"Kojak is sexier
than Cannon and Barnaby Jones put together."
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Telly Savalas. There are so many movies and TV show episodes for which he will be remembered (perhaps chief among them in both categories are “The Dirty Dozen” and “Living Doll”, an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’, respectively.) But I doubt there could be any argument that the detective series ‘Kojak’ is the pinnacle of his career.
‘Kojak’ is an American action crime drama television series starring Telly Savalas as the title character, New York City Police Department Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak. Taking the time slot of the popular ‘Cannon’ series, it aired on CBS from 1973 to 1978.
In 1999 TV Guide ranked Theo Kojak number 18 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list.
The series was set in the New York City Police Department's Eleventh Precinct (the building shown was actually Ninth Precinct), Manhattan South Patrol Borough.
In the context of the script, Kojak's was seen as typical squad room humor, which would be picked up later in the TV drama ‘Hill Street Blues’. Savalas described Kojak as a "basically honest character, tough but with feelings—the kind of guy who might kick a hooker in the tail if he had to, but they'd understand each other because maybe they grew up on the same kind of block." Kojak's Greek American heritage, shared by actor Savalas, was featured prominently in the series. In the early episodes of the series, he is often seen smoking cigarettes. Following the 1964 Surgeon General's Report on smoking, cigarette commercials were banned from American television in 1971, and public awareness of the dangers of cigarette smoking increased dramatically during the 1970s.
To cut down on his own habit, Kojak began using lollipops as a substitute. The lollipop made its debut in the Season 1 episode "Dark Sunday", broadcast on December 12, 1973; Kojak lights a cigarette as he begins questioning a witness, but thinks better of it and sticks a lollipop (specifically, a Tootsie Pop) in his mouth instead. Later in the episode, Kevin Dobson's character Crocker asks about the lollipop and Kojak replies, "I'm looking to close the generation gap." Although Kojak continued to smoke, as he was frequently seen lighting a cigarillo, the lollipop eventually became his identifying characteristic; in fact, when the series debuted a new opening montage in season five, Kojak is seen both lighting a cigarillo and popping a lollipop into his mouth.
‘Kojak’ came out during the wave of TV detectives who had some sort of gimmick – Barnaby Jones was old. Frank Cannon was fat. Mike Longstreet was blind. And Lt. Frank Columbo was rumpled.
It’s no wonder that some TV producer (to be found only in Toobworld) decided to make a TV show about this brash NYPD cop. As I always say, stealing and mangling Warhol’s famous saying – in Toobworld, everybody will have their own TV show.
We’ve seen ‘Kojak’ playing on TV – but not technically in Toobworld. It was playing on Sam Tyler’s TV in “Out Here In The Fields”, an episode of ‘Life On Mars’, the U.S. remake of the British series.
Ladies and gents, it’s spoiler time!
At the end of the series, it is revealed that Tyler's 2008 and 1973 realities were both fictitious, created by the onboard computer of a spacecraft that is carrying Tyler [and other crew members on a mission to Mars.]
To sustain the crew, their minds were routinely kept active while asleep using virtual reality "neural stimulation" programs of their own choosing, but Sam's choice of a scenario - where he was a police officer c. 2008 - was abruptly changed to a 1973 setting by a computer glitch induced by a meteor-storm.
So in order to create that dreamscape, the computer had to draw on the memory banks full of information from back on Toobworld. And that would include the televersion of the TV show ‘Kojak’, based on the “real” Toobworldling, Theo Kojak.
Of course, Theo Kojak in the TV show looks remarkably like the actor Telly Savalas who does have an official televersion. As a member of the League of Themselves, Savalas was seen in “Has Anyone Here Seen Telly?” – an episode of ‘Alice’. (In the episode, nobody believes Vera when she tells them that Telly Savalas and his brother George – who was a co-star in the series – stopped in to Mel’s Diner.)
That Savalas and Kojak shared the same TV dimension was also confirmed by a Toobworldling named Balki Bartokomous. In the ‘Perfect Strangers’ episode “Knock Knock, Who’s There?”, Balki asked "Does Telly Savalas love you, baby?“ As was the case with many of Balki’s bon mots, he was confusing the two men – the detective and the actor who played him.
Not only that, but 'Kojak' is a TV program in alternate Toobworlds:
- ‘The West Wing’’
- ‘Agents of SHIELD’
- ‘Z Nation’
- ‘The Simpsons’
- ‘BoJack Horseman’
Finally, here are the TV shows and TV movies which are included in the official tally for Theo Kojak’s membership in the Hall of Fame:
- The Marcus-Nelson Murders
- Kojak - 117 episodes
- Kojak: The Belarus File
- Kojak: The Price of Justice
- Kojak: Flowers for Matty
- Kojak: It's Always Something
- Kojak: None So Blind
- Kojak: Ariana
- Kojak: Fatal Flaw
Who loves ya, Baby?
Welcome to the Hall, Lieutenant!
And happy birthday wherever you are....
You know what? This crossover marks a special event - the 100th birthday of Telly Savalas. And since we know he has a televersion, and we know that avatar of Savalas, that "Savatar", starred in the Toobworld TV show version of 'Kojak', then all those references to the show are also references to Telly Savalas as well.
I don't make such an allowance often, but how often do I get to mark the centennial of an actor like Telly Savalas?