Kojak (1973 series) is an American television series starring Telly Savalas as the eponymous New York City Police Department Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak. It aired from October 24, 1973 to March 18, 1978 on CBS. It took the time slot of the popular Cannon series, which was moved one hour earlier. Kojak's Greek heritage, shared by actor Savalas, was prominently featured in the series.
The show was created by Abby Mann, an Academy Award-winning film writer best known for his work on drama anthologies such as Robert Montgomery Presents and Playhouse 90. Universal Television approached him to do a story based on the 1963 Wylie-Hoffert "Career Girl" murders. The crime involved the brutal rape and murder of two young professional women in Manhattan. Due to poor police work and the prevailing casual attitude toward suspects' civil rights, the crime was pinned on a young African-American male who was being held at the time on an assault charge. After illegally obtaining a confession, the police had the suspect all but convicted until a second investigation by a different team of detectives exonerated the suspect and identified the real killer.
Mann developed the project as a gritty police procedural, but with a subtext focusing on institutionalized prejudice and the civil rights of suspects and witnesses. The result, The Marcus-Nelson Murders, in which the character's last name was spelled "Kojack", prompted the commission of the series.
The series is set in New York City's Thirteenth Precinct. It revolves around the efforts of the incorruptible Lt. Theo Kojak (Telly Savalas). A tough, bald New York City policeman who was fond of lollipops and for using the catchphrase, "Who loves ya, baby?" Lt. Kojak displayed a dark, cynical wit and a tendency to bend the rules in order to bring a criminal to justice. In the early episodes of the series, Kojak smoked heavily; in order to reflect the anti-smoking sentiment gaining momentum on American TV, the writers decided that Kojak had quit smoking. He began sucking on lollipops as a substitute, which became a trademark of the character.
His longtime supervisor was Capt. Frank McNeil (Dan Frazer). The two weren't just crime-solving partners, but also had a lot in common. Later on, McNeil was promoted to Chief of Detectives in Manhattan. Kojak is the commander of the Manhattan South Precinct's detective squad. His squad includes one of his favorite employees; young plainclothes officer, Det. Bobby Crocker (Kevin Dobson), who was often Kojak's partner and is trusted by his boss, as anyone who is close compared to the one Kojak already had. In addition, Det. Stavros (played by Telly's real-life brother George Savalas), Det. Saperstein (Mark Russell), and Det. Rizzo (Vince Conti), all gave Kojak support.
Many actors who guest-starred on the show went on to greater fame, including John Ritter, Bernie Kopell, Sharon Gless, Swoosie Kurtz, Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Joan Van Ark, John Pleshette, Yvonne Craig, Lynn Redgrave, Kene Holliday, John Larroquette, Erik Estrada, Daniel J. Travanti, Sally Kirkland, Richard Gere, Paul Benedict, Roger E. Mosley, Stephen Macht, Nicholas Colasanto, Dabney Coleman, Paul Michael Glaser, Ken Kercheval, Judith Light, Irene Cara, Hector Elizondo, William Katt, Jerry Orbach, Danny Thomas, Allan Miller, James Woods, among many others. Future Falcon Crest stars, David Selby and Susan Sullivan made cameo appearances on the show, as well, and future The Young and The Restless stars, Eric Braeden and Jess Walton also made cameo appearances.
In 1976, writer Joe Gores received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Episode in a TV Series Teleplay for the third-season episode "No Immunity for Murder" (first aired November 23, 1975).
The show ended in 1978, after low ratings. Reruns of Kojak became extremely successful in syndication and TV Land. Years after the series ended, Savalas reprised the role in two TV movies, The Belarus File (1985), an adaptation of the John Loftus's book The Belarus Secret, and The Price of Justice (1987), based on Dorothy Uhnak's novel, The Investigation. Kojak is not a character in either book.
In 1989–1990 Kojak returned to television as part of a short-lived rotating series of five two-hour episodes that aired on ABC as part of their ABC Mystery Movies. No longer a lieutenant commanding a precinct detective squad, Kojak had been promoted to inspector and put in charge of the NYPD's Major Crimes Squad. Andre Braugher was cast as a young detective assigned to Kojak's command.
- Telly Savalas - Lt./Insp. Theo Kojak - A bald detective sucking lollipops
- Dan Frazer - Capt. Frank McNeil - Kojak's boss
- Kevin Dobson - Det. Bobby Crocker - Kojak's partner
- George Savalas - Det. Stavros - Kojak's supporting co-worker
- Mark Russell - Det. Saperstein (seasons 2-4)
- Vince Conti - Det. Rizzo (seasons 2-4)
- Andre Braugher - Det. Winston Blake (1989-90 ABC revival)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment released Season One of the original series on DVD for the first time in Region 1 on March 22, 2005. On July 18, 2005, Universal Playback released Season One in Region 2. It is not known if the remaining seasons will be released.
|Title||Region 1||Region 2|
|Season 1||March 22 2005|| July 18 2005|
(R2 has different cover art)
|Season 2||TBA||December 27 2007|