"There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them."
The head of security at work loaned me one of his boxed sets for 'Naked City' (3 disks, four episodes each).
One reason I find that the show is still superior to 'Law & Order', even for its age, is that there is so much variety to the episodes, whereas 'L&O' is so rigidly formulaic. Even if Dick Wolf's baby stayed within the boundaries of crime investigation first half hour, prosecution of the case in the second half, it's still ALWAYS about murder.
On the other hand, the cops of 'Naked City' investigate domestic abuse, art theft, kidnappings, juvenile delinquency, and they also partake in the occasional cross-country prisoner transport. Murders don't always have to take place.
I suppose it would be more fitting to compare it to 'Homicide: Life On The Street', or because of its setting, 'NYPD Blue'. But even then, both of those shows were always fixated on murder.
But above all, the show's great because it's from a day when the written word was sometimes more powerful than the visual image.
One episode I watched the other day was 'The Multiplicity Of Herbert Konish' which had David Wayne, Jean Stapleton, and Nancy Marchand as its guest stars. It was all about a little man who led five different lives in the city, and the cops were convinced he was breaking some kind of law.
Herbert Konish worked in a finance company; he ran a mission for the downtrodden; he operated a farm in Staten Island; he communed the night away with fellow "beat poets"; and on his lunch hours, he hustled ping pong games - all five lives led under different aliases.
It was written by Ernest Kinoy, who must be considered one of the unsung legends of Television. Nobody dies in the episode, there's no big dramatic mystery; it's just a charming, quiet little character study that's bemusing.
Far be it for me to think I could improve on the work of a great writer like Kinoy, but at the very end, there was something I would have changed - the very last line. For such an offbeat episode as this, I would have rewritten the standard closing words of the show to reflect the nature of this episode......
"There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been five of them........"