Homicide: Life on the Street — Killer TV No 8

70727-1NBC, 1993-99

‘It’s hard to meet single woman on this job. You meet plenty of widows, but the timing just don’t seem right.’ – Det Stan Bolander

Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto, Kyle Secor, Andre Braugher, Melisso Leo, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty, Jon Polito

Identikit: Police procedural delving into the work of a fictional version of Baltimore’s homicide detectives.


logosBefore The Wire there was Homicide: Life on the Street, based on a non-fiction book by The Wire‘s creator, David Simon. A former Baltimore Sun reporter, Simon spent a year shadowing homicide cops and the resulting book was an unforgettable glimpse at the lives and work of detectives in that city – the slog of investigation, the tricks of the trade, the galling frustration of knowing whodunit but not being able to prove it. The TV series was an intelligent attempt to dramatise the book, and gave us a series that steered clear of stock characters and cop-show cliches. The cases ranged from the heinous to comic, such that involving the body of an old guy who turned out to still be alive. The cops bicker, ramble on, made bad-taste jokes. Filmed on 16mm handheld cameras on location in Baltimore, jump cutting scenes and with wonderfully natural performances from the likes of Richard Belzer, Ned Beatty and Melissa Leo, the series had a distinctive style, while the stories portrayed the camaraderie and occasionally the soul-sapping nature of the job. It included non-traditional elements of detective storytelling, such as unsolved cases and criminals escaping, and had more psychological depth and truth in it than all of the forensic fantasy shows that clog the networks these days.

Classic episode: Three Men and Adena (season 1, episode 5). Three characters – two detectives (Pembleton and Bayliss) and a suspect – in an interrogation room as the officers try to get a murder confession. Intimidation, bickering among the two cops, failure and how inscrutable the truth can be – masterful writing that won an Emmy for scriptwriter Tom Fontana.

Watercooler fact: Despite all its awards (Television Critics Association, Peabody) and critical acclaim, the seven seasons of Homicide always saw the series in a precarious position because of low ratings (it lagged behind the likes of Nash Bridges!). TV Guide called it the ‘Best Show You’re Not Watching’.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, E4, with Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Stephanie Beatriz PREVIEW

Law unto themselves – the Brooklyn Nine-Nine squad. Pics: C4

Rating: ★★★½

Starts C4, Friday, 17 January, 11.5pm (E4: Thursdays, 9pm)

Story: Jake Peralta is a talented but carefree detective at Brooklyn’s 99th Precinct. He and his eclectic group of colleagues. Their cushy time at work is about to end with the arrival of new hard-ass Captain Ray Holt, a man with a lot to prove.

THE ROLL-CALL of comedy cop shows is a long and honourable one. Stretching back to Car 54, Where Are You? in the 60s, Barney Miller in the 70s and onto The Thin Blue Line in the 90s and most recently A Touch of Cloth and Vexed, law and disorder has a long service record.

Now comes this sharp half hour in the company of Brooklyn’s finest, made by Fox, with Andy

Jake proves that he’s wearing a tie

Samberg as Detective Jake Peralta and his oddball colleagues adjusting to life with a new captain, Ray Holt, played in brilliant deadpan style by Andre Braugher.

It has taken the new captain a long time to get his own command because he is openly gay. Having got it, he doesn’t want his team to goof things up. Everyone must now wear a tie and be super-efficient.

Fearsome Detective Diaz

The opening half hour pitches a nice selection of nutty individuals to the audience. There is Detective Sergeant Terry Jeffords, who used to be overweight and called Terry Titties. He calls his daughters Cagney and Lacey.

Childish Jake Peralta is in a childish competition with earnest Detective Amy Santiago to see who can clock up the most arrests. And Detective Boyle hopes to date the fearsome Detective Diaz.

But he’s warned by the office admin gal Gina, ‘She’s got a type. It’s pretty much anyone but you.’

Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher

To which Boyle replies, ‘Yeah, that was my wife’s type too.’

Andre Braugher is excellent as Capt Holt

There are a lot of gags flying by in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and most raise a smile. What makes it work is having Braugher – who was brilliant in the excellent and very serious Homicide: Life on the Street in the 90s – as the straight guy, so to speak, dishing out the baleful looks.

Cast: Andy Samberg Detective Jake Peralta, Andre Braugher Captain Ray Holt, Stephanie Beatriz Detective Rosa Diaz, Terry Crews Detective Sergeant Terence ‘Terry’ Jeffords, Melissa Fumero Detective Amy Santiago, Joe Lo Truglio Detective Charles Boyle, Chelsea Peretti Administrator Gina Linetti

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