Telly Savales created one of the most indelible TV characters from the 70's in Lt. Theo Kojak. Tough as nails, street smart and oozing cool with his shaved head and lollipops, Kojak was the baddest New York cop around. He wasn't afraid to bend the rules to get the job done.
Kojak is a formula crime drama which is good but not great in many respects. Interesting to watch mostly as a period piece; an excellent Technicolor cinematographic study of New York as it was in the Seventies, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center make numerous appearances. Plenty of wocka-wocka guitar, sometimes augmented by a female soul chorus, in the incidental music. And the wardrobe and hairstyles of that era range from the fascinating to the ridiculous.
Kojak, played by the late Telly Savalas, is the lone character with any depth. Savalas does a creditable job in the lead role, winning one of the show's two Emmys. Dan Fraser is good as Kojak's superior along with Savalas' brother George as one of the lesser detectives.
Our villains are the usual suspects including Cosa Nostra-types of varying ethnicities, psychotic serial killers and narco-traffickers, the latter occasionally styled on characters from Blaxploitation films of the early Seventies.
One Kojak icon has become part of law-enforcement lore, Savalas made the shaved head very popular for lawmen in divers roles, ranging from your local sheriff to Treasury agents. Fading from the public memory is the Kojak lollipop, used to self-medicate an oral compulsion aggravated by nicotine withdrawal. Today, few people under fifty recognize the Kojak catchphrase, "Who loves ya, baby?".
One cannot help but notice that Theo Kojak had excellent taste in clothes, or at least the costume designer for the series did. I often wondered why The Dapper Cop's superiors did not suspect him of being "on the pad", that he might afford his costly wardrobe.
Presently Kojak is available in syndication intended for broadcast DTV secondary channels but in the form of faded, shopworn prints interrupted by hucksters of for-profit trade schools and products for today's active seniors. Better to view selected episodes by download or DVD.
To sum up, Kojak is worth a look for the photography which captures the impressive skylines, the opulent apartments as well as the grimy, hole in the wall locations of New York. It's worth a listen for the soundtrack, including main theme by John Cacavas. Stories, production values and overall dramatic effect are slightly above average for a crime drama of the era. I would rank it as #2 television crime drama of the Seventies, fairly well behind Hawaii Five-O but better than the Quinn-Martin productions.
I just got my hands of Season 3 on DVDs. I never really watched the show when I was a kid but am really enjoying them now - esp. since I have lived in NYC for over 30 yrs & very cool to see how the city has changed. Really like the episode called 'Money Back A suspect responsible for a killed officer has been trailed ending with the police crew outside the door of his apt. With guns drawn they make little scratchs on the door & mew a little. When the door is opened to investigate, Kojak squatting down utters the last line of the episode: "Umm. Meow, Hilarious!
One of the most memorable TV cop dramas of the past 10 or 50 years, KOJAK earned richly deserved icon status during its five year run on CBS. Telly Savalas became a superstar and the epitome of NYC cool, as Lt. Theo Kojak, NYPD. The show featured stellar writing and directing, especially in the premiere season. The first year's 22 episodes still stand up as some of TV's best written one hour dramas. The first season showcased a keen combo of veteran and new talent, among the noteables, Harry Guardino (DEAD ON HIS FEET), Jackie Cooper (LAST RITES FOR A DEAD PRIEST), Hector Elizondo (WEB OF DEATH), Tina Louise (DIE BEFORE THEY WAKE) and very young James Woods (DEATH IS NOT A PASSING GRADE), Harvey Kietel (SIEGE OF TERROR) and John Ritter (DELIVER US SOME EVIL). The latter seasons offered Richard Gere (BIRTHDAY PARTY), Sylvester Stallone (MY BROTHER, MY ENEMY), Paul Anka (THE BETRAYAL). Telly went behind the camera and directed no less than 5 episodes, leaving yet another legacy. One of the greatest productions in TV history.
Two words made the show very popular and that was
Telly Salvavas when he had that hat and lollipop
Did become Kojak and he was tough as nails and nobody
That you messed with at all as he was bent on
Catching all of the criminals in the dirty and mean streets
Of NYC where the city never, ever, sleeps at all IMO!
Lt. Kojak - so cool you can hardly stand it. Rules the streets of Manhattan. Not by force but by sheer cool. Crooks don't want to double-cross Kojak. They don't want to cross him at all. He remembers names and sins. He never forgets.
Telly Savalas as Lt. Theo Kojak is the textbook example of cool over everything else. Looks? Who needs it? When you're as cool as Theo, you don't need looks. Theo is one sexy man. Almost 90% of it is class, manners and style. Supporting cast is right out of a real life precinct. Bobby ("Crocka!!") Crocker is effecient and attractive. "Demosthenes" is family. George Savalas takes the ribbing and gets the job done. Capt. MacNeil maintains order and stays out of the way. All in all, this is one of the cop shows that blazed the trail for cop shows of today.
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