Monday, May 18, 2009

On TV: I'm a sucker for these three Kojak catchphrases

GREATER NEW YORK - Watching roundups of popular TV shows and TV characters always reminds me of favorite, but long-forgotten lines. For example, I'm a sucker for these three catchphrases from Kojak, the popular TV cop drama which starred Telly Savalas in the 1973-1978 CBS-TV series, and Ving Rhames in the 2005 cable TV remakes:
"That seems like a big, fat sloppy-lip kiss-off to me!"

"Who loves ya, baby?"
"You're beautiful."

Savalas' hard boiled and bald-headed, lollipop-loving and sharp-dressing, charismatic and unconventional detective, Theo Kojak, first appeared in the 1973 TV movie, The Marcus-Nelson Murders. The movie was described by IMDb as "Season 1, Episode 0" and by as "a ratings hit that encouraged CBS and writer-producer Abby Mann to create a trend-setting series (based on a book by Selwyn Raab)." (Read a roundup at Television Heaven).

Several TV-review venues explain the show's hit appeal. For example, Classic Telly credits the show's original star and Kojak's character:
Telly Savalas, the Greek God of TV, stars as the eponymous no nonsense police Lieutenant Theo Kojak. The tough New York streets need a tough New York cop even if it means bending the rules to see that justice is done.
TV Guide diagnoses:
Filmed in New York, the series was gritty and authentic in its portrayal of cops and crime.
And Television Heaven concurs, adding:
Kojak reclaimed the city of New York's dubious crown as 'Crime Capital of the World', from a decades long stint on the sun-drenched head of the street's [sic] of Southern California. The television viewing world loved Savalas for it. New Yorker's [sic] loved him even more.

In March 2005, Kojak followed the fad of remaking classic TV shows (which I'm not fond of, except for the opportunities that revivals provide to actors of color). In the reimagined series of Kojak TV-movies, Ving Rhames reprised Savalas' role as the jazz-loving, straight-shooting, lollipop-loving gumshoe.

SavalasFan's critique of Rhames' remakes reads:

It is superb. The character is still a sharp dressing prince of the city. He still doesn't do everything by the book and he still protects the innocent. Bobby Crocker is back. Frank MacNeil is back. The lollipops are back. The bald is back too. Most importantly, Kojak still has his heart of gold. I'm as happy watching Ving as I am watching Telly in the role on DVD. Both men bring their own individuality to the role, but the heart and soul of Kojak is there in both versions. The 2005 series truly maintains the integrity of the original character. Kojak is still one hell of a guy. This is how all remakes should be. It's excellent.

Kojak (2005) aired on the USA Network cable TV channel and on United Kingdom's ITV4. However, despite the fact that "Ving Rhames' Kojak remake managed a solid 4.5 million viewers for its premiere," and fans' reviews were generally raves (such as these and these), USA Network cancelled Kojak after one season.

Despite that big, fat sloppy-lip kiss-off, Kojak, I still love ya, baby!