Watching the two-part story on Barney Miller, "Homicide." In a reshuffling of the neighborhood precincts and their duties, the detectives in different precincts are now assigned to specialty squads -- burglary, sex crimes, vice, arson, etc. Inspector Luger pulls some strings and gets the 12th Precinct what he thinks is the best of all: Homicide!
It comes back to bite them when Mr. Cotterman, the guy who runs the neighborhood liquor store, comes in reporting that two hoods are shaking him down for protection money. They tell him to go to the 10th Precinct. By the end of the episode, Cotterman's buddy, Mr. Haddad, comes in and tells the detectives Cotterman was killed by the hoods.
Watching the Season 2 premiere of Miami Vice, the one where our guys Crockett and Tubbs, for some reason, are chasing drug dealers in New York City instead of in Miami. I saw it back in the day, but watching it now, there's just wave after wave of goofiness.
Charles S. Dutton is an NYPD detective who, of course, won't cooperate with these Florida interlopers. He's almost completely unrecognizable -- at least, my wife didn't recognize him, after three guesses (Samuel L. Jackson? Sherman Hemsley? Ted Lange?) -- being 30 years younger and about 60 pounds lighter, but with about 10 pounds of bushy hair on his usuallly bald scalp and a bushy mustache to match. Pam Grier is here too, with about 20 pounds of hair. Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller shows up as a middleman who connects the cops with the dealers, and gets killed good and dead for his trouble. And from The Legion of "Hey, It's That Guy!" Character Actors, none other than Luis Guzman as the chief Colombian heavy!
And there's the '80s fashions -- the Italian double-breasted suits with the broad shoulders, the pastel colors, the soft white shoes. There's the hip music; just for this journey, staff musician Jan Hammer came up with Miami Vice: The New York Theme. There's even a scene where Crockett and Tubbs are arguing with their New York counterparts, that takes place on a rooftop -- ostensibly so they can speak in a place where they can be sure no wiretaps are in place, but really so you the viewer can know yes, we really really did go to New York for this one -- don't you see the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building? Good, clean fun. They don't make 'em like this any more. Too bad.
Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller shows up as a middleman who connects the cops with the dealers, and gets killed good and dead for his trouble.
There's another one in which Teller plays a bad guy who gets blown up real good. The first (and only?) time I've ever heard him speak.
I saw another Miami Vice featuring a young Garcelle Beauvais, and Bruce Willis was the villain! And he had hair! and was wearing what I'm sure at the time was thought to be a supercool jumpsuit.
That New York episode of Miami Vice was goofy all the way to the end. Rico Tubbs has a goodbye roll in the hay with Pam Grier, intercut with Phil Collins' "Take Me Home," and there's a moment in the lovemaking where the camera focuses on each person's foot waving in the air. I'm sure it was meant to be erotic, or something, but it just looked really goofy. But Tubbs didn't care; after all, he was sleeping with Pam Grier. He very nearly missed his flight back to Miami. But then, I can't blame him; I'm not sure I would be in any rush to get to the airport if I was spending the day with Pam Grier. Of course, back then you could race to the airport and go right to the gate, which can't happen today.
Y'know, I watch Barney Miller a lot -- I can always drop whatever I'm doing and watch Barney Miller, even though I've seen them all at least twice and most several times over -- but even though it was on the air a full 10 years before Miami Vice, it doesn't seem half as dated. Everything about Miami Vice screams "THIS ... Is The EIGHTIES!!!" Like the production design, which famously mandated bright colors, declaring "No earth tones." Even in the New York episode. There was a moment when Crockett and Tubbs are chasing the bad guys, and they come busting out of some office building whose door was clearly freshly painted in dark blue just for the occasion.
But Barney Miller -- well, yes, the clothes (not fashions) are very '70s with the wide, wide neckties and suits with the wide, wide lapels. And the cop uniforms had the light blue "Mr. Goodwrench" shirts before they went back to the traditional dark blue. But Barney Miller is timeless. Even the fact that they aren't using computers, but typewriters -- and manual typewriters at that -- is fitting, since the rattly old decrepit 12 Precinct would be using out-of-date technology.
I caught an episode of ER I'd always heard about but never seen, one in which something bad to one of their own.
It's Valentine's Day, and the staff is preparing a party. There's also a patient wandering around, although there is a request to upstairs for a psychiatrist to examine him, but somehow, it doesn't happen.
Doctor John Carter goes into Exam Room 3, looking for Intern Lucy Knight; they are sorta-kind-not-exactly an on-again, off-again couple. The lights are out, and Carter spots something on the floor; it's a Valentine card from Lucy.
Suddenly, he feels a jolt; that missing patient stabs him in the back with the knife to be used to cut the cake for the party. Carter stumbles forward and falls to the floor ... and sees, past the wheels of a gurney, Lucy Knight, who also has been stabbed.
As the next episode begins, Dr. Kerry Weaver, the perpetualy cranky chief of the emergency department, comes into begin her workday, immediately grousing about the party and declaring they've all got to end it in one hour. She checks in on the status of cases, asks where the various doctors are, and learns nobody's seen Carter or Knight for some time. Outside Exam Room 3, she notices bloody footprints on the floor, enters, and finds the two of them.
Well, they go into full-bore life-saving mode. Carter's mentor, Dr. Peter Benton, practically flies down the stairs to personally take over his surgery, joined by Dr. Donald Anspaugh, the former chief of the ER. Dr. Elizabeth Corday and Dr. Robert Romano handle Knight.
And it's bad; Knight has four stab wounds to her neck, internal organs and lungs, which are filling with blood. They do that voodoo that they do so well, yammering all that medical mumbo-jumbo and zapping with the defibrillators and putting in the IVs of O neg and pushing amps of epi and all that, but they have th problem of possible blood clots, which can be prevented with blood thinning medicines, except that introduces the risk that if she starts bleeding again they can't make it stop.
So they try it and it works ... until it doesn't. Knight does get a pulmonary embolism -- a blood clot that has broken loose, traveled through the blood stream and is now blocking an artery -- while Corday and Romano are trying to install something to prevent that very thing. Romano pronounces Knight dead, while Corday wants to keep trying. Then Romano wants to keep trying while Corday tells him she's dead.
Definitely a four-hanky episode.
Last night, I came across one of the later Columbo episodes, from the revival on ABC circa 2008, after it had petered out on NBC. Unlike the NBC episodes, which were 90 minutes long, the ABC episodes were two hours long. Also, star Peter Falk had more behind-the-scenes clout, and was willing to bend the mold.
As we know, the typical Columbo story begins with some rich, arrogant, elite upper crust bastard murdering someone and then establishing an alibi and trying to direct suspicion elsewhere. Columbo begins investigating, quickly determines the alibi doesn't hold water, and spends the remaining two-thirds of the show repeatedly questioning the killer until the showy moment at the end where he conclusively shows the alibi is bogus -- at which point, the story ends with an arrest and the killer may even confess, even though, as somebody once pointed out on this site (can't find the reference), breaking the alibi isn't proof of murder.
Anyhow, this Columbo episode I saw, titled "Undercover," really broke the mold. I missed the first few minutes, but it involved a double homicide, of a pair of burglars who killed each other fighting over some scraps of paper. The scraps of paper are cut from a black-and-white photograph.
Columbo is visted at the police station by an insurance investigator who explains what these guys were fighting about: Several years ago, a crew held up a bank, got away with a big score, hid the money, and then all got killed in a shootout with police. The photo shows were the money is hidden, but it's been cut into pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle, and the pieces have been parceled out to several people. So, Columbo goes in search of the people who have the other pieces of the puzzle, as somebody or somebodies also does so -- and bumps off a few people along the way.
If this doesn't sound anything like a typical Columbo story, you're right. That's because it's a typical 87th Precinct story. Longtime readers of this board know I'm a devotee of that series of crime novels from the late, great Ed McBain. This Columbo episode was repurposed from the novel Jigsaw.
It was a weird hybrid, seeing McBain characters and McBainisims in a Columbo story. The insurance investigator bore the same name in both stories, and TV show even used the exact same photograph for the jigsaw puzzle!
It was odd. To make it work, Columbo did things he never does. One, he had a partner, Det. Sgt. Arthur Brown (played by Harrison Page, of the Legion of "Hey, It's That Guy!" Character Actors, probably best known as the Harried Police Captain in Sledge Hammer!). Brown is an 87th Precinct character, who I suppose "transferred" from the Eight-Seven to sunny Los Angeles.
Two, Columbo carried a gun(!). Columbo never carries a gun. But here, his commanding officer insists ... because, three, Columbo goes undercover in pursuit of the missing puzzle pieces. Which means he gets out of that ratty old trenchcoat and dresses a whole lot better.
Also, there are several moments that are played for comedy, I suppose because Falk wanted a change of pace.
Ultimately, I wasn't very satisfied in this hybrid.
- at which point, the story ends with an arrest and the killer may even confess, even though, as somebody once pointed out on this site (can't find the reference), breaking the alibi isn't proof of murder.
We've watched a lot of Columbo over the last couple of years. It occurs to me that his proof of guilt in most cases if very esoteric and would likely result in a hung jury. Reasonable doubt would be very easy to introduce.
I'm still grooving on ER, which is still being carried on the Pop! channel. It's up to the 15th and final season, which has an almost totally new cast. Not only are none of the original actors on the show at this point*, the show seemed to be chasing out various long-term characters.
* It's more accurate to say "none of the lead actors"; ER has had a few supporting characters playing nurses who were there from beginning to end.