For those of us who love crime shows there is the certainty that there will never be a shortage of this commodity. Most of the crime shows regardless of whether they’re procedurals, forensic, cosy or mysteries, are pretty awful though because a) it’s hard to write convincing crimes, b) this genre is character driven to the point of very silly scripting and c) every show has the weight of all the other shows sitting on it.
My cure when having consumed too much of some badly written show is to watch an episode of Kojak. Like most shows, the writing varies over seasons, but the writers picked a lot of awesome and interesting plots. Yes there are some tried-and-true ones too, but even then the dialogue is witty and the characters watchable.
I also look around at crime shows – particularly cop shows – in the 21C and feel the absence of a character like Kojak. He’s Greek, but it’s not a plot device to constantly interrogate racism, it’s just part of who he is. He has a gnarled finger that isn’t mentioned and isn’t hidden. He’s a loving, nurturing man who is tough as nails when he has to be. He has a catch phrase. He’s a natty dresser.
And – importantly – he’s charming. You don’t need to have his righteousness stuffed down your throat with a glass full of existential angst (my least fav. combo in many cop shows now), because he’s charming to everyone, including the bad guys. When he stops being charming, you know he’s mad.
All of his guys (and sadly they are all guys because it’s the 70s) have distinct personalities. Ones a gambler, one loves growing plants, one is like a mini-Kojak etc… If you’re going with point b) above, then you should make your characters natural and engaging. I think these guys are.
Also, when was the last time you saw humour in a serious police procedural?
Of course Kojak isn’t burden with an overarching story arc like 21C shows always are. I know people love those arcs, but they lead to some of the silly plot crimes in all genres!
If you’ve never watched Kojak, I recommend it not just for the points already mentioned, but the delicious time-capsule you get. Maybe it’s just me, but I love watching cops wearing 3 piece suits and running to the nearest pay phone or bar phone to report in!