Synopsis of TV Show
“Who loves ya, baby?”
Police shows used to be all about straight-arrow guys like Joe Friday, but that all changed in the 1970’s. The new style was all about attitude—cool, plain-clothes cops like Baretta, Starsky and Hutch, and of course the bald, lolly-loving hero they called Kojak.
The character of Lieutenant Theo Kojak, a dedicated cop who pounded the pavement in Manhattan, first appeared in a 1973 made-for-television film titled The Marcus-Nelson Murders. When the hard-nosed detective hit it off in a big way with audiences, he was promptly given his own show. Kojak joined the CBS lineup full-time in October of 1973 and became one of the most distinctive and successful cop shows of its era.
Kojak was not your standard-issue cop. With his shiny head and fondness for lollipops, the lieutenant cut a unique figure amongst the rest of the detectives. He was equally unorthodox in his police work: Kojak used more street smarts than police protocol, he had a cynical attitude towards the police bureaucracy, and he was fully willing to bend the law if it meant getting his man. These edgy tendencies were balanced out by the fact that Kojak was also quite compassionate towards the victims of the crimes he investigated.
The main person Lt. Kojak dealt with at the 13th Precinct was Frank McNeil, a former partner who became his boss by moving up the ranks to Chief of Detectives. He and Kojak often locked horns over issues of police procedure, but both men always respected each other. The lone wolf Kojak didn’t work with a partner, but when he needed help, he got it from plainclothes detective Bobby Crocker. Detectives Stavros, Rizzo and Saperstein also lent a hand every once in a while.
Kojak’s gritty but exciting take on police work in the Big Apple instantly clicked with viewers around the world. The show was praised by policemen for its realistic portrayal of police methods, but the key to Kojak’s appeal was the charismatic lead performance by Telly Savalas. His portrayal of Kojak blended a lounge-lizard charm, hard-nosed machismo, and barely-hidden sentimentality that never failed to work its magic on viewers. As a result, Kojak catapulted Savalas to international superstar status and made Kojak’s “Who loves ya, baby?” an instant catchphrase. The series was also notable for giving early roles to future film stars like James Woods and Harvey Keitel.
After nearly five years of catching bad guys, Kojak retired his network badge in the spring of 1978. But you can’t keep a good cop down, especially one as popular as Detective Kojak. Savalas returned to television in the mid-1980’s for a pair of made-for-TV films. Both did well, inspiring ABC to add Kojak to its ABC Mystery Movie lineup. The new slot led to five Kojak movies between 1989 and 1990. Sadly, these would be the last of the Kojak cases, as Telly Savalas passed away in 1994.
Release History of Prime Time Show10/24/73 - 4/15/78 CBS
10/4/89 - 6/30/90 ABC
TV Sub Categoriesdrama
Television NetworkCBS, ABC
Television StudioUniversal Television
TV CastLieutenant Theo Kojak Telly Savalas
Captain Frank McNeil Dan Frazer
Sergeant Bobby Crocker Kevin Dobson
Detective Stavros George Savalas
Detective Rizzo (1974-77) Vince Conti
Detective Saperstein (1974-77) Mark Russell
Detective Winston Blake (1989) Andre Braugher