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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Thriller > Heist > Action > Cops > Murder > Comedy > Superheroes > TV > Prime Time Crime – The Stephen J. Cannell Collection (Mill Creek DVD Box Set)

Prime Time Crime – The Stephen J. Cannell Collection (Mill Creek DVD Box Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Episodes: B-



The TV track record of Stephen J. Cannell is an enduring one, but not exactly what we would consider one of the best TV ever made, but certainly some of the corniest down to his best-known hits like A-Team and The Commish.  However, it was the 1980s when he came into his own, TV and newly expanding cable needed filler TV and he became the king of that with such hits.  However, the new Prime Time Crime DVD set offers four of his shows that bombed and two of them turn out to be fine shows ironically killed by the very lowering of standards he helped span.


The two show that are so-so and faded for understandable reasons are Broken Badges (7 hours made) and Missing Persons (16 episodes made) which are just pricier versions of shows we have seen before with better actors.  Badges has a group of eccentric cops working together to solve crimes and was launched in 1990, so the 1980s were over, but no one told them.  Still, the show had Miguel Ferrer, Ernie Hudson, Jay Johnson, Eileen Davidson and Charlotte Lewis.  They could not overcome the formula set-up.


Missing ran from 1993 to 1995, but this was an attempt to put Daniel J. Travanti into a slicker hit police show and was set in Chicago, a locale that has worked for so many TV shows and feature films.  However, it got more melodramatic than it should have and the overall teleplays are uneven at best.  Producer Gary Sherman (the Horror classic Raw Meat, Dead & Buried) created the show with Peter Lance (whose later work included The Sentinel), so at least Cannell was trying to turn to others to grow his company.


That leaves the two shows that could have brought him new respectability and hits.


Unsub (1989) was CSI before anyone heard of it and had an interesting combination of actors including David Soul, M. Emmet Walsh, Kent McCord and Richard Kind.  With a different title and a better push, it would have been a hit, but it was also controversial for being a little more graphic than expected and in dealing with serial killers (a few years before Silence Of The Lambs) was taboo in those shows.  Eight hour-long shows were produced and they are every bit as interesting as any version of CSI.


Finally, there is Palace Guard (1991) which offered the underrated D.W. Moffett (Falling Down, Traffic) as ace jewel thief Tommy Logan in a show that cast him as a Robert Wagner type.  The series was as much It Takes A Thief as Hart To Hart and Moffett is perfect as the smart-ass anti-hero who is now working on the proper side of the law thanks to powerful hotel owner Arturo Taft (the great Tony Lo Bianco of The French Connection, God Told Me To, et al) but Cannell made the fatal mistake of doing it in his tired old look (that tired cinematography!) and the show died.  They also had future daytime soap opera star Marcy Walker and the enduring Allen Garfield (Putney Swope, The Candidate, Coppola’s The Conversation, Allen’s Bananas, Altman’s Nashville) and even that fine cast could not save it.  Only six shows were made, but with more effort, this could have been the next Moonlighting or the like and wow, did they drop the ball!



This set also includes single episodes of shows we have covered (and will be continuing to cover) on the site (usually pilots) including Wiseguy, The Commish, Hunter, Cobra, Greatest American Hero, Tenspeed & Brown Shoe, Silk Stalkings, 21 Jump Street and Booker.


The 1.33 X 1 image across the shows are at least good, but more than a few are weak and noisy, coming from the problem that plagues filmed TV shows of the time being finished on analog tape.  Still, you can see the slick look across them all for better and worse.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (and sometimes mono on the earliest shows) fares decently throughout, but is not always at its best and part of it all is how many shows are squeezed on each DVD, but that is to keep the price down.  There are no extras.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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