Kojak is an
series starring Telly Savalas as the
title character, bald 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
-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 Girls 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
George Whitmore, Jr, who had been arrested on a separate 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, a white junkie. Kojak himself was a composite,
based on a number of detectives, lawyers and reporters who were
involved in the 1963 Wylie-Hoffert murder case, which included
police detective Thomas J. Cavanagh Jr., known to his colleagues as
"the velvet whip", and who had been part of the team that cleared
Whitmore of the double-murder.
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
, in which the character's last name was spelled
"Kojack", prompted the commission of the series.
opening and closing titles of the pilot emphasized the point that
it was a fictional account of the events that led to the passing of
the Miranda rights by the US Supreme
Court in 1966.
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 (although Kojak is frequently seen
smoking a cigarillo when he winds up a case by interrogation of the
His longtime supervisor was Capt.
Frank McNeil (Dan Frazer). Later in the series, McNeil was promoted to
Chief of Detectives in Manhattan.
Kojak is the commander of the Manhattan
's detective squad. His squad
includes one of his favorite employees: young plainclothes
officer, Det. Bobby Crocker
). Detectives Stavros
(played by Telly's real-life brother George Savalas
, who originally used the name
"Demosthenes" as his screen credit), Saperstein (Mark Russell), and
Rizzo (Vince Conti), all gave Kojak support.
In 1976, acclaimed crime writer Joe Gores
received an Edgar Award
Mystery Writers of
for Best Episode in a TV Series Teleplay for the
third-season episode "No Immunity for Murder" (first aired November
The show ended in 1978, after five seasons, due to low ratings.
Reruns of Kojak
became successful in syndication
. Years after the series ended, Savalas reprised the role
in two TV movies
, The Belarus
(1985), an adaptation of the John
book The Belarus Secret
, and The Price of
(1987), based on Dorothy
's novel, The Investigation
. Kojak is not a
character in either book.
television in five two-hour episodes that aired on ABC
, rotating with three other
series as part of the ABC Mystery Movie
. No longer a
lieutenant commanding a precinct detective squad, Kojak had been
promoted to inspector
and put in charge of
the NYPD's city-wide Major Crimes Squad. Andre Braugher
was cast as a young detective
assigned to Kojak's command.
Series stars The Savalas Brothers (Telly & George), Frazer and
Dobson are the only cast members to appear in every episode of the
series, and stayed throughout the entire run.
- Telly Savalas - Lt./Insp. Theo
Kojak - A bald detective sucking lollipops
- Dan Frazer - Capt. Frank McNeil - Kojak's boss
- Kevin Dobson - Det. Bobby Crocker -
- George Savalas (Demosthenes) -
Det. Stavros - Kojak's supporting co-worker
- Mark Russell - Det. Saperstein
- Vince Conti - Det. Rizzo
- Andre Braugher - Det. Winston
Blake (1989-90 ABC revival)
A roster of guest stars
During its five season run, many unfamiliar and/or familiar actors
who guest-starred on the show went on to greater fame; among those
appearing in Kojak episodes are: John
, Bernie Kopell
, Kathleen Quinlan
, Sharon Gless
, Stacy Keach, Sr.
, Thayer David
, Jayne Kennedy
, David White
, Harvey Keitel
, Charles Siebert
, Joan Van Ark
, Pamela Hensley
, Mary Beth Hurt
, Roosevelt Grier
, Lynn Redgrave
, John Larroquette
, Judith Chapman
, Richard Eastham
, Erik Estrada
, Richard Herd
, Robert Webber
, Richard Gere
, Paul Benedict
, Roger E. Mosley
, Nicholas Colasanto
, James Sloyan
, Paul Michael Glaser
Marco St. John
, Ken Kercheval
, John M.
, Eileen Brennan
, Irene Cara
, Hector Elizondo
, Jackie Cooper
, Jerry Orbach
, Danny Thomas
, Danny Aiello
and James Woods
, among many others.
Future Hill Street Blues
stars, Daniel J. Travanti
and Veronica Hamel
would make guest appearances
on the show, along with future Falcon
stars David Selby
, future The Young and The Restless
stars Eric Braeden
and Jess Walton
, and Len
, who portrayed Uncle Leo
, made appearances on the show, as
The somewhat more well-known first Kojak theme, in two distinct
arrangements is the work of Billy
, who scored the early episodes. John Cacavas
composed the second main title
theme used throughout the show's 5th and final season.
Kojak aired for 5 seasons on CBS
1973-1978. In the mid-eighties Kojak returned in two made-for-TV
movies. In 1989, eleven years after the series ended, Telly Savalas
returned to play Kojak in 5 TV movies that aired on ABC
as part of their ABC
theme block which aired on Saturday
In March 2005, a new Kojak
series debuted on the USA Network cable
channel and on ITV4
in the UK. In this re-imagined version, African-American
actor Ving Rhames
portrays the character. The series
only lasted one season.
In Brazil the show was so successful that in the 1970s and 80s the
term "Kojak" became Brazilian slang for "bald man". Telly Savalas
visited the country to do promotional work.
In Rio de Janeiro, the expression: "I won't give a chance to Kojak"
became popular among criminals — as in, the speaker would avoid
leaving any clue that would lead the police to him or her. Later,
this expression became popular among lay people. Nowadays, it means
"I won't let anyone see my mistakes".
On French television, actor Henry
dubbed Kojak. He also dubbed "Dog Savalas", who was
modelled on Telly Savalas, and was a character from the manga
versions of the
popular Japanese series Space
In Chile, a "kojak" is a slang to refer to any kind of
released Season One of Kojak
in Region 1 on March 22, 2005. Season 1 was also released in Region
2 on July 18, 2005 and in Region 4 on July 13, 2005. It is not
known if the remaining seasons will be released.
||March 22, 2005
||July 18, 2005
||July 13, 2005
- "Thomas J. Cavanagh Jr., 82, Who Inspired 'Kojak,'
Dies" published by the New York Times on Sunday, August 4,
- cobraworld.net, French fan site of "Space Adventure
The NY Times article contains a correction that notes that Kojak is
a composite and not based on any one person.