Racket Squad was among the more successful independently produced television crime series of the early-middle 1950s, and endured long past its first run -- indeed, most viewers born after 1946 who remember it recall the series from countless syndicated reruns that lasted well into the 1960s. But in its time, it was one of a relatively small group of dramatic series to make the leap from first-run syndication, which was how it started out, to one of the major networks. Like Jack Webb's Dragnet, Racket Squad sought the imprimatur of realism by announcing that its stories were taken from actual police cases. The series star was movie and radio veteran Reed Hadley, who portrayed Captain John Braddock, the head of a city police department's Racket Squad (more often referred to as the bunco or frauds squad). Each episode would begin dramatically enough, with a patrol car pulling up in tight close-up on the words "City Police" filling the screen to a dramatic three-note theme, before cutting to a police office at a board, announcing through a microphone, "Captain Braddock, Captain Braddock -- ready!" Then it was into Braddock's office where Hadley, in his rich baritone voice, would explain the truth behind the dramatization we were about to see. The tale would then be told using a varying company of actors, some of them -- such as James Gleason (in one of the more poignant portrayals) -- known from films, playing out stories of fraud and deception, involving crooked charities, phony inventions, land swindles, rigged gambling operations, and other scams. In the end, as with most American television series of the era aimed at a mass public, Braddock would swoop in near the end of the story, after an initial investigation, and make the arrest. This was sometimes laced with bittersweet consequences, however, as when a key sympathetic figure died, or when terrible cruelties were inflicted on innocents in the course of whatever scam was being perpetrated (this was especially true in an episode involving a fraudulent old-age home whose residents were being abused and neglected). Produced at Hal Roach Studios, Racket Squad initially went on the air as a first-run syndicated series, but was picked up by the CBS television network in 1951. The original episodes (total 98 shows) ran for a total of three seasons, after which the series enjoyed more than a decade of life in reruns on local stations across the United States. Although the opening credits featured only a few bars of dramatic music, the much more elaborate end-credits were set to a piece of music called "Parade of the Chessmen," composed by Joseph Mullendore, which received a full commercial recording and release on RCA Victor by Boddy Morrow. The series became so well-known, that there was even a Walter Lantz cartoon starring Woody Woodpecker that parodied Racket Squad. Braddock's speech at the beginning of the show became as familiar as anything on Dragnet, as was his usual sign-off: "I'm closing this case now - or rather, the courts will - but there'll be others, because that's the way the world is built. There are people who can slap you on the back with one hand and pick your pocket with the other. And it could happen to you." As with many other syndicated crime series of the 1950s, Racket Squad disappeared from television late in the 1960s, partly owing to over-exposure earlier in the decade and, more importantly, the switchover by local stations to color broadcasting, and the preference of advertisers for color shows. It has since turned up on DVD, mostly in the form of public domain episodes whose individual copyrights have lapsed.
The character of tough, sarcastic, lollipop-sucking New York City police detective Theo Kojak was introduced in The Marcus-Nelson Murders, a 1973 TV movie based on the novel by Selwyn Raab, which in turn was inspired by the real-life Wylie-Hoffert murder case of 1963 that ultimately led to the Supreme Court's Miranda decision in 1966. Telly Savalas, a busy, baldheaded character actor who had only occasionally received above-the-title billing in his long career, became an international superstar in the role of Kojak, which he carried over into a long-running CBS cop show. Debuting October 24, 1973, Kojak was set in Manhattan (though not filmed there until its fourth season), where hard-boiled, thoroughly incorruptible Lt. Theo Kojak took his marching orders from his former partner and longtime friend, 13th precinct Captain Frank McNeill (Dan Frazer). Although Kojak had a habit of bending the rules to suit his needs, he was much valued by McNeill and the force because he invariably got results. Kojak's associates and assistants included plainclothes detective Lt. Bobby Crocker (Kevin Dobson), Detective Stavros (played by the star's brother George Savalas, who during the series' first two seasons billed himself as "Demosthenes"), and detectives Rizzo and Saperstein (Vince Conti, Mark Russell). Extremely popular with both civilians and law enforcement personnel -- and a veritable cornucopia of such quotable lines as "Who loves ya, baby?" -- Kojak lasted five seasons and 118 hour-long episodes before it was canceled by CBS and ended its run on April 15, 1978. Seven years later, Telly Savalas revived the character for the TV movie Kojak: The Belarus File, which was followed two years later by another feature-length endeavor, Kojak: The Price of Justice. And from November 4, 1989, through June 30, 1990, five two-hour Kojak episodes -- in which the title character had been promoted to inspector -- were telecast as part of the crime-anthology series The ABC Mystery Movie. This time around, Telly Savalas' co-stars included Andre Braugher as Detective Winston Blake, Charles Cioffi as Chief George "Fitz" Morris, Kario Salem as Detective Paco Montana, and the star's daughter Candace Savalas as Kojak's secretary Pamela. Kojak was revived for a third weekly series run in 2005, with Ving Rhames starring in the title role created by the late Telly Savalas.
A young legal shark works in his father's high-powered firm and at a child-advocacy center. But the latter isn't exactly pro-bono work: it's part of a drug sentence. Still, the experience has changed him. Reluctantly, he's now The Guardian - a part-time child advocate at Legal Aid Services, where one case after another is an eye-opening instance of kids caught up in difficult circumstances.