Friday, June 15, 2007

Rating Game Redux 10: Copland

The Register-Mail has sent out the call for "Best TV Cop Shows." I'm not sure the following are the "best," but two of them are surely influential, while one is a personal favorite. I used to laud its virtues when it was on--to the bewilderment of my friends, as I recall--but to this day I'm convinced that Robert Blake's career has never been what it should, and while one can point to the monumental achievement of his Perry Smith in In Cold Blood (1967)--and his promising turns in Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969) and Electra Glide in Blue (1973)--those seasons on Baretta remain the broadest consideration one can take of the strength of his nervous, frightened bravado and surreal expressions of an always-forming self. Little wonder that the only director to see this in him since the '80s is David Lynch, who white-faced and flash-froze Blake to play the bi-locational "Mystery Man" of Lost Highway (1997). Yes, it's the last credit listed on the Internet Movie Database, and while that may be Blake's fault as much as anyone's, I still yearn for one more long look at those darting, watery eyes and lead-pipe frame, his mouth curled in an uncertain grimace, his hands fluttering like the wings of that damn cockatoo.

And oh yeah: Keep your eyes on the sparrow, cos that's the name of that tune.

With this bedrock police procedural, Jack Webb insinuated himself forever into the American TV consciousness, as matter-of-fact as the unmoving camera that gazed at every square-jawed interrogation and inevitable arrest.

Police Story
Ex-cop Joseph Wambaugh’s anthology show (featuring ‘70s stalwarts like Tony Lo Bianco, Vic Morrow, and James Farentino) was groundbreaking in its warts-and-all depiction of police officers, and paved the way for all later “realistic” cop shows.

Ignore the silly bird Robert Blake had to interact with; what remains is the first Method Actor cop show, in which everyone—cop and crook alike—seems anguished.

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