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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Espionage > Drama > TV > The Equalizer – Season One (Universal DVD)

The Equalizer – Season One (Universal DVD)


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



After a quarter century of great Spy TV that began a year before the first James Bond film hit the big screen (Dr. No in 1962) with shows like The Saint, Danger Man and The Avengers (when it started as Police Surgeon) and brought on a wave on both sides of the Atlantic of some of the best TV series ever made, one last great series surfaced in 1985 and was rightly a hit.  The great Edward Woodward plays longtime secret agent Robert McCall, sick of the dark side of his past and returning to a then-sleazier New York to clean it up and take care of his own past in The Equalizer.


Leaving the life of espionage is not an easy one, but the great novel twist is that he has decided to make himself available to the most vulnerable, defenseless and needy in the city who are in jeopardy, need help or whose lives are in the most danger, taking out one of the most legendary ads in TV history to do so.  Woodward is amazing as McCall, whose dialogue delivery became such a signature. That it was sent up in spoofs and skits at the time and imitated worldwide.


The show lasted four seasons and Season One holds up surprisingly well.  Though it was produced towards the tail end (unbeknownst to anyone at the time) of The Cold War, the stories are about either McCall, his relationship with his son Scott (the well-cast William Zabka) and the personal lives of those he is trying to help.  Then there is the organization and the head of it, both named Control, with the head of the unit played effectively by Robert Lansing.  Even that is an uneasy interesting relationship, leaving only the occasional story involving the former Soviet Union.


Like all the great Spy series from the time (and there have been few of note since worth anything) and era this was made, great writing, great lead casting, great acting and a smart, smart show overall is why series like The Equalizer endure and this one comes out of the tail end of a phenomenal run of Universal Television productions with top rate resources.


The regular cast on the series intermittently also included Mark Margolis, Saul Rubinek, Steven Williams, Fred Williamson, Ron O’Neal, Roma Maffia and Richard Portnow, but when you see the guest cast below, you can see the makers definitely had a very good season.  The episodes are as follows, including key guest stars:


1)     Pilot (Paul Jabara)

2)     China Rain

3)     The Defector

4)     The Lock Box (Adam Ant, Lori Petty, J.T. Walsh)

5)     Lady Cop (Karen Young, Esai Morales, Will Patton, Reginald VelJohnson)

6)     The Confirmation Day (Burt Young, Lois Smith, Joseph Wiseman)

7)     The Children's Song (Ed O’Neill)

8)     The Distant Fire

9)     Mama's Boy (Christine Baranski)

10)  Bump & Run (Charles S. Dutton, Mark Linn-Baker, Meat Loaf)

11)  Desperately (David Margulies, Ray Sharkey)

12)  Reign Of Terror (Lonette McKee, Tomas Milian, Stephen Chen)

13)  Back Home (Frank Converse, Allen Swift)

14)  Out Of The Past (Sandy Dennis, Brad Dourif, Sylvia Miles, Jasmine Guy. Stephen McHattie, Barry Primus)

15)  Dead Drop

16)  Wash Up (Brian Tarantina)

17)  Torn (Robert John Burke, Patricia Richardson, Melissa Joan Hart)

18)  Unnatural Causes (Kim Delaney, Gwen Verdon, Alice Spivak)

19)  Breakpoint (Patricia Clarkson, Tony Shalhoub, Phyllis Newman)

20)  No Conscience (Laurie Metcalf, D.W. Moffett, Linda Thorson)

21)  Unpunished Crimes (Dan Hedaya, Jon Polito, David Copeland)

22)  Pretenders (Philip Bosco, Kathleen Lloyds, Tony Mustane)



Having not seen the show for a while, I was very happy when it was announced for DVD and people have been talking to me about it for months before that as the show has been on cable and specifically the Universal HD channel.  The 1.33 X 1 presentations here are some of the best we have seen for any filmed TV series of the 1980s and the raves for picture quality make sense from what people keep talking about from those broadcasts.  Like all the great Spy shows, this too was shot in 35mm (anything to complete with Bond) and the show had a slightly dark look without overdoing it.  The prints are clean and consistent throughout, with only minor detail issues.  Along with Columbo and Kolchak: The Night Stalker, this is a classic TV series Universal needs to put out on Blu-ray as soon as possible just for the playback of the picture.


The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound is fine for its time, as clean as can be expected and surprisingly not warped, consider how much synthesizer music is used by Police-band member Stewart Copeland, whose score is not bad after all these years and instrumental theme song is a classic.  Of course, he takes risks and sometimes, his ideas of creepy music now sound more like the ringtones of death!  However, it is yet another minor item that is on a shortlist of what few things date the show.


Co-creator Michael Sloan does an audio commentary for the pilot and an episode from the next season are the extras, though a show this good deserves more and they have three more seasons to add them.


Another point is that like so many of the classic TV shows and Spy series in particular, The Equalizer is a show that was built to last and does so in solid fashion.  Anyone who buys this set will not be disappointed.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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