Enjoy it, just don't take it too seriously. Denzel is also approaching retirement for this role, too. Hopefully, the Equalizer II will be his last.
The Equalizer (1985–1989)
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Enjoy it, just don't take it too seriously. Denzel is also approaching retirement for this role, too. Hopefully, the Equalizer II will be his last.
I love the Equalizer TV series, and Edward "Callan" Woodward was the one to sort things out big time, especially in the rotten core of The Big Apple. McCall provided the reassurance that he would deliver justice before we went to bed for the night.
The series is one part spy-fi, one part private eye, and one part crime drama. Each week, McCall is contacted by someone in need and he responds, charging no fee (he is independently well off, thanks to information gained in his spy days, which allows him to make shrewd investments). Occasionally, he finds his services required by his old masters, via his former boss (and friend) Control. On other occasions, he uses his relationship with control to gain access to agents and resources of "the Agency" to aid in his mission.
The series makes great use of New York location shooting, while also creating an edgy visual style. Shadows are frequently used and the series plays upon urban fears, with various predators menacing his clients. It mixes high class living with squalid apartments and empty warehouse.
Edward Woodward is excellent as McCall, with the character's desire to bring justice and peace giving him ample opportunity to orate. McCall uses powerful speeches as much as powerful handguns. Woodward is at his best when he is raging against something, though he also excels at the quiet moments. He gives the character a well- rounded feel, aided by great writing, which emphasizes McCall's flaws as much as his virtues. McCall's calling has made him a poor father and he often uses guilt to attain favors from Control, yet rants when Control asks him to return the favor.
Apart from the hair and some of the clothes, the one element of the series that scream "the 80s" is the music from Stewart Copeland, the drummer for The Police. Copeland created the synth-heavy sound of the series, from the iconic opening theme, to the incidental music used throughout (again, heavy on synth and drums). However, it is such a part of the show that it never really seems archaic. The same could not be said with the music Copeland created for the Babylon 5 pilot movie ("The Gathering").
The series is filled with great guest actors, many of whom would go on to bigger things, like Vincent D'Onofrio, Kevin Spacey, Christian Slater, and others, while also making great use of classic actors like Robert Lansing (Gary 7, on Star Trek), Ron Neal (Superfly), Robert Mitchum, and Richard Jordan. It made great use of outstanding characters actors, drawn in, no doubt, by the quality writing.
This is a series worth watching and owning on home video. It was a stylish piece of TV, with great characters and excellent writing, and top notch performances.
Where it falls apart is terrible writing. Main actor is actually decent actor, so its not his fault show is horrible. Rest of the cast are neither here nor there. Some can act, somewhat, rest act like its their first time, which it might have been.
I survived 11 episodes of it gradually declining in quality before it became more akin to bad comedy than anything entertaining. Episode #12 "Reign of Terror" is about some street gang and it is by far worst written TV show episode out of everything I have seen in last few years. If you are considering getting this show, I strongly advise watching this episode first to see if this is something that will appeal to you or whether to give this garbage a pass.
Pity it was canceled after four years, but has recently received a full series DVD release, so now can be enjoyed once again by both old and new fans.
Burn Notice is my modern day EQ, but I do miss the days when everyone wasn't 30-something (or more often 20-something) in their professions. A mature man who maybe sees the adolescent wolves nipping at his heels ("This one's mine, McCall!" when McCall tries to get the gunman to lower his weapon and has to shoot), whose mid-life crisis goes in a positive direction.
I do think more slipped by whoever 'proofed' these shows back then, like Colleen's magically disappearing dishrag. It's here by the lamp, it's there in her hand, it's gone, it's back again when Colleen's stalker calls (and calls back). Add to that, the discontinuity when the stalker stops speaking, but his lips are still moving. Somehow I think more of that sort of thing is caught today.
Nor did they count on VHS/DVD magic revealing the 'empty' car going into the water after McCall shoots the driver. Or the badly toupeed stunt double of Woodward's during the fight scene on the boat.
And I have some nits, like the CIA being so threatened by him he's in a Red File (Callan anyone?). I think a real red file would just be given to lawyers and he'd have pile of non-disclosure agreements to sign. Death by hand-cramp.
A lot of promise in the pilot. A nice appearance by Jerry Stiller. A fancy apartment the Equalizer looks out of place in, and a dog that is thankfully never seen again (Sorry, can't Equalize today, I have to take the dog to the vet.) I do wish the series had gotten into how he managed to get the police behind his actions with no 'official' backing. Or stuck to more conventional and fewer preachy stories as it did toward the end. But I still would've loved another season.
Tamely choreographed fights aside and despite a lack of blood when some one is shot The Equalizer stands the test of time. Edward Woodward is perfectly cast as the quintessential English gentleman, at times teaching the bad guys some manners. There are debatably few actors that would have pulled off the dangerous character as well. His age makes the retired character more believable and he has a look and edge that makes him a credible killer.
While each episode is entertaining some fair better than others. It's always engaging whether McCall is using a his wits and some psychology or a ballistic knife, Uzi or Walther PPK. The episodes that are set in the thick of a conspiracy or that give hints of Macall's background are the more memorable. The supporting cast are more than adequate and usually feature a familiar face or an up and coming star of the time.
Its New York setting elevates the realism with its gritty look. The writing, especially for much of the first season is of feature film quality. All episodes are competently directed and capture the trends and style of the time, making it great nostalgia for some. The soundtrack usually contains the chart toppers of the time and while some of the music score has dated the Equalizer theme is still as good as it was back in the 80's.
Between 1985 and 1989 it was perfect TV entertainment. Disregarding pleasant remembrances The Equalizer is as relevant as it was then and still holds up on viewing now.
To jog your memory, Coleman Luck was the writer and producer who wrote most of the Equalizer episodes. He also ran the show for the majority of its time on the air and was the reason we all loved the show. He wrote the episodes we all remember the most . . . like "memories of manon" and "blood and wine" . . . classics. We can only hope that the movie will capture the essence of these episodes.
I am so happy to see Coleman's latest work and can't wait for more.
I found that I now have problems with the whole premise of "The Equalizer". Who is Robert McCall supposed to be, ex-CIA or ex-MI6, licensed private detective or amateur detective, "Robin Hood" or elitist mercenary? I never saw him identify himself as a licensed private detective as the plot description claims he is, but he gets special treatment from the NYPD. You are lead to believe that he is ex-CIA allowed to operate illegally because he is a well respected retired operator, some type of bullet proof "white knight" above the law of the helpless, hapless common folk. (Most of these folks could have solved their own problems if they were armed to begin with.)
The other problem is with his clients. I am not sure if the writers are trying to be politically correct for the times, trying to be provocative, or even have a clear political agenda. I consider myself pretty sympathetic and open minded, but have a hard time developing any sympathy for many of the Equalizer's clients. For example, one women considers cheating on her husband with some guy in a bar, gets an innocent man killed without even warning him, gets her friend who encouraged her to cheat killed, gets a couple of other bystanders killed, almost gets her husband killed, but lives happily ever after to take a vacation with her husband in Nantucket. I hope McCall at least billed her his full rate whatever that is. ("Jim Rockford" was up front $200/day plus expenses.)
Some of the other clients just don't want to move, and several people have to die so they can keep their low rent housing like it was the last place on Earth they could live. "Rockford" would have told them to move if they did not own the property, and blown them off as foolish otherwise.
I am just left with the feeling that McCall is a good man who wants everyone to call him "Sir" or "your lordship", and he thinks he is the "decider" when it comes to who should live and who should die in NYC. Reminds me too much of Dick Cheney, or Higgins on "Magnum P.I.". All McCall needed to do was shoot someone in the face with a shotgun, then make them apologize to him, join the Council on Foreign Relations, and start lobbying for some bank "bail-outs". "Rockford" just wants to fish, do his job, and stay out of gun fights.
I vote for "The Rockford Files" (even "Magnum P.I.") as being much more plausible than "The Equalizer", but if you like fairy tales or just want to see some interesting footage of 1980s NYC, then take a look.
But he was an old man. He should have stuck to old man roles. Playing the tough guy he made so popular in 'Callan' was now past him. Time and again you could see that he was out of breath in action sequences and pulling his punches in fist-fights. Whilst at the same time, the script was never adept enough to carry an intellectual alternative to the use of force.
I watched a few episodes at the time and even then winced at the implausibility of it all. The script was banal and wordy. The plots shallow and predictable. It featured Edward Woodward, great British actor, star of 'The Whicker Man'; and that was that.
You could fall asleep otherwise.
There have been lots of spy series and CIA shows, but never one about a repentant agent until this. Demonstrating that repentance by helping the needs of Everyman was the heart of the show. But each segment retained the "espionage flavor" by using current "agency" personnel, protocol and paraphernalia.
That repentance presupposed moral absolutes, and the segments are replete with a high view of right and wrong. Right is heroic, and sleaze is truly scuzzy. Indeed, this tension forms the basis for Robert McCall's involvement with his clients. After mortally wounding one adversary who still won't reveal a kidnapped victim's whereabouts, McCall asks the dying man about to slide into eternity, "What if there is a God?"
But successful people (and shows) tend to stop doing the thing that made them successful. So later episodes of the series began delving further into the bizarre to try and retain viewer interest. Those experiments didn't work (and never do).
Yet Stewart Copeland's early techno compositions, rhythm work and "Police" chord progressions kept the interest level high, even when the scripts waned at times.
Thankfully, the other genius element was the casting. Kevin Spacey, Ray Sharkey, Will Patton, Patricia Clarkson and many others (like Copeland himself!) got their first crack or big break through The Equalizer. And veteran actors like Tovah Feldschuh, Dennis Christopher, Edward Binns and Robert Lansing came back to the tube via the series. The only problem was, that, next to Woodward, even our best actors sometimes paled (and the scripts were weighted to his lines, and didn't always do the other actos justice).
But the current episodes on air (it was a Universal series, so Universal/NBC has run it on Sleuth and Universal HD networks) are some of the brighter spots on the TV day. Thanks for that!
I was happy to see the show airing on Universal in HD; it's great to be reliving the episodes without dubbing and in HD.
My real purpose in originally writing this was to attempt to prod the owner of the copyright, Universal, to make all the episodes (and possibly some that might be in the can and not yet shown) available on DVD. From the plethora of very positive comments it is obvious that this is not only an artistic success but something that likely would be commercially feasible. I first wrote: "Should it not be made available on DVD, I guess I will have to content myself to try to find all the episodes on VHS and dub them onto DVD-R." Since then I have obtained a set from TVDVDPlanet.com of (it claims) all the episodes on 22 DVD-Rs in boxes with no manufacturer on the label. I have viewed several and they were crudely taped from TV(some even say A&E on them). Video quality is very poor. Apparently this is region free. It seems all are DVD-R not DVD and quality is awful. Packages are shipped from Canada.
Since writing the above I learned that Season One would be officially released by Universal in the States and it has been. This is a region 1 DVD. It is a 5 disc set with all 22 episodes from the first season. It can be ordered at Amazon.com and other sellers. Technical quality is very good. I did notice that one episode was in stereo though the packaging says mono. Definitely worthwhile and I hope they follow through on the rest.
Since writing the above I have noted that the domain TVDVDPlanet.com has been taken away from one Alan Knight of Key West Florida by Planet Entertainment, Inc. The complaint alleged that the website may be offering unauthorized and infringing product to the public. See http://www.tvdvdplanet.com/tvdvdplanet.pdf. Nothing was said about the "quality" (or lack of it) of the product.
Thomas J McKeon Indianapolis
I'm only going on 14 and just started watching the show's reruns about 2 months ago (when my grandma discovered it was in syndication) but it's already one of my favorites. I was educated early on about violence and the issues that I see appear in the Equalizer, so I understand it completely. I know the show has a high level of violence and deals with many strong subjects, but that's nothing compared to some of the things I see today on TV. McCall does kill a lot of bad guys, but at least they don't make an extremely graphic scene. McCall even dislikes killing anyone, so that doesn't mean he enjoys shooting his gun off at every criminal out there. This show dealt with things that actually happen. There is violence out there, and there are very scary things going on as well. If only there were a few real Equalizers, we could make a difference.
Robert McCall has true to life feelings in my opinion. Sure, you may not meet a man who keeps a bunch of weapons and used to work for the CIA, but he has normal feelings. He's calm and kind, but his temper can flare with proper stimulation, such as a very nasty bad guy or an argument with Control. He knows what to do and tries all he can to help his clients. Edward Woodward does a great job portraying Robert McCall as lifelike. He brings a uniqueness to the character that I haven't seen on any show before. The role fit him perfectly. Woodward's way of playing McCall can not be done by anyone else.
The Equalizer is ready to dole out justice to criminals, and to equalize the odds of those who's odds are against them. I may not have been alive when the show ran it's course, but thanks to syndication, The Equalizer is my daily treat to enjoy alone, with my family, or with my friends. I truly think it is an awesome show.
The episodes give one the sense of a short theatrical production as opposed to a half hearted, thrown together typical television program. The stories are thought out with substantial plot development. The background of the characters are nicely developed which allows the viewer to empathize with them and experience the drama fully as it unfolds.
The music, locations and the black Jaguar all contribute as well to making this series, undoubtedly, one of the best ever syndicated productions ever.
If you aren't familiar with the adventures of Robert McCall or haven't had the privilege of observing an Edward Woodward performance then get your wallet out and buy this series. I'm highly confident you won't regret doing so.
Excellent actors, especially,Edward Woodward, nice shots of NY, fine music from Stewart Copeland,still have the CD "the equalizer and other cliffhangers" ,nice Jag, I bought the same model 8 years ago,and drive her still around. Last week the rerun, one episode a week, started here on television.It was the first episode, in which mcCall meets his son Scott after quitting the secret service. Does anybody know if Robert Mitchum acted in some of later episodes; The ones in which mcCall, drove the later model Jag xj40 .A shame this TV-series isn't on DVD available !!! Bye, Emile