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Kojak is an American television series starring Telly Savalas as the title character, bald New York City Police Department Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak. It aired from October 24, 1973, to March 18, 1978, on CBS. It took the time slot of the popular Cannon series, which was moved one hour earlier. Kojak's Greek heritage, shared by actor Savalas, was prominently featured in the series.
The series was set in the New York City Police Department's Thirteenth Precinct, Manhattan South Patrol Borough The show revolved around the efforts of the tough and incorruptible Lieutenant Theo Kojak (Telly Savalas), a bald, dapper, New York City policeman who was fond of lollipops and for using the catchphrase, "Who loves ya, baby?" Kojak was stubborn and tenacious in his investigation of crimes - and also displayed a dark, cynical wit, along with a tendency to bend the rules if it brought a criminal to justice. Savales described Kojak as a "basically honest character, tough but with feelings -- the kind of guy who might kick a hooker in the tail if he had to, but they'd understand each other because maybe they grew up on the same kind of block."
In the early episodes of the series, Kojak smoked heavily; in order to reflect the anti-smoking sentiment gaining momentum on American TV, the writers decided that Kojak had quit smoking. He began sucking on lollipops as a substitute, which became a trademark of the character (although Kojak is frequently seen smoking a cigarillo when he winds up a case by interrogation of the main suspect(s)). The lollipop made its debut in the Season 1 episode "Dark Sunday", broadcast on Dec. 12, 1973; Kojak lights a cigarillo as he begins questioning a witness, but thinks better of it and sticks a lollipop (specifically, a Tootsie Pop) in his mouth instead. Later in the episode, Kevin Dobson's character asks about the lollipop and Kojak replies, "I'm trying to bridge the generation gap."
His longtime supervisor was Capt. Frank McNeil (Dan Frazer). Later in the series, McNeil was promoted to Chief of Detectives in Manhattan. Kojak is the commander of the Manhattan South Precinct's detective squad. His squad includes one of his favorite employees: young plainclothes officer, Det. Bobby Crocker (Kevin Dobson). Detectives Stavros (played by Telly's real-life brother George Savalas, who originally used the name "Demosthenes" as his screen credit; under his real name, Savalas also received a Production Associate credit during the early seasons), Saperstein (Mark Russell), and Rizzo (Vince Conti), all gave Kojak support.
Although the show primarily focused on Kojak's police work, it occasionally veered into other areas of the character's lives, such as the first season episode "Knockover" which included a subplot involving Kojak romancing a (much younger) female police officer.
In 1976, acclaimed crime writer Joe Gores received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Episode in a TV Series Teleplay for the third-season episode "No Immunity for Murder" (first aired November 23, 1975).
The show ended in 1978, after five seasons, due to low ratings. Reruns of Kojak became successful in syndication and TV Land. Years after the series ended, Savalas reprised the role in two TV movies, The Belarus File (1985), an adaptation of the John Loftus book The Belarus Secret, and The Price of Justice (1987), based on Dorothy Uhnak's novel, The Investigation. Kojak is not a character in either book.
In 1989–1990 Kojak returned to television in five two-hour episodes that aired on ABC, rotating with three other series as part of the ABC Mystery Movie. No longer a lieutenant commanding a precinct detective squad, Kojak had been promoted to inspector and put in charge of the NYPD's city-wide Major Crimes Squad. Andre Braugher was cast as a young detective assigned to Kojak's command. Series stars The Savalas Brothers (Telly & George), Frazer and Dobson are the only cast members to appear in every episode of the series, and stayed throughout the entire run.
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