DVD Review: Kojak (Season Five)

The fifth season of a show is a golden moment. The producers will strike it rich in syndication with over 100 episodes to package to local TV stations. They no longer fear cancellation from the network. Confirmation of a fifth season means they can kick back and let their hair down. This might have been a hard thing to do when you’re New York City Police Department Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak (Telly Savalas). But the bald police got into the freakiness of 1977.

Kojak: Season Five kicked off the show with a brand new title sequence. The new disco-fied theme sounded like an alternate opening for The Love Boat. This was not the tone for a sophisticated and gritty New York cop drama. The music only made sense if Kojak had hired two undercover roller disco queens for his investigations at Studio 54 and Plato’s Retreat. They also redid opening montage with clips and still photos to match the fresh beats. This is where things are uncomfortable. While the show is called Kojak, the man works with a tight team. Captain Frank McNeil (Dan Fazer) watched his back. Detective Bobby Crocker (Kevin Dobson) did the muscle work. Detective Stavros (George Savalas) made him look slim and handsome. Yet all three were not given real face time in the clips. Kojak is only shown next to random uniformed police actors. The trio of supporting actors had to wait for the episode to start before their credits were flashed. Why couldn’t Telly stand next to his own brother in the opening?

“The Queen of Hearts is Wild” makes a homicide investigation almost easy with an eyewitness. She’s the girlfriend of a mobster that hates Kojak. She’s a hostile witness that might be armed. “A Strange Kind of Love plays off Taxi Driver. A cabbie helps a talk radio host get rid of things she hates. “Laid Off” makes a recently laid off cop turn against the force to payback mobsters with his bad bets. “Cry For the Kids” is tale of how to move up the gangster ladder. A teenager accidentally kills a mobster. He gets located by rival gangster that needs him to keep up the good work. Can he hack it as a teenage hitman?

“Caper on Quick Street” reunites old pals that have laid low long enough after a bloody armed robbery. Before they can split up the loot, the guy hiding the money drops dead. This turns into a free for all when the remaining members including Armand Assante (Striptease) go treasure hunting. “Tears For All Who Loved Her” lets Crocker find love on the job. The big issue is that she’s the widow of a murdered mobster. Can the heart understand a conflict of interest? “The Summer of ’69” releases Stephen McHattie (The Watchmen) from prison. He’s eager to get back to being the Clothesline serial killer. Kojak must stop him even if it means being suspended for going over the line. “Case Without A File” marks the first real acting gig for Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos).

“I Could Kill My Wife’s Lawyer” features the most cut-throat divorce lawyer in the world. David Ladd has no ethics as he pursues the extreme way for a wife to get sole custody of the kids. “Mouse” makes a doctor talk patients into bogus surgeries so he can use the money pay off gambling debts. “May the Horse Be With You” gets in a Star Wars joke during a racehorse mystery. “60 Miles to Hell” glams up the show with a visit to Las Vegas. Crocker arrives to tag a suspect, but becomes a kidnapping victim. Also in the windowless van is Priscilla Barnes (Three’s Company). She’s half of topless magicians act. But she can’t pull off a vanishing stunt to get them to escape. Kojak hits the Vegas Strip to get hard facts from Liberace (Batman). Liberace and Kojak together are a potent duo. It’s a shame they don’t hunt down the kidnappers together. “In Full Command” wraps up the season and the series with Danny Thomas (Make Room For Daddy) needing to prove he’s not washed up on the police force. Although Kojak fears he’s going to burn a major crimes case.

This turned out to be the final season for Kojak. The ratings went down even with a visit from Liberace. CBS moved it to various time slots which helped the series lose even more viewers. But the future wouldn’t be so dire. Unlike other cop shows that lost their buzz after their network run, Kojak performed well in syndication. People couldn’t forget Telly’s shaved dome of justice. Eventually Telly revived the character for movies of the week and the ABC Mystery Movie series. Normally this is the part of a review speculates the release of the revival episodes. But Shout! Factory already put out Kojak: The Complete Movie Collection last winter. Kojak: Season Five brings to an end Telly’s time as the man who kept New York City safe during the bleak ’70s.

“The Queen of Hearts Is Wild,” “A Strange Kind of Love,” “Laid Off,” “Cry for the Kids,” “Once More from Birdland,” “Caper on a Quiet Street,” “Letters of Death,” “Tears for All Who Loved Her,” “The Summer of ’69” (Two parter), “Case Without a File,” “I Could Kill My Wife’s Lawyer,” “Justice for All,” “Mouse,””Chain of Custody,” “The Captain’s Brother’s Wife,” “No Licence to Kill,” “The Halls of Terror,” “May the Horse Be With You,” “Photos Must Credit Joe Paxton,” “60 Miles to Hell” and “In Full Command.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are crisp so you can get a good feel of New York City when they visit for location work. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels bring out the disco edge of the new theme song.

There are no bonus features.

Kojak: Season Five almost brings to an end the top cop in New York City. The show loosens up this final season. How else can they explain a Liberace appearance and a disco theme? Kojak still looks good sucking his lollipops and taking down criminals. Kojak was loved.

Shout! Factory presents Kojak: Season Five. Starring: Telly Savalas, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson and George Savalas. Boxset Contents: 22 Episodes on 6 DVDs. Released: September 11, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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