The Commish (1991–1995)
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My Grade: B-
Michael Chiklis is one of those actors who can do anything. An accomplished stage performer, he did return to theater after the run of "The Commish" but came back to television as a policeman again - this one with a real dark side - on "The Shield," a big hit for F/X. "The Shield" was truly the evil brother of "The Commish," and it's the rare actor who could carry off both so perfectly. Though I'm a great admirer of "The Shield," I admit that TV isn't as bright without Tony Scali.
The show centers on small-town Police Commissioner Tony Scali, who leads the force in Eastbridge, New York (based on real-life Rye, N.Y., Police Commissioner Tony Schembri, who collaborated on a few scripts for the series). As another poster stated, Eastbridge could easily be the Mayberry of the North, but considering that violent crime can and does happen there, one could also make comparisons to Cabot Cove, Maine or Sparta, GA., two other seemingly sleepy TV towns where trouble often lurks in the shadows.
Most of the time, though, it's petty crime and petty incidents that take up the time of Tony and his quirky force of officers...they're just as likely, if not more so, to help an old lady whose son stole her dentures (as part of a bigger plot to force her to move into a nursing home) or break up a fight between two guys dressed in chicken outfits, as they are to investigate a murder or a drug deal. Also, Tony's home life takes up a good deal of some episodes...he has to help his son get a date or coach the kid's basketball team, he supports his wife in their efforts to have another child...it's little things like this that lighten the mood and make The Commish more than just another shoot-'em-up.
Commissioner Scali is truly a different cop...unlike Chiklis's later character of Vic Mackey, who was more of a criminal than the criminals he pursued, with his brutality and disregard for suspect's rights, Tony relies on wit, charm and good old common sense to solve most problems...but that doesn't mean he doesn't get mad...far from it. He can yell with the best of them if the occasion warrants. Tony Scali might be a kind, sweet man, but he's nobody's pushover.
If Tony is Andy, he needs a Barney. For most of the first season, Irv Wallerstein (Alex Bruhanski) fills that role, until he's killed while working undercover, prompting one of the biggest bursts of anger from the normally-calm Commissioner. After solving Irv's murder, Tony takes on 'visiting' L.A. detective (and high-school buddy) Paulie Pentangeli (John Cygan) as a sidekick. Cygan fills out the season, then disappears to make way for Detective Cyd Madison (Melinda McGraw) for a couple of seasons, then returns to stay for the fourth season and the TV-movie follow-ups. And at home, he has the support of his beautiful and devoted wife Rachel, played by the underrated Theresa Saldana, who sadly seems more remembered for being brutally attacked by an obsessed fan that for any acting roles.
The Commish is definitely a great, lighter cop show if you want to see a cop that favors brains and charm over weapons. My rating...8 out of 10.
There is nothing more I can say as I pull back the tears. I loved "The Commish," and I wasn't the only one. We all did. It kept us going.
The setting is the New York area, but the series was shot in Vancouver, B.C. giving the series a fresh look.
One thing we noted is that the supporting crew and guest actors are given time to contribute. They come ready to play and the casting guy seems to favor quirky-looking folk, which makes for compelling viewing. I was just contrasting the trend at the current show 'Lie to Me' to have the camera follow Tim Roth everywhere, and to barely give any other characters room to breathe. With Commish, you enjoy the story, and you feel as if you are getting closer to the characters every episode.
So, if you missed it, and you're looking for a quality series on web stream, or season-DVD, give Commish a try.