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|Index||14 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An absolute cracker of a cop series, "Wiseguy" only occasionally had
stand-alone episodes, for the most part telling its stories in arcs that
could run for up to 10 episodes; it's not every show that ends its first
season with the hero being arrested by his partner! (Obviously they were
just doing their jobs, but still...)
With the great triple act of Ken Wahl as Vinnie, Jonathan Banks as his friend and partner McPike, and Jim Byrnes (pre-"Highlander") as liasion Lifeguard - a rare television role for the handicapped in that his affliction was never even mentioned - the best arc by far was the first one with Sonny Steelgrave (the late Ray Sharkey), which occupied practically the entire first season; then the incestuous Proffitts - my first exposure to Kevin Spacey as the mad Mel ("Only the toes knows...") and the staggeringly sexy Joan Severance (pre-Black Scorpion) as his equally disturbed sister Susan; the enigmatic Roger Lococco (William Russ, better here than on "Boy Meets World"); even the venture into the music world was effective.
Stephen J. Cannell and his team of writers and directors spun gripping and tense tales of the battles between good and evil, bringing you so close into the world of Vinnie Terranova that you found yourself sympathising with the heavies without ever turning against the people who were, after all, the good guys - kudos to them all, but especially David J. Burke and Stephen Kronish. The show also boasted one of Mike Post's greatest ever themes; heavy brass and strings instead of rock'n'roll or synths set the tone perfectly.
So effective was this series that I can even forgive the degeneration of the show in its third year, when Ken Wahl's squabbles with the producers began to affect the end result; as far as I'm concerned, the episodes with Steven Bauer don't exist. (As for the TV movie, the less said about that sorry affair the better.) "CSI"'s Carol Mendelsohn used to write for this show; she hasn't lost her touch.
The series is airing in repeats, it seems; not to be missed.
Thank God for those reruns, allowing those of us who weren't smart enough to tape it at the time to do so now! There isn't anything I don't like about this series, other than the fact that it ended. Great acting, great scripts, great production values - this is a production everyone involved with can be proud of. It was unique and ahead of its time in that watching it now I don't think it looks or feels dated at all. There are some great contemporary crime dramas on TV now, but none with the arc structure that made Wiseguy so compelling. Even though the story lines ran in arcs, each episode is eminently watchable in and of itself. Gosh, I miss it, and I sure miss Ken Wahl.
Wiseguy was one of the best shows of the '80s and probably one of the best dramas ever produced for television, ending only, I believe, because of the many infirmities/injuries suffered by Ken Wahl. The gorgeous Wahl was surrounded by an excellent cast that included Jonathan Banks, Jim Burns, and, over the years, George Petrie, Patti D'Arbanville, Gerald Anthony, etc. - anyone brought on the show was a winner. Wiseguy proved a breakthrough for Kevin Spacey and Joan Severance, whose story arc was probably the most powerful the series offered - right up there with the Sonny Steelgrave (Ray Sharkey) story arc. I'm glad to see it's being re-run now - it's a pity there aren't more episodes.
The first season of Wiseguy was by far the best, mostly due to Spacey. For all you Kevin Spacey fans, if you have never seen his performance in this show, it is a MUST. I had not been exposed to him until then, and his performance had me mesmerized, hooked, wanting more. Because of his performance in this particular show, I made it a point to see many of his other works over the years. If you are a Spacey fan, make it a point to watch the reruns of the first season of Wiseguy. (It's probably on DVD...somewhere). This show in general, especially the first season had some additional memorable performances also by Ray Sharkey and Joan Severance. I so looked forward on Wednesday nights to the show and only wished it had survived at least a few more years.
I remember watching Wiseguy in it's original run ... the first season
was fantastic, the shows were well written, the actors were well chosen
for their parts ... the chemistry between Vinnie and McPike, Vinnie and
Sonny, Vinnie, McPike and Lifeguard, the emotional ending of the
Steelgrave arc ...
then the chemistry between Vinnie and Lacoco in the next arc ... I haven't been as devoted to a season of TV since until the first season of '24'.
I have the first 2 DVD sets. The show is holds up great, and what's even better, I've introduced a number of friends and family to the series, and they have all enjoyed them. The series did start to slide downhill after the first season, though I enjoyed the 'KKK' arc, and though not great ...I really did enjoy the "Dead Dog Records" arc. I still say the few minutes of Vinnie and Pattie doin' the nasty towards the end of the arc was some of the hottest scenes I had ever seen on network TV, I'm looking forward to seeing if My memory of it was accurate when the DVD comes out.
One thing I am VERY upset about though, on the DVD, last Steelgrave episode, where Sonny is leaning against the jukebox, beaten and bloodied, and Vinnie is across the room, in the same condition, there is NO "Knights in White Satin" !!!!????? That song was so important to that scene, it just doesn't feel right if you have seen the original televised version and then see the DVD version ..it looses A LOT in the translation ... I understand that they couldn't get the rights or it would have cost too much to get the rights .. but I have to admit, I was very, very disappointed when that came around :(
Other than that lil(?) gripe, it was awesome to see Vinnie and McPike back in action again ... and yes ..I will probably by the complete series as it is released.
I enjoyed watching Wiseguy. It was the first crime drama which took
criminals and made them PEOPLE. Never mind you didn't like most of
them...they were people. Also, Jim's role as Vinnie's "bodyguard" and
protector when things got 'too hot' was great....in my case, it placed a
different perspective on those getting around in a wheelchair. Also,
Vinnie's boss was tough and gentle at the same time....Cannell REALLY did
good job with this show, from preproduction promotion to the execution of
each episode. I even stayed up late at night to watch the reruns on the
WISEGUY was tv series which featured a undercover department of justice agent going so far undercover into the underworld until he is like them. The series featured continuing story arches and each week a deeper and deeper inflitration into the underworld of the mob and trying to avoid detection.Years, ahead of it'stime the series came into being following the cop frenzy stirred by MIAMI VICE, yet this was a totally different concept. WISE GUY recieved good reviews and was quite popular during it's run and had a brief ressurection in the 1990's. A quality program to some and more than "just another cop show." I have seen a few not the entire series.
Great storylines, great acting, great drama. I still think the Vinnie - Sonny interaction was monumental. I was hooked on it from the first episode. Perhaps it is because I was younger, but I still haven't found a series who would overwhelm me so much.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The show was a highly entertaining but something that was even more
rare at that time was that it had a continuing story arc. It was
seldomly seen in prime time and especially not in shows that weren't
The first story arc was and still is the best in my opinion. The character Sonny Steelgrave was a more sanitized version of the Scorsese gangsters of the 90's and that's what made him more believable than most characters on TV. Ken Wahl was not my first reason for watching the show although he never had a better role than this one. His exaggerated Italian-American accent made it hard for me to take him seriously. As the series progressed his character became more complicated and therefore he was more worth seeing than in the first story arc. The interval show between the first and second story arcs was one of the best episodes on TV ever.
The second story with Kevin Spacey was equally fascinating and you could see why he later became a major star. Joan Severance was good eye candy but nothing more.
Like so many series it slowly deteriorated into corn, especially the story arc with Deborah Harry. But all through the series there were ace performers like Jerry Lewis, mimicking his performance in King of Comedy and Tim Curry, a long way away from his Frank 'n' Furter role in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. So even though Ken Wahl was fired the show didn't suffer that greatly and Steven Bauer was a good replacement but the stories got more weak and that was what ultimately killed the show.
Side note: It is also funny to see a movie like Donnie Brasco several years later which was a true story and know that Wiseguy was basically the same concept even though it was pure entertainment.
After Wiseguy vanished from Sky One I believe the UK rights were
acquired by the Famliy Channel which then closed down or changed hands.
Presumably the broadcast rights are now in limbo.
I agree that the one-off TV movie was pretty dire but Steven Bauer's version was rather good and should have been allowed to develop.
Wiseguy, in either version, is one of the best crime shows ever and it's tragic that only a tiny number of people in the UK got to see it on satellite TV. This means that there may never be a region 2 DVD release
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