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CBS (ended 1990)


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out of 10
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160 votes

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Show Summary

How does a deep-cover operative keep his sanity and morality intact when the criminal lifestyle he’s sworn to bring down from within is more compelling than his own? Federal Agent Vincent Terranova (Ken Wahl) is plagued by the question in this innovative take on 80’s cop dramas. Created by veteran hit producer Steven J Cannell, Wiseguy veers from traditional ‘bad guy of the week’ police procedural by breaking the drama into multi-episode story arcs that followed an Organized Crimes Bureau case—and its charismatic criminal suspects—to its logical conclusion. No matter the cost to criminal, victim, or cop. In the end, Vinnie may have got his man, but the emotional toll of the lies and deceptions he used to get close enough to his prey couldn’t be ignored. But he’s ably backed by his Field Supervisor Frank McPike (Jonathan Banks) and his OCB Lifeguard (Jim Byrnes) on the law-and-order side and his brother Father Pete Terranova (Gerald Anthony) on the spiritual side. Plus many up-and-coming stars (Ray Sharkey, Annette Benning, Billy Vera, Kevin Spacey, Fred Dalton Thompson, Ron Silver, Michael Chiklis) cut their teeth on juicy roles as either flashy but flawed criminals or tragic victims of the same. Personal problems and injuries caused Wahl to back out of a fourth season and be replaced by Steven Bauer, thereby giving the show a new slant and hastening its cancellation. Still, Wiseguy is referenced by many critics and fans as one of the most literate, stylish, audacious, and fun cop shows of the late 80’s. Selected story arcs are currently available on DVD.moreless

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  • Ken Wahl

    Ken Wahl

    Vincent Terranova

    Jonathan Banks

    Jonathan Banks

    Frank McPike

    Jim Byrnes (I)

    Jim Byrnes (I)

    Dan Burroughs (aka Lifeguard & Uncle Mike)

    Steven Bauer

    Steven Bauer

    Michael Santana (Season 4)

    Cecil Hoffmann

    Cecil Hoffmann

    Hillary Stein (1990)

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    • I was in my late 20's when this show first aired in 1986 on CBS. It was the ONLY Crime Drama that used the "ARC" to keep the story going from one episode to the next. Way ahead of it's time, the only other show that came close to competing with WISEGUY..moreless

      was another CBS Classic, THE EQUALIZER.

      Like the Equalizer, Wiseguy has a great ensemble cast at it's core. Frank McPike, Lifeguard and of course Vinnie Terranova. It also had great supporting cast members. Ray Sharkey, as Sonny Steelgrave - an incredible performance that fans remember to this day. Kevin Spacey, as Mel Profit was also excellent, although I still prefer Ray Sharkey's performance. Altogether an unforgetable first season. The following two seasons were not as good, but still better than any other crime drama at the time. It is definitely worth seeing again.

      Does anyone remember HILL STREET BLUES? This was the next show to capitalize on the "ARC" storyline and was another one of my all time favorites.

      I say bring ALL THREE BACK!!moreless
    • Vinnie Terranova goes undercover for the OCB, great character-driven show. Not about action or car chases, just people.

      Sadly, this show seems forgotten now, but at one time it seemed poised to be huge, the word of mouth was great, critics loved it. I had a Wiseguy T-shirt and a poster, so someone was conscious of marketing it. It was the first of the "arc" shows. What I mean is: now you the viewer take for granted that what happens in one episode of say "24" affects the next episode. But back then networks wanted shows that could be rerun in any order, it made them easier to sell. Wiseguy broke that rule and For three years we saw Vinnie Terranova evolve, endure hardships and grow as a person. This was a show based on character and the people we saw in it every week were very real, flawed, vulnerable. Though the show had a regular cast of three, some story arcs focused more on guest characters and this kept the show fresh. No two episodes or arcs are alike. The writing, directing and acting were top-notch. This is the polar opposite of a silly program like the A team, don't be discouraged by the fact that the two shows were produced by the same folks, this one was for grown-ups. The first season was the best but 2 and 3 were also high quality drama. The ratings declined after star Ken Wahl departed in season four and after a few weeks MIA, i realized my favorite show had been cancelled after the first arc of seas 4. That was 1990, a disapointing reunion was aired in 1996.moreless
    • A darn good show.

      Ken Wahl is so cool in this show. Too bad he left the show during the final season. This is a weekly affair, a definite must see series. Steven Bauer made a good replacement, good thing Jonathan Banks stayed with the show all the way. Undercover cop shows are cool, there are good ones, and there are bad ones, Wiseguy is one of the good ones right along 21 Jumpstreet. The episodes are interesting, the plots are intriguing, and the undercover stuff are so compelling. The writers did a good job with the show. I give this show a 2 thumbs up.moreless
    • awesome

      when this show first came out i was hooked. the first season is still my favorite, but season two was great too. after ken wahl left the show it started to go downhill, but the guy that took his place first did a good job. i wish they would replay this show on tnt or something.
    • Ahead of its time? Absolutely. ADHD killed the arc shows!

      With the addition of the classic crime-drama "Wiseguy" to HD net's drama series replays, it's refreshing to see a television series with real plots, real characters, real drama, and real direction. I miss the "arc" shows... worth tuning in if you've never seen it. "Postcard from Morocco" is a personal favorite episode.

    More Info About This Show




    gritty crime scenarios, failed crime, ensemble cast, corruption, keeping secrets