Beginning life as an award winning 1973 TV Movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders (based on the true life Wylie-Hoffert case), and played with charismatic charm by long established movie actor Telly Savalas as the New York cop with a penchant for sucking lollipops, the series went for a graphic 'street level' realism which turned it into an instant top-ten hit in it's first season.
Lt. Kojak was a tough cop with a smart mouth and wits even sharper than his top flight dress sense. Support came from George Savalas (brother of Telly), as Detective Stavros, Dan Frazer as Chief Frank McNeil, and a small team of hitherto unknown actors who were destined to become, for a while, instantly recognisable household names. The series was a global hit and even after it's five year run it was brought back in a succession of TVM's, the last being made in 1989. By this time Theo Kojak had been promoted to the rank of Inspector.
In 1993 Savalas sued the makers of Kojak, Universal TV, for $6 million, his claimed 25 per cent of the programmes profits. He died a year later. The series elevated Savalas to the status of superstar and (unlikely) sex-symbol. In 1975 at the height of his popularity he even topped the popular music charts with a cheesy version of David Gates' song "If". However, his musical career was cut mercifully short when his next recording ("You've Lost That Loving Feeling") only just managed to creep into the top fifty at number 47, where it stayed for one week before vanishing forever.
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 of Southern California. The television viewing world loved Savalas for it. New Yorker's loved him even more.
Published on December 28th, 2018. Written by SRH for Television Heaven.