton's switching the name from red to black only after the grand jury came back. He never waited for grand jury results, usually it happened as soon as a credible confession came in. Such a subtle point!



    What's interesting is that they've had cases with racial undertones before, but none were this "emotionally charged" and needlessly dramatic.moreless
  • Pembleton and Bolander arrive at Bayliss' brother Jim's house where a shooting has taken place, the investigation causes tension between Pembleton and bayliss. Munch fires the cook working at the detectives bar and Lewis replaces him with his grandmother.moreless

    8.9
    "Colors" is a great episode and is a perfect example of how racism in society still exists today. This episode begins with Bolander philosophizing about the color green, saying to Pembleton that maybe one persons perception of that color differs from someone else's. This is the perfect opening to this episode which deals with racism and is ominous of things to come.



    We as the viewer see that under different circumstances the outcome of Jim Bayliss might have differed. The grand jury doesn't get key information, such as Jim's assault on an officer or his wife's interview in "the box" where she says that Jim has trouble dealing with people of other races.moreless
  • Tim Bayliss' cousin faces charges for the shooting of a Turkish student on his way to a costume party, but has the wrong address. After being genuinely frightened by the student, he takes matters into his own hands.moreless

    10
    I have never been more moved or impressed with a T.V. show and specifically this episode. I very often use it as a point of reference in conversation about politics and racism. Andre Braugher is one actor that has truly been robbed. I mean, almost held at gun-point, which would explain his lack of accolades. He could very well be one of the finest actors of our time. With that said, his delivery and execution of emotion (or lack thereof) was flawless. As Frank Pembleton, he could see Bayliss\' cousin for what he was long before any of us watching and certainly before Tim Bayliss\' could. I\'ll never forget the lines he spoke near the end of the episode: \"Still waters run deep. Your cousin is the worst kind of racist because he doesn\'t know he\'s a racist. I watched a court room full of people applaud the death of a child .\" Wow. Wow. What else can be said? The direction of this episode as well as the acting was dead on (no pun intended) and could not have been better. The story was incredible and everyone on all fronts pulled it off beautifully.moreless
  • Few shows would go so far.

    9.5
    Homicide was a divergent show because it would frequently and with great power deal with the subject of race in America today. There have been some pretty powerful moments on this show and there would be many more to come. But perhaps the most provocative one was ‘Colors’. Which may be the most frightening portrayal of race problems on television today. And the reason is because of a very disturbing scene that occurs near the end of the show.



    In that scene a Baltimore grand jury has just elected not to charge Jim Bayliss, a white Baltimore homeowner for killing Hikmet Gersel, a Turkish exchange student. When Ed Danvers reads that no charges will be filed the courtroom erupts into applause and cheers. As Frank, the man who was primary on this case, puts in these good, law-abiding citizens applauded the death of a child. He wonders what the reaction would be if Gersel had been white. He indicts Jim Bayliss--- and by extension everyone in the courtroom--- of having a racism so ingrained they’re not even aware of it.

    This is a frightening indictment of today’s society and it lingers long after the episode is over.



    Even if ‘Colors’ didn’t have that scene, it would still rank as a very powerful episode mainly because of the fact that the killer, (in brilliant work by David Morse) as you can assume from the name, is Detective Tim Bayliss’ cousin. Normally, not only on TV but also in real life, it would not be uncommon for a detectives partner to go easy on a friend or a relative. But the primary is Frank Pembleton, perhaps the only detective in all of television who could probably remain impartial when investigating someone he knows.

    It also becomes clear that there is room for doubt in what happened to Gersel that night. Jim claims that he thought that Gersel, who was on his way to a heavy metal rock party and was decked out in leather and KISS makeup, was a burglar who made repeated attempts to enter his home and that he shot him only in self-defense. The first time that Jim recounts the incident to Pembleton and Bolander (in a decolorized flashback reminiscent of the shows first season) he seems absolutely shattered by the fact that he has taken another man’s life. However, after Jim’s wife Shannon and the teenager who was driving Gersel to the party, tell subtly different stories about the level of tension and the threat posed. Then we learn that Jim was once arrested for attacking an Arab. This convinces Pembleton that the killing seemed racially motivated.



    You could probably go either way on this--- until Tim takes Jim back to his home and sees Gersel’s blood on his front porch. Jim turns to his cousin and says: “Who’d have thought their guts would be the same color as ours? “ without any flinching at all. Than when Jim is brought before a grand jury, he seems genuinely repentant and willing to go to jail for his crime. He believes he was justified but he wishes that it hadn’t happened. As is usually the case with Fontana’s work the world is never painted it shades of black and white.



    Tim is understandably upset that his cousin is being charged, doubly so when he knows Frank is the primary. He is adamant that his cousin is a good man an not a street killer and the idea that this is false is almost as wrenching to him as the killing itself. He and Frank have had their differences before but never have we seen him quite so raw. In one of the more memorable scenes Frank begins to press Jim while Tim watches behind the one-way mirror. Every time Frank starts going over the line, Tim starts hammering on the glass--- eventually completely shattering it. We also get considerable insight into Tim’s characters—and not all of it’s pretty. When Gee decides to back Pembleton in pursuing his investigation, Tim accuses them of this being ‘part of the brotherhood’. Then when Frank talks to Danvers about prosecuting the crime, he is bitterly sarcastic at the fact that Frank has found ‘another racially motivated crime’ These glimpses are brief but they are troubling as we realize that Tim, like most people has his prejudices and they color his judgment. These prosecution puts a rift between Baylss and Pembleton--- one that may never fully heal. They don’t bring it up again--- but some wounds are best never talked about.



    And yet despite his shield at work, Frank does feel for Jim bayliss as a homeowner and a husband. During the episode he has a discussion with Mary about security and protecting himself. As the episode shows in a montage near the end, in many Ways Frank and Jim are two sides of the same coin.



    The episode’s themes are discussed even when they aren’t being dealt with by Frank and Tim. There are various discussions of color throughout the episode--- from Bolander’s opening monologue about perception of green to the discussion of color on the TV screen. Even the jokes that Lewis and Munch make about the chef at the Waterfront have a vaguely offensive tone.

    There are no easy answers to the questions poised by ‘colors’—if indeed there are answers at all. This is difficult to watch, but when you do you can barely look from it. If ‘Homicide’ had done only this episode on racism, it would be enough to call it groundbreaking. The amazing thing, these episodes are just another days work for Tom Fontana. That is almost as remarkable as the episode itself.

    My score”:9.5





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Andre Braugher

Andre Braugher

Det. Frank Pembleton (seasons 1-6, TVM)

Kyle Secor

Kyle Secor

Tim Bayliss

Richard Belzer

Richard Belzer

Det. John Munch

Ned Beatty

Ned Beatty

Stan Bolander (Seasons 1-3)

Daniel Baldwin

Daniel Baldwin

Beau Felton (Seasons 1-3, recurring subsequently, TVM)

Isabella Hofmann

Isabella Hofmann

Megan Russert (Seasons 3-4, recurring otherwise)

David Morse

David Morse

Jim Bayliss

Guest Star

Johnny Alonso

Johnny Alonso

David Scholtz

Guest Star

Scott Wesley Morgan

Scott Wesley Morgan

Westmoreland

Guest Star

Zeljko Ivanek

Zeljko Ivanek

ASA Ed Danvers

Recurring Role

Ami Brabson

Ami Brabson

Mary Pembleton

Recurring Role

Peggy Yates

Peggy Yates

Maria Delgado

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (1)

    • Pembleton: They applauded. Those law abiding citizens. Those good hearted people applauded the death of a child. Let me ask you a question, Tim, and you tell me if it was racially motivated or not. If that kid had been American, if that kid had been white do you think anyone would have cheered?

  • NOTES (4)

    • Daniel Baldwin and Isabella Hofmann do not appear in this episode.

    • Tom Fontana has placed the script for this episode on his website at http://www.tomfontana.com/.

    • This episode was based on a real case:
      A Japanese exchange student, Yoshihiro Hattori was killed on Oct. 17, 1992 when he mistook the address on his way to a Halloween party in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and was shot by the owner of the house, Rodney Peairs.

    • Music in this episode: The Kinks "A Well Respected Man" alb: The Kinks Are Well Respected Men.

  • ALLUSIONS (0)

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