On the timeline of successful TV cop dramas, Kojak
offered bold authenticity and paved the way for NYPD Blue. As immortalised by Telly Savalas
, veteran detective Theo Kojak was introduced in the 1973 TV movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders
, a ratings hit that encouraged CBS and writer-producer Abby Mann to create a trend-setting series (based on a book by Selwyn Raab) that premiered on October 24 of that year. The Greek, bald-headed, snappily attired Kojak brought no-nonsense bravado to homicide cases in South Manhattan--a setting that lent a gritty, urban edge to intelligent plots that won the respect of real cops with an emphasis on diligent police work instead of overblown action and phony glamour. While working cases with his captain Frank McNeil (Dan Frazer) and closest colleagues Crocker (Kevin Dobson) and Stavros (played by Savalas's brother George, credited as "Demosthenes" for the first two seasons), Kojak had a knack for bending the rules (but never breaking them) if he knew it would solve a crime.
Kojak came at a perfect time for Savalas and cop dramas in general. The actor's career was slumping in the early '70s (he'd just appeared in the Italian horror film Lisa and the Devil), and he quickly put his personal stamp on the role with street-wise sarcasm and trademark lollipops (a perfect prop that Savalas adopted to quit smoking). Consistently well-written, the series was realistically rooted in a broad spectrum of New York City crime. These qualities attracted plenty of fresh and established talent, and these 22 well-preserved episodes include guest appearances by Harvey Keitel, James Woods, Richard Jordan, Hector Elizondo, John Ritter (in one of his first TV roles), Paul Michael Glaser, Dabney Coleman, Tina Louise, and a host of familiar TV veterans. For this debut season, Savalas won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, and Kojak ran for five well-rated seasons, followed by several TV-movie revivals in 1985, 1989, and 1990. The enduring popularity of Kojak was further proven when the show was revived yet again in March of 2005, with Ving Rhames in the title role. --Jeff Shannon
All 22 episodes from the first series of the popular, hard-hitting American detective drama, about the bald, no-nonsense cop who is never without a lollipop in his hand, played by Telly Savalas. In this series, Kojak has to capture three robbers holed up in an Army surplus store after a bungled heist, tracks down a serial-strangler, and goes undercover as a chemist to trap a gang of morphine thieves. Episodes are: 'Siege of Terror'; 'Web of Death'; 'One For the Morgue'; 'Knockover'; 'Girl in the River'; 'Requiem For a Cop'; 'The Corrupter'; 'Dark Sunday'; 'Conspiracy of Fear'; 'Cop in a Cage'; 'Marker to a Dead Bookie'; 'Last Rites For a Dead Priest'; 'Death is Not a Passing Grade'; 'Die Before They Wake'; 'Deliver Us Some Evil'; 'Eighteen Hours of Fear'; 'Before the Devil Knows'; 'Dead on His Feet'; 'Down a Long and Lonely River'; 'Mojo'; 'Therapy in Dynamite' and 'The Only Way Out'.