This is supposed to be the first of an ongoing series of posts. I’m an information junkie, and also a big fan of looking back on events or people long after, to see where they are now. It won’t always be a TV show. It might be a news celebrity; it might be an event. Who knows where we’ll end up?
“Oh God! Has it really been that long?” commented creator Dick Lindheim when I reached him via email. Twenty-five years ago, “The Equalizer” premiered on CBS prime time television. The hour-long program starred Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, a freelance vigilante. His past was somewhat hazy, but he referred to his past employer as “The Agency” or “The Company,” both of which are common euphemisms for the Central Intelligence Agency. McCall used skills acquired during his past employment to act as a protector, troubleshooter, or investigator.
The show was nominated for 7 Emmys, including 5 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series; 3 Artios for Best Casting; 2 Golden Globes, winning one for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series – Drama, and winning an Edgar for Best Television Episode.
The show was much more cerebral than others in the genre. “Miami Vice,” “Simon & Simon,” “Knight Rider,” and “Remington Steel” typically relied on action, explosions, gunfire, fistfights or some other gimmick, although Sonny Crockett had his own demons to deal with. McCall was trying to atone for unknown sins from his past; he was fallible. He was divorced and estranged from his son. The situations he faced weren’t always clear-cut. I think McCall would have gotten along well with Robert Parker’s Spenser; they seemed to have similar morals, ethics, and character.
Looking back at the cast listing at IMDB, I notice too that many actors appear in more than one episode. Rarely were story arcs wrapped up in 42 minutes; they would often last 2 episodes or more.
Edward Woodward starred as Robert McCall. Born in 1930, Woodward already had a long successful career on stage and in British film and television by the time “The Equalizer” premiered. He suffered a heart attack toward the end of the third season, and the producers brought in Richard Jordan and Robert Mitchum to give Woodward time to recover. Woodward, who died in 2009, was nominated for five Emmys for the series, and won a Golden Globe as well.
Keith Szarabajka appeared throughout the series (56 of 88 episodes) as Mickey Kostmayer, a younger agent on long-term loan from The Company. Szarabajka also boasts an extensive resume, with recurring roles in “Angel,” “Law & Order,” “Thanks,” “Cold Case,” “The Wild Thornberrys,” “Profit,” and “Golden Years.” He’s done dozens of videogame and animated voiceovers as well.
Robert Lansing portrayed McCall’s occasional boss, known only as “Control” during the series.
Numerous actors who appeared on the show became major stars within a few years of their “Equalizer” parts.
Richard Lindheim was the co-creator along with Michael Sloan. Lindheim continued with Universal Studios for a time, then became executive VP at Paramount Television Group, launching Paramount Digital Entertainment. After PDE, Lindheim founded the Institute for Creative Technologies, where he worked to combine computer technology and entertainment industry creativity to develop immersive training for the US Army. He now heads RL LEADERS, a company he founded. LEADERS “conceptualizes and constructs intensive experiential national security training systems, interactive game-based role-playing programs, curricula in alternative creative thinking and specialized visual communication.”
“The Equalizer” was well-received, and probably would have had a longer run at CBS if not for studio politics. Dick Lindheim explained in an email interview that it was cancelled in response to difficult negotiations over “Murder, She Wrote.”
Jason McCartan remarked, “They covered a lot of darker subjects and did it well. Nothing was ever cut and dry, and there was a lot of gray which often posed moral dilemmas for non-main characters. McCall was incredibly moral though, and a ‘good guy’. Troubled past, trying to make amends. It was also a lot more cerebral than other shows, and a lot less campy than The Saint, which I also love.”