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Brilliant But Cancelled: Crime Dramas DVD Review

Brilliant But Cancelled: Crime Dramas

June 1, 2006

Director: Robert B. Sinclair, Arnold Laven, John Patterson, Greg Yaitanes, ,
Starring: John Cassavetes, Eduardo Ciannelli, Judd Hirsch, Charles Haid, Lou Gossett Jr., Michael Rooker, Jeffrey Donovan, Zach Grenier,

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DVD Review

This DVD collects four different episodes from four different crime shows that had brief but (sometimes) memorable runs on television because they failed to capture a large enough audience to ensure a prolonged existence. It has become even more cutthroat today when a show can get cancelled after only a couple of episodes.

When he wasn’t out making gripping, realistic cinematic dramas, John Cassavetes paid the bills with Johnny Staccato, a half-hour show where he played a too cool for school jazz pianist that does private detective work on the side. Johnny operates out of the ultra hip club in Greenwich Village. In this particular episode, a friend comes to him with a very valuable necklace but is unable to locate the owner, so he helps her out. The plot thickens as Johnny gets mugged and the necklace is stolen. He then has to use his wits to recover the merchandise.

Along the way, Johnny gets into a fight (scored to a hyperactive be-bop tune by Elmer Bernstein) and even finds time to romance a dame. Cassavetes brings his customary intensity to the role in a show that ran from 1959 to 1960 and was shot in black and white which only enhances its cool credibility. It really deserves to be released on DVD in its entirety.

Delvecchio features Judd Hirsch as a Los Angeles Police Department detective with hopes of passing the bar exam and becoming a lawyer. In this episode, he investigates the apparent suicide of an 18-year-old girl only to find out that she was dying of cancer but when he looks further into the case there is more than meets the eye.

This show was produced by T.V. legend Steven Bochco from 1976 to 1977 and it has the same tough-talking, straightforward dialogue that would appear on a later show of his, NYPD Blue. Delvecchio has all the hallmarks of cop shows from that decade – sideburns and wide ties – with Hirsch quite good as a smart, methodical cop. The presentation of this episode is quite shoddy with no opening titles or credits leaving you to wonder who else is a regular on the show besides Hirsch.

Lou Gossett Jr. plays a professor of anthropology at Columbia University who, wait for it, solves crimes in his spare time in Gideon Oliver, a T.V. show produced in 1989 by the same development team behind the Law & Order franchise. This was ABC’s attempt to bring back the two-hour NBC Sunday Mystery Movie concept. In this episode, Detective John Quinn (Rooker) enlists Oliver’s aid on a series of shootings that all have similar characteristics. It also just so happens that Oliver knew the latest victim. Right off the bat, the two men rub each other the wrong way with the professor being the literate one and Quinn the street savvy cop.

Gossett has the right kind of authoritative presence and is able to sell himself convincingly as a passionate college professor and this episode features appearances by the likes of Tom Sizemore, Anthony LaPaglia and Cynthia Nixon but there isn’t anything too memorable about this show and you can see why it was cancelled.

Finally, the weakest of the bunch is Touching Evil, a show that originally aired in 2004 about an elite crime squad of the FBI known as the Serial Crime Unit. David Creegan (Donovan) is your typical cop who doesn’t play by the book and was shot and died for several moments before being brought back to life. Now, he apparently has the ability to revisit crimes and get into the mindset of the killer(s). In this particular episode, Creegan and his crew investigate a case of animal mutilation – several horses were killed for unknown reasons.

The show has a lot of edgy camerawork and had the pedigree of being developed by the Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society) but the characters aren’t all that interesting. Their quirky habits seem forced and the dialogue is a little on the flat side which is a shame because the cast is good and quite interesting to watch at times.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 67%

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