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Don Michael Paul,
The short-lived series "Toma" Starring Tony Musante from the early 1970's
It goes to show with this was one of the more "underrated" if "lost" cop shows that emerge from the early 1970's. And the short-lived crime drama/detective series "Toma" was one of them.
"Toma" was based on the real-life story and published biography of Newark, New Jersey police detective David Toma who in the mid-1960's and early 1970's made a name for himself by using unorthodox techniques to get the goods on criminals and other forms of lowlife who were running rampant on the streets. He would often dress up in disguise mostly doing undercover work to catch the baddies while achieving his success while never firing a conceal weapon. However,the real David Toma became one of America's most sought after speakers,touring all across the country lecturing to students in the middle and high schools across the country about the dangers of drugs and other deadly abuse substances. To this day,he is still lecturing to kids about drugs and he has also been on the talk show circuit as well,making appearances on "The Phil Donahue Show","The Montel Williams Show","Oprah","Geraldo",and also just about any other talk show format in question where David Toma was featured as a guest speaker. His speeches toward the dangers of drugs is riveting to this day.
The short-lived television series "Toma" was gripping police drama at its best. The series received excellent reviews and good intentions as a hard hitting,realistic and gritty police drama set in the mean streets of Newark not to mention based on a real-life individual who has seen it all. The series starred Tony Musante as David Toma. Susan Strasberg played David's wife Patty Toma. His boss,Inspector Spooner,was played by actor Simon Oakland(a veteran of many fine television police dramas and theatrical features notably starring opposite Steve McQueen in the 1968 thriller "Bullitt"). During its run,the series received favorable but mixed reviews as well as its blistering criticism for its depictions of criminal and police violence. Another reason why this series was so brilliant is because the producers had the real David Toma in some of the episodes since it was always fun to spot him in the background role before getting the "point-out" in the ending credits.
Created by Edward Hume and Produced by Stephen J. Cannell,along with Roy Huggins who served as executive producer of this series under his production company Public Arts Productions in association with Universal Television,the series ran for one season and produced 24 episodes when it was originally broadcast on ABC-TV from October 5, 1973 until the final episode of the series on May 10, 1974. Although "Toma" was achieving relatively excellent ratings during its run,the show encounter some roadblocks. Actor Tony Musante wanted creative changes as well as more gritty story lines,and Musante was worried that "Toma" would go the route of just about every other cop show that emerge during the 70's(see "Columbo","The Streets of San Francisco","Cannon",and "The Rookies" for a prime example..."Kojak" was the only other cop show of the era that didn't go the route of this courtesy of Telly Savalas). A second season was planned,but Musante told the producers at the outset that he wanted to continue but left the show after one season. After "Toma" was cancelled in the Spring of 1974,the show was retooled as "Baretta",which premiered on ABC in January of 1975,with Robert Blake in the title role with some of the violent scenes toned down. "Baretta" lasted more than three seasons on ABC ending in May of 1978. And it turned into just the formatic kind of show Musante didn't want.
But when it came to some great episodes,"Toma" was the better of the bunch. Check out the best episodes from this underrated series of the early 1970's: -The pilot episode "The Oberon Contract" -"Ambush on Seventh Avenue", "Blockhouse Breakdown", -The two-parter episode "Time And Place Unknown" -"The Contract on Alex Cordeen", "A Pound of Flesh" -"Indictment"(guest starring Jamie Farr,in role far from his portrayal of Klinger of M*A*S*H as a villainous corruption city official) -The final episode of the series "The Accused"
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