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Jesse L. Martin,
Kelly Coffield Park
A fast paced look at life for the officers of the El Camino Police Department, High Incident takes the viewers into the trenches with the street police officers, where the war on crime is being fought, one criminal at a time, and the casualties are mounting up. Written by
Brian Junkin <Spartapd@hotmail.com>
Striking a fine Balance between Drama, Comical Situations, Realistic Police Situations and a Unique Home Entertainment!
A frequent remark that Policemen encounter is something along the lines of, "You don't look like a Cop!" Another one is, "You don't seem like a Cop!" You can ask a Cop and see if it isn't true (as a question, not a condition). These questions certainly are a peculiarity to the job or vocation of being a Policeman; that have no counterparts in other fields.
TO sort of turn the tables, we can ask some well known Second Story men to participate in an experiment with a control group consisting of a fine cross section of the Public. In all likelihood, a good number of the participating citizens of this panel would say something like, "Gee Mr. Breakandenter, you sure don't look like any old Burglar!"
AND so we are left with the question of just what causes there to be such uniformly wide spread attitudes? Quite simply put, the responding people are the end product of some outside influence. The name of that great and influential force is our popular fiction; which does by the way, cut as a double edged sword in both directions. The fictional persona of the Tough Talking', Ass Kickin', Rough and Tumble Street Copper is also propagated by our popular literature, film, Radio and Television. This is particularly true of Police assigned to quiet residential areas or central business districts; who have never worked in some of the hell holes of precincts/districts where the low guy on the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder collides with the most brutal, unspeakable street crime.
IT was this idea of portraying Cops as individuals who have their own varying personalities that was a central founding premise of HIGH INCIDENT (Donwell Productions/Dreamworks/ABC TV, 1997-98). The show presented us with about 'everybody' as being Policemen. Other than David Keith's portrayal of Sgt. Jim Marsh, all of the rest of the characters were a real mixed bag of nuts. We had not one, but a whole bunch of characters and the actors cast in the parts seemed to quite against type.
AGAIN as a standard to measure all others, Mr. Keith's Sgt. Marsh is at once both the prototype and yet the quintessential of the Super Cop. He is experienced, incorruptible, tough, and strong, quasi-militarily disposed, physically fit and cuts a fine figure of a man in his uniform. His holding the rank of Sergeant also places him in that small, select circle of people who truly run the operations on the street. His demeanor and obvious knowledge of both Police Procedure and the Law are readily observable in any of the scenes featuring any of those "High Incidents'. This puts him on the same plane as Jack Webb's Sgt. Joe Friday from DRAGNET (Mark VII, Universal TV, 1951-59, 67-70).
HIGH INCIDENT is set in a fictional Southern California town of "El Camino", in English literally, "the Highway". All things about the Department and the town are very Los Angeles-like. (Boy, what a surprise that is!) The town seems to be a very "upscale" slice of suburbia, yet still displays areas of blight and economic depression.* This afforded a wide variety of possibilities for story lines.
THE Production team** was not afraid to take the stories all around the full spectrum of emotions. We saw a virtual out and out farce in one episode with a couple of the guys taking an expensive recovered auto for a brief cruise; only to have it come up missing and then clearing up the whole mess. Another very different sort of fare, Officer Len Gayer (Matt Craven) has a brief (once only) fling with the widow of his slain partner. The situation is complicated with her being a Black Lady with a young Son. Fearing his discovering the relationship, she selflessly and boldly puts an abrupt end to it. In a short, but highly emotional and literate few scenes, HIGH INCIDENT reminds and demonstrates us of how complex these situations are and how there are many unintended consequences that could be far reaching and hurtful to our loved ones, even far down the line.
ONCE again, in HIGH INCIDENT we find a Cop Show about Uniformed Policemen, which managed to strike fine balance between being character-driven or incident driven, storyline and action, Police Work and Soap Opera. It was hanging in there with the ratings game when the axe fell. In total, they did 32 Episodes over parts of 2 Seasons. It would sure be great if we could get those in DVD, VHS, even Beta!
NOTE: * We recall a Dr. Kosinar in lecture at The City Colleges of Chicago, Woodrow Wilson Branch, saying that many areas of future urban blight will appear in some of those quick-sprouting hunks of Suburbia & the American Dream. Now, 40 + years later, we can clearly see that the Good Professor was right!
NOTE: ** The series also boasted of having Charles Haid on board. He is the guy who portrayed Officer Andy Renko in HILL STREET BLUES; but he was not cast in front o the camera. He was one of the Producers on the Series; as was some guy named Steven Spielberg.
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