from Somerset UK
, 18 Sep 2008
Its hard to believe its been over 20 years since this series first hit our TV screens. In the morass of PI shows that dominated the schedules at the time (Magnum, The Rockford Files, Matt Houston, Simon & Simon et al), Michael Sloans The Equalizer was a breath of fresh air. It starred a Brit in the lead role, for a start; by my reckoning, probably the first US TV show to do so. And it paid off in spades.
Though, to be frank, you might not have thought so watching the first couple of episodes. Sloan was quoted as saying that he wrote the show and the character of Robert McCall with Edward Woodward in mind, having loved him in Callan (didnt we all?), but I probably wasnt the only one to doubt his wisdom as I watched the star trying to decide whether or not to adopt a Mid-Atlantic accent. Thank goodness common sense prevailed and Edward Woodward finally relaxed into his own voice. It was then that the show took off. And what a ride it was, finally ending after 4 seasons.
The quality of the piece lay not only in Woodwards interpretation of the role a world away from the low-key and haunted David Callan but in the writing and the array of co-stars and character actors who wended their way through the story lines. From Keith Szarabajkas Mickey Kostmeyer, McCalls oft-times right-hand man, to Mark Margoliss Jimmy, the seedy fixer, and from Robert Lansings Control through to Maureen Andermans bar owner Pete O'Phelan, the quality of the acting never flagged. And talking of which; given the era the series was made in, how many TV shows can you name that had Robert Mitchum and Telly Savalas as co-stars, for goodness sake?
As the series progressed there were calls for the violence to be toned down. Wed probably think it was a bit passé now, but to my thinking, it was always integral to the plot. It created a dark edge to the show that was missing in so many of its contemporaries. A case in point being the Breakpoint episode, where McCall was among the wedding guests held prisoner by terrorists. How he dealt with one of the villains in a wash room stall was particularly memorable. Gratuitous? Certainly not by todays standards.
Even when Edward Woodward was off the show for a significant number of episodes due to a heart attack, his place was taken by the always watchable Richard Jordan, as another former and embittered secret operative, Harley Gage. The story lines remained as strong as ever, a mixture of crime and espionage, the latter usually involving McCalls shady past as an agent for an unnamed security service. Those stories in particular gave the show added depth, which, I venture to suggest, it would not have had with an American in the lead.
So, if you havent watched the Equalizer before (could be you werent even born when it first aired now, thats scary..), give it a go and stick with it, you wont be disappointed
at least I hope not
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