Tuesday, October 17, 2006

TV Review: The Equalizer

Genre: Action Drama
Channel: Spike
Season: 4 (Syndication)

The Premise:Robert McCall is a former agent of an unnamed government agency who decides to use his expertise and resources to help the common man get justice when he's get a problem and odds are against him.

A few weeks ago at Ye Olde, I referenced a comic book ad that epitomized the mid-80's in every way. While almost anyone will agree Knight Rider and The A-Team do that for television action shows, The Equalizer deserves to be put on equal footing with those iconic visions.

While I remember The Equalizer being on when I was a kid, I never watched it until Monday, when Spike aired the pilot episode. By the first commercial break, I was hooked, though I have to admit I probably never would have enjoyed it as much twenty years ago as I do today.

While the premise is a good one--a middle-aged, retired wetworks agent who'd used to working above the law uses that experience for good--the execution is done in a time when karate was considered an exotic, mysterious thing that middle America feared instead of being a class your kids could take at the Y. In other words, the action sequences aren't the most convincing thing you've ever seen. In truth, just as we enjoy watching B.A. Baracas shoot at bad guys feet to make them run away instead of killing them, there is equal joy to be found in seeing a clumsy middle aged man in a bullet proof vest fighting Asian men in a way that's been carefully choreographed to make sure their fists and feet get nowhere near his face.

By far, my favorite part of the show is the unfettered impotence of the police. Within four minutes of the crisis d'jour, the cops will throw up their hands in dismay and tell the victims they are probably better off just forgetting about justice. In one of the first season episodes, a sixteen year old Iowa girl visiting New York gets kidnapped and chained to a bed in a whorehouse (that's run by Adam Ant!) that caters to diplomatically immune foreign government type who want to do things like have sex with sixteen year old Midwestern girls who are chained to a bed. The police tell her parents A) if the girl hasn't been missing for 24 hours, they cant do anything, B) since the girl walked out of the hotel room of her own free will, they can't consider it a kidnapping, and C) that sixteen year old girls run away every day and they can't be bothered trying to find someone who doesn't want to be found.

The following episode is about three crooked cops who killed their former partner and the "Lady Cop" (the title of the episode) who doesn't approve of their nefarious ways. Her father, an honest policeman who she grew up admiring so much she decided to follow in his footsteps, advises her to just take her cut of the blood money they collect and keep her head down and mouth shut.

Further driving home the awesomeness of the series is the number of recognizable stars--like Luis Guzman, David Alan Grier, and West Wing and Studio 60 star Bradley Whitford--who show up, often as extras, twenty years younger than you're accustomed to seeing them.

If you were a fan of The Equalizer in the past or if you've never watched it, I highly recommend trying it again for what will certainly be a different experience than you might have expected.


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