Killed in the line of TV duty

Did you know there was a US TV series about Serpico, the cop who blew the whistle on corruption in New York and was played by Al Pacino in the 1973 movie?

The TV show came three years later and starred David Birney. The small-screen spin-off made less of Serpico’s bleak stand against his bent colleagues than the film version, and instead turned him into an action hero.

Which kind of missed the point. NBC cancelled the show four months after its big launch.

This much I’ve picked up on The Rap Sheet blog, which is running a quirky trip down the forgotten byways of US prime-time cop shows now long forgotten. The month-long series of articles, by J Kingston Pierce, is called Killed in the Ratings, and recounts those network shows that must have looked good on paper, but were soon terminated by channel execs, a breed more ruthless than a godfather’s consigliere.

It’s a fascinating glimpse of lost cops and formats from the 70s, 80s and 90s, and well-researched. There’s Leg Work from 1987 starring Frances McDormand as the best pal of a mini-skirted private eye. Pierce has also given us Joe Forrester, starring Lloyd Bridges as a beat cop. It lasted 22 episodes.

Check out Killed in the Ratings. It’s a time tunnel to past trends in cop-show TV, and not all the victims deserved their ignominious ends.


  1. Thanks for the kind words about my latest Rap Sheet series, Robin. I hope that Crime Time Preview followers enjoy reading those posts as much as I enjoy writing them.


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