Cult TV

Cult TV Essentials: The Equalizer

The Equalizer was an American crime drama television series, originally airing on CBS from fall 1985, until late-spring 1989.It lasted four seasons, 88 episodes in total.

It starred Edward Woodward as a retired espionage/intelligence officer with a mysterious past, who uses the skills from his former career to exact vigilante justice on behalf of innocent people who are hopelessly trapped in dangerous circumstances. The series combined elements of the spy film, private investigator/police procedural drama, and vigilante genres.

PLOT

As mentioned, Robert McCall (Edward Woodward) is a former covert operations officer of an unnamed U.S. Government intelligence organization, which was often referred to simply as “The Agency” or “The Company” (it is implied that it is the CIA), who tries to atone for past sins by offering, free of charge, his services as a troubleshooter, a protector, and an investigator. People in need find him through a newspaper ad: “Odds against you? Need help? Call the Equalizer. 212 555 4200.” When he begins this business in the pilot episode, it is revealed that the nickname “Equalizer” was bestowed on him by another operative by the name of “Brahms,” played by Jerry Stiller.

Aided by a group of sometimes-mysterious contacts (some of whom date back to his spying days), McCall traverses the streets of New York City, delivering justice upon hoodlums, rapists, racists, murderers, kidnappers, drug dealers, and other “truly deserving” people. His contacts are also prone to human foibles, ranging from egotism to domestic problems.

McCall himself is divorced, a “lost dad” long estranged from his son, Scott (William Zabka). Scott comes back into his life as a young adult who is at first bitterly critical of his father’s world, but then becomes drawn into that world to the dismay of both of his parents. McCall also lost a woman he was in love with, a fellow operative named Manon Brevard, and discovers that she had secretly given birth to his daughter.

Many episodes focus on McCall interacting with “Control” (played by Robert Lansing), the unnamed head of the New York office of the secret organization for which McCall used to work.

In later episodes Richard Jordan joined the cast as fellow “equalizer” Harley Gage in order to reduce the workload on Edward Woodward, who suffered a heart attack in 1987. Gage is a “retired” intelligence operative, and former colleague of McCall’s. Robert Mitchum also filled in for Woodward at the beginning of that time in a two part episode (“Mission McCall”). Mitchum portrayed Richard Dyson, who like Robert Lansing’s character was a “control” — a director of the Agency who was also a long time friend, and colleague of McCall’s. Most of the time, McCall was aided by Mickey Kostmayer (Keith Szarabajka), a much younger agent who was more or less permanently lent to him by Lansing’s Control when Kostmayer wasn’t overseas on assignment, and by Jimmy (Mark Margolis), a former colleague of McCall’s who was often called on by him to either get information on a suspect or to do various favours. As a general rule, however, the people answering the newspaper ad were unremarkable, average, and unknown.[citation needed]

In the pilot episode of the series McCall’s primary car was principally depicted as being a Lacquer Black 1985 Jaguar XJ6 Series III Vanden Plas with Dove Gray coloured leather interior, although there are two extremely brief close-up shots shown of the Sable Tan interior of a standard Series III XJ6. Beginning with the first production episode of the first season his car was then consistently shown to be a standard 1986 Series III. For the second season of the series the car was replaced with a 1987 model (distinguished by the addition of a third brake light situated immediately behind the centre bottom area of the rear window glass) with the same Lacquer Black paint and Sable Tan leather interior. At the start of the third season the car was again updated — this time with Jaguar’s replacement for the Series III model: an example of their less attractive 1988 XJ40 in the same Lacquer Black paint colour and Sable Tan leather interior, then for the fourth season a 1989 XJ40 of equivalent colour scheme was employed. As explanation for these aforementioned yearly upgrades it should be noted that the Equalizer television series has to this very day the distinction of being the first, and only American television series which for promotional purposes alone, Jaguar Cars ever contracted with to feature where needed a consistently current example of one of their line of vehicles.

 

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