KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (15)
May 19, 2022
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite TV shows of the Seventies (1974–1983).
THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO | 1972–1977
Watching The Streets of San Francisco, one would assume that the show’s unstated mission is to capture the former capitol city of the American ’60s as it bleeds forward into a new decade tinged with cynicism, corruption, confusion, and — everywhere you look, it seems — broken dreams. In story after story we meet artists, hippies, drug users, poets, square businessmen, and Vietnam vets side by side with the more standard icons of Quinn Martin procedurals — cops, more cops, newspapermen, priests, politicians, rapists, hijackers, illegal aliens, prostitutes, and racketeers. Yet, despite the thumbnail nature of all these characterizations, and despite the ostensible darkness of this world of crime, The Streets of San Francisco works very hard to remain upbeat. Some of this is a simple desire not to alienate the television audience – this isn’t a noir, and the main characters are not, as a rule, soul searchers. But more, the show conveys a genuine excitement to be in this specific — beautiful, unique — city, at this specific, up-in-the-air moment. The series leans heavily on location realism, shooting San Francisco like a tarnished Shangri-La. The truth is, of course, like everything else from the ’60s that started on the fringe and went mainstream — music, drugs, hot tubs, macramé — The Streets of San Francisco is made by the square television people who made The Fugitive and The FBI. They came to San Francisco after its glow had worn off, but fell in love anyway, since what remained was still more magical than what they knew before.
The transplant of Quinn Martin Productions to exotic San Francisco reads like a traveling businessman unpacking a suitcase and putting family photos around the new office to make it just enough like the old place for comfort. The opening titles have low-rent Saul Bass graphics; the montage is aggressively chopped up to signify edge; the theme music is an insistent sequence of riffs and exclamations, horns and wah wah pedals, anticipating the counter-culture’s next peak with misplaced confidence. The cast catches the same mix of reliable moves and fresh bets: method actor/movie star Karl Malden, relatively fresh off big-screen success with Patton, downshifts to the small screen to be paired with young hotshot Michael Douglas, son-of-Kirk, a deferent wise-ass with cool hair. Like so much television of the time, their banter is mostly thankless and routine, leavened by the stars’ charisma — crustily avuncular in one case, unthreateningly hip in the other. Yet their genuine humanity — an actor on his last big job, an actor on his first — creates a doubled dialogue: both with each another and, more importantly, with the living city around them. Their genuine pleasure at being there and on the job forms the show’s beating heart.
The Quinn Martin production code is self-important enough to label each section of the show as “Acts I-IV” and the final pre-credits wrap-up as “Epilog”. That’s all fine. Beyond the business, we glimpse the real place moving on, one step at a time.
KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Lynn Peril on ONE DAY AT A TIME | Dan Reines on THE WHITE SHADOW | Carlo Rotella on BARNEY MILLER | Lucy Sante on POLICE WOMAN | Douglas Wolk on WHEW! | Susan Roe on THE LOVE BOAT | Peggy Nelson on THE BIONIC WOMAN | Michael Grasso on WKRP IN CINCINNATI | Josh Glenn on SHAZAM! | Vanessa Berry on IN SEARCH OF… | Mark Kingwell on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA | Tom Nealon on BUCK ROGERS | Heather Quinlan on LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE | Adam McGovern on FAWLTY TOWERS | Gordon Dahlquist on THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO | David Smay on LAVERNE & SHIRLEY | Miranda Mellis on WELCOME BACK, KOTTER | Rick Pinchera on THE MUPPET SHOW | Kio Stark on WONDER WOMAN | Marc Weidenbaum on ARK II | Carl Wilson on LOU GRANT | Greg Rowland on STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES | Dave Boerger on DOCTOR WHO | William Nericcio on CHICO AND THE MAN | Erin M. Routson on HAPPY DAYS. Plus: David Cantwell on THE WALTONS.
JACK KIRBY PANELS | CAPTAIN KIRK SCENES | OLD-SCHOOL HIP HOP | TYPEFACES | NEW WAVE | SQUADS | PUNK | NEO-NOIR MOVIES | COMICS | SCI-FI MOVIES | SIDEKICKS | CARTOONS | TV DEATHS | COUNTRY | PROTO-PUNK | METAL | & more enthusiasms!