The Equalizer

Season 1 Episode 1

Pilot: The Equalizer

Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM Sep 18, 1985 on CBS
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Pilot: The Equalizer
McCall, burnt out on the demands of government service, resigns and takes his first cases, a woman being stalked by a stranger and a security expert being threatened by corrupt superiors.

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  • Robert McCall, disenchanted with the CIA, quits and starts his own agency. His first cases are helping a computer clerk whose life is in danger after stumbling across some incriminating data, and a woman being stalked. A great start to a great series...moreless

    I grew up in the 1980s, watching the terrific array of action-adventure series around then ('The Dukes of Hazzard', 'Magnum, p.i.', 'Knight Rider', 'The A-Team', 'Airwolf' et al). 'The Equalizer' was one of the few that I didn't watch originally and / or have recorded on video, as it was on after my bedtime (!) and was more adult and violent in its content.

    It is only recently, with the series being released on DVD, that I have finally got into this excellent show. (Yes, the DVD releases, with their substituted music etc. aren't perfect, but anyway...).

    Fellow Brit Edward Woodward is perfect in the lead – so it is maybe surprising that the producers went through a number of possibilities for the lead before eventually coming to him. Woodward plays the character as hard as nails, but with a definite compassionate side.

    Before the main credits we see McCall in action, and the moment that he becomes disenchanted with his role within 'The Company', seemingly a division of the CIA. He quits and starts his own troubleshooting agency. The episode sees him tackle his first two cases – a woman being hounded by a stranger, and a computer clerk who has stumbled across information relating to a planned assassination, and whose own life is in danger as a result.

    What is fairly unusual about the episode is that the two cases both take up a lot of screen time; typically, in later episodes where McCall had two cases on the go at once, one would be the 'main' plot of the episode with the second being a smaller b-story.

    Both cases are good, though I felt the one involving the dangerous stalker was the better of the two, as the other never seemed to be completely fleshed out fully enough, and came off slightly less well.

    Being the first story, I expected this to be a feature-length episode, when in fact it is only a standard length. It still serves to introduce the series well though.

    Also of note is how McCall misreads the stalker, thinking he's scared him off when in fact it sends him over the edge to break into the woman's apartment and hold her captive. It is a nice touch that McCall makes such a mistake and isn't perfect, but it isn't really a common trait with him and I found it a bit strange to happen in the first episode.

    McCall's apartment is different in this story to the rest of the series. The place is littered with packing crates, so it might be assumed that he is in the middle of moving. He also has a dog which is never seen again.

    I love the dark, broody feel to the series, and its sophisticated feel. It is set off perfectly with Stewart Copeland's great score.

    The series has high production costs and looks really good. Other than a few obvious points, I actually don't think it has dated that badly – with the exception of McCall's answering machine, in which he phones to check every hour; nowadays it would be completely different with mobile phones.

    All-in-all, a very good opening episode, and one that really pulls you in and wanting to see more. A great start to a great series.moreless
  • A fantastic start to this dark, edgy series.

    "The Equalizer" really hits the ground running in its first episode. Edward Woodward (an actor I had really never seen before watching this) is simply amazing in the role of a sort of older James Bond working for people in trouble. And unlike other "guardian angel" TV heroes, Robert McCall isn't above using threats and force (lethal included) to "equalize" the odds in favor of his clients.

    I got the first disc through Netflix after reading/hearing good things about this show. I was very pleasantly surprised by the fact that it doesn't feel as much like an "80s" show as some of its contemporaries (watching the early episodes of "Murder, She Wrote" for example). Aside from certain clothes and hairstyles, the show holds up very well.

    My only complaint was the split focus on the two clients in danger. I felt like the story about the technician got short-changed by the more emotionally charged stalker plotline. From looking ahead at some of the episode descriptions on, it looks as if the shows begin to focus on one story per episode. Regardless, I can't wait to see more.moreless
Patricia Kalember

Patricia Kalember

Colleen Randall

Guest Star

Michael Levin

Michael Levin

Leonard Morgan

Guest Star

George Hearn

George Hearn

Senator Jim Blanding

Guest Star

William Zabka

William Zabka

Scott McCall

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • Goof: When Colleen's stalker calls, she answers the phone and there is a cloth at the base of the vase next to the phone. But as she comes out of the kitchen drying her hands on a washcloth and drops it beside the phone. The stalker calls her back, we see the phone and the cloth is gone. The scene shifts back to stalker, back to her picking up & hanging up the phone and the cloth is back.

    • The classified ad reads: "Odds against you? Call the Equalizer. 212-555-4200."

    • In the fight scenes involving McCall and Leonard Morgan, you can clearly see the stunt-doubles brought in to handle the fights, by looking at the unconvincing hair wigs. With the stunt double for Michael Levin (Morgan), it looks as though he hadn't made any effort at all to look like his counterpart, as he has black hair, whereas Michael Levin has brownish hair. However, Edward Woodward does do the close-up shots during the scene, but Michael Levin doesn't for some reason. Was he too scared to go up against a middle-aged Englishman?

    • When McCall speeds in his Jaguar to catch the running Steve, the shot of the car stopping, and Steve running past the camera, shows Edward Woodward's rather unconvincing stunt-double driving it. The quick editing of Edward Woodward actually jumping out of the car to catch Steve on-foot hides this blooper very well.

    • In the first scene, after the Opening-Titles, McCall confronts his son, Scott. At the end of the scene, after when Scott says: "I always hoped it was you driving that bus", watch Edward Woodward's eyes turn to the left, indicating that Scott has walked away, even though he hasn't yet, but he does when he says: "But I won't hold my breath at the concert".

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Brahams: Will you listen to me for once in your life, Robert? Get out of New York and go somewhere no one is scared of you.
      McCall: Goodbye, Brahams.
      Brahams: I'll cry at your funeral.
      McCall: I'll be there.

    • Brahams: The dog eats better than I do. Mildred doesn't trust any food that isn't frozen. Her mother was engaged to a Birdseye salesman.

    • Jefferson: Crime is organized. You're not. Look, this isn't 'Nam or Africa or Central America. This is the Big Ape. And you don't know what real guerilla warfare is like until you've hit those streets.

    • Jefferson: So you're a security officer now, huh? Respectable.
      McCall: Well, I wouldn't go that far.
      Jefferson: How many employees in this security company of yours?
      McCall: Uh, one. Good men are so hard to find.

    • Hamilton: What can you do? This is a major corporation. It's like taking on the US government.
      McCall: Well, that'll make me feel right at home.

    • Music teacher: Mr. McCall, that is a violin you are sawing on, not a leg of lamb. Miss Jenkins, I know when you're faking it. Could you save that for your boyfriend, please? Nicolo, what has the oboe ever done to you?

    • McCall: "I am an old warhorse, let out to pasture."
      Control: "You are the most dangerous man I have ever known."
      McCall: "Now YOU keep THAT thought!"

  • NOTES (5)

    • Originally, producers wanted the part of Robert McCall to go to actor James Coburn, but Edward Woodward eventually won out after the script was redrafted.

    • Steward Copeland, the music composer and theme writer, was in fact the founding member of The Police and the solo artist, Sting, however his involvement with The Police lasted from 1979, and ended in 1983, when the group broke up and went their different ways. Copeland is also actually the son of a founding agent of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

    • Joel Boston was only the Producer for this Pilot only. Edward Adler replaced him, when the production was wrapped on the Pilot, and started on the very first normal 45-minute episode, China Rain.

    • The apartment where McCall lives is different in this episode than the one that would be used throughout the remainder of the series.

    • Michael Sloan, the co-creator of The Equalizer, wrote only this script, and was only Executive Producer for this pilot. James Duff McAdams then came on-board following the production of this pilot, became Executive Producer, and remained in that role until the series was cancelled in August, 1989, after 4 seasons of 87 episodes.