For starters, The Equalizer was a great show. It's also one of my favourites. This DVD release is very much anticipated, not least by myself as my VHS recordings (from when it was repeated on ITV in the very early 90s) are wearing out. I've ordered Season 1 as a pre-release, and eagerly awaiting it's release day.
So, why do I think it was such a great show? The show's main premise, of a semi-retired ex-intelligence officer (called Robert McCall) who hires his `services' to ordinary people, was a great starting point. This provided a refreshingly different take on the usual run-of-the-mill cop shows. It led to some fantastic stories, with far more variety than the more usual cop-hunts-bad-guy routines. It ran for 4 seasons - hopefully they will all be released on DVD in due time.
The show tackled some taboo issues well before any other show dare - there are episodes on HIV, child abuse (both physical and sexual), baby kidnapping, rape, deafness, blindness, learning difficulties and gun control. In fact, no other show has ever tackled some of these subjects, even since. This is along with episodes where McCall takes on the mafia, muggers, drug gangs, street gangs, Russian spies (remember the cold war was still on in 1985-87), a variety of hitmen, corporate bad guys, evil landlords, rogue ex-intelligence agents, bad cops, pimps, dodgy lawyers, peeping toms, ex special service soldiers, arms dealers, etc. In one episode he's hired to deal with a classroom of rowdy kids. In another he gets set up and is arrested for murder, but is then broken out of jail by his agency friends. Often, the main plot line is augmented with another interesting touches - in one episode McCall had flu, in another he'd already been shot and was still hobbling around, while in another his kitchen was taken apart by an inept repair man, which he then tried to deal with whilst rescuing a family from a hit-man. There are very few car chases - which says something in its own right.
Of importance was how McCall dealt with the situations. He planned his responses - never went in blasting (unlike many cop shows). In short, McCall was a thinking man's good guy, but there is also violence in this show - sometimes subtle, sometimes very direct - and sometimes more than you see in today's shows, with McCall quite blatantly beating or killing people. But the violence was always well used, never over done - and in more than one episode he speaks of his regrets and his disliking for some of the things he's had to do.
Other characters also played a major part in the show. McCall was certainly no one-man band. He knew lots of people whom he could call upon. His main sidekick was Mickey Kostmeyer (a much younger man still working for the same agency that McCall used to) but others usually joined in. The detail added by the other characters provided an nice extra dimension to the episodes. Indeed, you could quite easily imagine these characters each having a show of their own - the character expansion and depth was that good.
My favourite episode (`Dead Drop' in Season 1) sees all of McCall's friends helping a man who has been caught up in a dodgy distribution network. This particular episode is quite wonderful - it's very well written, funny and the interplay between the various characters is teased out with superb effect.
Despite some of the darker plot lines, humour was also present, with some banter between the characters. Various references to other TV shows and movies were also made. The shooting locations in and around New York City were excellently chosen. The cinematography and camera work was also brilliant. Attention to detail was fantastic. The accompanying musical score and theme tune was unique and brilliantly employed (composed by Stuart Copeland, of The Police fame). Edward Woodward's wonderful acting skills are demonstrated to the full, as was the skills of other cast members. The high production values are very apparent. I could simply go on and on.
The Equalizer can rightly be compared with the best shows of today - it stands up excellently, even now, more than 23 years later.
So again, just why do I think it was such a great show? Simple answer - it worked. Everything came together so sweetly. It's very rare for this to happen in a 45 minute TV show, but in The Equalizer, it happened in every episode.
UPDATE - 23 April 2008...
Having just received this, after pre-ordered for 4 months (!) - I'm disappointed with the picture quality. The episodes are great, but some of the picture quality is poor, in fact my 18 year old VHS recordings from ITV are better !! Some scenes are very grainy (much worse than my VHS tapes), there is evidence of some over-compression, and some of the colour is washed out in some scenes. There are no extras. Although I am a fan of the series, I think I'll be keeping my VHS copies!