Thursday, July 23, 2009

We're off to see the wizard...

We've started to watch Oz. Obviously a good decade after it was made, but since the sad demise of The Wire and the Sopranos (and even the timing-fillers Prison Break and The Shield), we need a new series to get our teeth into.

Oz has the immediate advantage of featuring loads of people we knew from elsewhere. So far, we've encountered Carmela from the Sopranos, Falsone from Homicide, Brodie from The Wire, the black guy from Ghostbusters and one of my favourite actors J K Simmons, who pops up in Law & Order as Dr Emil Skoda and is Juno's dad in Juno. Unfortunately, my nemesis B D Wong has also turned up, this time as a priest, but no less of a know-it-all than when he's playing a psychiatrist.

But overall. it is a great show. Very gritty and grisly - I could have done without seeing a completely burnt corpse. It has an interesting narration thing going on that might become irritating and I'm not sure is sustainable, but I'm looking forward to watching more of it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


This week I recorded five episodes of Kojak and today, I set about watching them. They were all from Season 4, following on from the episode I watched last week.

10.00am: I start watching the first episode "Out of the Shadows". It is about a serial killer whose victims at first seem motiveless, but it turns out are all people who've ripped him off. We are shown a divorced man having a breakdown who may be the killer. The episode is good, but I still manage to leaf through the Guide and magazine sections of The Guardian. No sign of any lollypops or his catchphrase "Who loves ya, baby".

10.45am: I move straight onto the next installment, "A Need to Know". This is about a chauffeur for a foreign consulate who molests children in his spare time. The cops catch him leading another child away but then the FBI step in, declaring the man to have diplomatic immunity. Kojak and the Captain are enraged, and Det. Crocker still tails him. It turns out he is more than just a driver. Kojak calls the FBI agents "baby" in a less than respectful way and he produces a lollypop when he is trying to soothe a child, but the catchphrase isn't used.

I break off here to do some gardening for an hour or so, then have a shower and a spot of lunch.

1.45pm: I resume with "An Unfair Trade" which is about a cop shooting a Hispanic youth, and then coming up accusations of racism. Tired by the gardening, I lose concentration and fall asleep for a while.

On waking, I take a break from the marathon and watch a film instead. It is a romp from the 70s with Robin Asquith - its pretty awful. The OH, who is spending the day elsewhere watching cricket, texts to ask how much progress I've made.

4.30pm: Refreshed, I return to "An Unfair Trade". It really is very good - I'm impressed by the depth of characterisation they fit into an hour show and its ability to tackle the big issues. No lollypops here and still no catchphrase.

5.15pm: Moving onto "A Hair-Trigger Away" where another troubled cop (these seem to be a recurring theme) is on a one-man mission to ride the world of drug dealers, because his girlfriend is a heroin addict. Its all very overwrought, but the cop does have a great dinning room furniture set which looked like Eero Saarinen's Tulip table and chairs. The girlfriend is played in great thespian style by Lynn Redgrave. One of the crooks turns out to be Dominic Chianese, best known as Uncle Jun from the Sopranos, but I only find this out on IMDB afterwards and I've already deleted the episode so too late to check him out. A smattering of babies but no lollies. I'm beginning to think this catchphrase is a myth.

Another break, this time to watch the episode of Oz I fell asleep in last night (more on that separately). I make my supper (vegetable chilli if you are interested in such things) and then onto the final leg.

8:00pm: Last one of the day "By Silence Betrayed". The setting is the docks, rather similar to Season 2 of The Wire, which I'd re-watched earlier in the weeks. The dock workers operate a code of honour of standing together and not talking to the police, but they also live under the threat of violence from the gangster who they steal crates of cargo for. The episode features a big slow-witted guy who talked about seagulls in a way Eric Cantona would have admired. It all ended badly. Actually a lot of the episodes end rather bleakly. I'm wondering whether watching so many in a row is a good idea.

So that is the Kojak-athon complete. One lolly, fair use of the word "baby", but I've given up on the catchphrase.

There are another five episodes next week, but I think I'll spread them out a bit more.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Grey Day = Tea + Detectives

Summer has retreated, leaving in its wake a grey day that isn't fit anything other than drinking tea and watching television. Luckily I had a couple of programmes put aside for a rainy day.

Quincy - an episode that took the classic murder-mystery formula of a group of people all with one thing in common, gathered in a remote house, with a murderer killing them one at a time. Quincy was there with his new wife (I had no idea) and the others were judges, a detective and a lawyer, who had all been involved in a fraud/murder case. The convict had escaped prison and here will all of the people who helped put him away, gathered in one place. There was also a mute servant, who I misssed the significance of, having missed the first five minutes of the show, but who was shown to look guilty/spooky/shifty at every opportunity, but turned out to be completely blameless and unconnected.

Dempsey and Makespeace - Makespeace is gorgeous, Dempsey is gorgeous. Everything and everyone else is drab. Its no wonder they fall for each other. Even the woman Dempsey describes as a fox in this episode is lacklustre. London is grey rather like today. I suppose England was like that in the 80s, in Thatcher's Britain, although the drabness is probably more a reflection on the production methods, lighting and actual weather than a political statement. The music however is rather exciting. It chimes in forcefully at the chase sequences just in case you hadn't noticed they were supposed to be thrilling. The plot was something to do with a right-wing group trying to overthrow the Government by hyper-inflation, but it didn't have much depth and is merely a backdrop to the simmering chemistry between the two leads.

Kojak - The episode was entitled "A Summer Madness" and all the characters sweated their way through the episode. In just an hour, it managed to create a drama with impact and believeability. It featured a troubled cop, his wife driven made through grief, a murdered lover and a junkie musician, set against the sweltering heat of New York in the summer. This was great stuff. Ultimately depressing, but excellently done, rather like Ironside. I'm hunting through the schedule for more, otherwise this may be next on my "To Buy" list.

Monday, July 06, 2009

RIP Karl Malden

This blog is in danger of becoming "Burying the Detectives" as another star died this week, The Streets of San Francisco star, Karl Malden.

Not quite as sad as Fawcett's death as Malden did make it to a ripe old age, but a shame nonetheless. I thought one of the cable channels may have dug out a few episodes of The Streets of San Francisco in tribute to him, but none here had, so I was forced to just watch two poor episodes of Murder She Wrote yesterday, which was no kind of tribute to anyone.