The Equalizer

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This article is about the television series. For the 2014 film adaptation based on the series, see The Equalizer (film).
For other uses, see Equalizer (disambiguation).
The Equalizer
The Equalizer.jpg
Created by Michael Sloan
Richard Lindheim
Starring Edward Woodward
Robert Lansing
Keith Szarabajka
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 88 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time 48 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel CBS
Audio format Stereo
Original run September 18, 1985  – August 24, 1989

The Equalizer was an American crime drama television series, originally airing on CBS from fall 1985, until late-spring of 1989. 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 (e.g., Death Wish, Dirty Harry genres, along with a degree of violent realism that was uncommon for U.S. TV series of its time.

A film adaptation of the TV series, starring Denzel Washington, was released in the U.S. on September 26, 2014.

Overview[edit]

The series stars British actor Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, 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." In the pilot episode (as he "opens for business"), we discover that the nickname "Equalizer" was bestowed on him by another operative by the name of "Brahms," played by American comedian 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 from The Karate Kid). 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 favors. As a general rule, however, the people answering the newspaper ad were unremarkable, average, and unknown.

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 colored leather interior, although there are two extremely brief closeup 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 center 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 color and Sable Tan leather interior, then for the fourth season a 1989 XJ40 of equivalent color 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.

Notable guest stars[edit]

The show had quite a number of notable guest stars, many of whom became major stars within a few years of their appearances. Eight-year-old Macaulay Culkin appeared in one episode as a kidnap victim. Nine-year-old Melissa Joan Hart appeared as a young girl whom McCall protected from her ex-con father. Christian Slater appeared as a high-school student in the episode "Joyride." Kevin Spacey played a corrupt police officer. Reginald VelJohnson appeared as a D.J. John Goodman played a single father who was tricked by co-worker Joe Morton into taking part in a robbery. Stewart Copeland, who composed the show's theme song and much of its music, made a cameo as a pickpocket. Vincent D'Onofrio appeared twice in the series playing the arsonist son of a mobster in his first appearance, and as a mentally-challenged man falsely accused of murder in his second. William Converse-Roberts appeared twice, first as the murderer in D'Onofrio's second appearance, then later as a widower out to silence a gun control advocate after his wife was raped, and killed in front of him. Adam Ant played a villain in an episode that also featured J. T. Walsh, Dermot Morgan, David Alan Grier, Lori Petty, and Luis Guzman. Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys made a rare acting appearance in an episode alongside Alex Winter. Bradley Whitford appeared as a brutal young thug whose terrorizing of a hitch-hiking young couple leads to a siege of the weaponless McCall, and his son who are away on a father-son weekend. Melissa Sue Anderson played McCall's daughter (unbeknownst to herself) by an old girlfriend; in real life, Anderson was, and is the wife of series co-creator Michael Sloan. Shelby Anderson lent her singing ability as a lounge singer in an episode that also involved her giant panda, ZhenZhen.

Other well-known stars at the time, as well as future stars, who appeared on the show included E.G. Marshall, Laurence Fishburne, Lauren Tom, Patricia Clarkson, Jennifer Grey, Laurie Metcalf, Frances Fisher, Oliver Platt, Patricia Richardson, William H. Macy, Robin Curtis, Steve Buscemi, Roma Maffia, Olympia Dukakis, Michael Moriarty, Chris Cooper, Michael Rooker, David Strathairn, Charles S. Dutton, Cynthia Nixon, Bruce Payne, Laura San Giacomo, Kasi Lemmons, Al Leong, Ving Rhames, Amanda Plummer, Daniel Davis, Jon Polito, Jasmine Guy, Mark Linn-Baker, Meat Loaf, Lori Loughlin, Michael Wincott, Tony Shalhoub, Anthony Zerbe, and Stanley Tucci.

The series also made good use of its New York City filming location/setting by employing actors who were appearing on Broadway in the late 1980s as guest stars. These included Terrence Mann, Frances Ruffelle, Kevin Conway, J. Smith-Cameron, Philip Bosco, Caitlin Clarke, Josef Sommer, Jim Dale, Christine Baranski, and Anne Twomey.

Additionally, several former stage, and screen co-stars of Edward Woodward appeared on the show. These included Brian Bedford, Tammy Grimes (real-life mother of the aforementioned Ms. Plummer), Gwen Verdon, Sandy Dennis, Jenny Agutter, Shirley Knight, and Sylvia Sidney. Harvard-educated Shakespearean theatre, Broadway stage, screen, and film actor Richard Jordan appeared as the character Harley Gage in 10 episodes.

Woodward's second wife, Michele Dotrice, appeared as the central character in the season 2 episode, "Heartstrings." Her father, Roy Dotrice, also guest starred on the show in season 4's "Trial By Ordeal." Edward Woodward's son, actor Tim Woodward, appeared as McCall's father in a flashback scene in the episode "Prisoners of Conscience," also in season 4.

Weapons and gadgetry[edit]

One of the notable weapons McCall uses is a ballistic knife that is capable of launching its blade. This is especially useful when he must surrender his gun to help a client or when his gun is lost in a fight. Other weapons range from pistols to machine guns. McCall's personal weapons cabinet is hidden behind the tool board on a false wall of his apartment's workshop/photography studio. He may be able to obtain more weapons through a variety of sources (pawn shops, gun shops, the Agency, or various contacts).

McCall's main weapon was a stainless steel Interarms/Ranger Walther PPK/S with rubberized Pachmayr grips in .380 ACP caliber, an overt link to the spy genre and Ian Fleming's James Bond. In some episodes, McCall used also a Desert Eagle pistol, as well as the venerable Colt M1911A1 pistol in .45 ACP. McCall was also seen using M1 Carbine and UZI-type weapons, such as the regular SMG and the pistol version. In three episodes, McCall was seen using an expensive Mauser 660 bolt action rifle with a telescopic sight, for more accurate work.

Music[edit]

The show's distinctive theme song became a hit for composer/performer Stewart Copeland, founder, and drummer of rock band The Police. He was an appropriate choice, as both of his parents had intelligence connections. His father, Miles Copeland, Jr. was one of the founding members of the Office of Strategic Services, the World War II predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency, while his mother, Lorraine Copeland, worked with British military intelligence during that war.

In 1988, I.R.S. Records released the Stewart Copeland album The Equalizer & Other Cliff Hangers, which featured some of Copeland's Equalizer score. The fourth track, "The Equalizer Busy Equalizing," is an extended version of the show's main theme.

The original theme (in stereo but w/o the TV version's sound effects) can be found on Television's Greatest Hits Vol.7-Cable Ready CD. The original theme in stereo WITH sound effects can be found on "The Equalizer Season One" DVD set (published by Universal Studios--see DVD releases below). Although the season one episodes were originally broadcast in monaural and are encoded in mono for this DVD release, Universal took the stereo theme from the "Cable Ready" CD (the only known stereo version of the original theme as it was broadcast) and added very similar sounding effects back into the mix before encoding it on each episode in this set.

Episode list[edit]

DVD releases[edit]

On February 12, 2008, Universal Studios Home Entertainment released Season 1 of The Equalizer on DVD in Region 1 (US only).[1]

On May 15, 2013, it was announced that Visual Entertainment had acquired the rights to the series in Region 1.[2] On April 11, 2014, it was announced that season 2 will be released on August 26, 2014.[3][4]

In Region 2, Universal Playback UK released season 1 on DVD on April 21, 2008. In late 2011, Fabulous Films announced that they had acquired the rights to the series. They have subsequently released seasons 2 -4.[5] On May 27, 2013, Fabulous Films released The Equalizer- The Complete Collection on DVD.[6] This 24-disc box set contains all 88 episodes of the series as well as bonus content including an all-new documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew.

In Region 1 Visual Entertainment released all four seasons on DVD on Aug 19, 2014.[7] The Equalizer Complete Collection Limited Edition set contains all 88 episodes plus 12 hours of bonus content including CI5: The New Professionals, the last movie ever done by Edward Woodward: A Congregation of Ghosts and The Story of The Equalizer featuring interviews with cast and crew.[8]

Many fans have noted that the Region 1 version has had several of the originally used songs replaced. In actual fact nearly 50 per cent of all music apart from the theme, and scoring by Stewart Copeland has been replaced by "covers" due to expired copyrights, as well as the resultant extensive legal costs which would be incurred in the USA to have those copyrights renewed. In contrast, the Region 2 version, however, contains all of the original music uncut, and intact.

In Region 4, Umbrella Entertainment has released all four seasons on DVD in Australia.[9]


DVD Name Ep# Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The First Season 22 February 12, 2008 April 21, 2008 March 9, 2011
The Second Season 22 August 26, 2014 March 26, 2012 April 4, 2012
The Third Season 22 N/A October 1, 2012 August 1, 2012
The Fourth Season 22 N/A October 29, 2012 November 7, 2012

Film adaptation[edit]

Main article: The Equalizer (film)

See also[edit]

  • Stingray — a contemporaneous TV drama also featuring a mysterious character who helps people in distress and advertises in newspapers
  • Vengeance Unlimited — about a mysterious stranger driven by an unknown tragedy in his past to serve justice to those who had been ignored by the law
  • Burn Notice — another television show in which an ex-spy helps those in need
  • Person of Interest — a television show in which an ex-spy attempts to stop crimes before they happen
  • Callan — an earlier TV spy series in which Woodward played a character similar to that of Robert McCall

References[edit]

External links[edit]