Swift Justice

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Swift Justice
White capital letters saying "SWIFT JUSTICE" are placed over a black screen.
Title card
GenreDetective drama
Created byDick Wolf
Composer(s)Rick Marotta
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes13 (list of episodes)
Production location(s)New York City
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)
Original networkUPN
Audio formatStereo
Original releaseMarch 13 (1996-03-13) – July 17, 1996 (1996-07-17)

Swift Justice is an American detective drama television series, created by Dick Wolf, which aired for one season on United Paramount Network (UPN) from March 13 to July 17, 1996. It follows a former Navy SEAL Mac Swift (James McCaffrey), who becomes a private investigator after being fired from the New York City Police Department. He is supported by his former partner Detective Randall Patterson (Gary Dourdan) and his father Al Swift (Len Cariou). Completed on a limited budget, episodes were filmed on location in New York City.

Critics noted Swift Justice's emphasis on violence, specifically in the pilot episode's opening sequence. The show received comparisons to he crime drama The Equalizer and the 1988 film Die Hard. UPN cancelled the program after receiving complaints from viewers and critics on its violent scenes. Wolf said the network considered this decision to be a mistake due to the show's ratings. While some commentators praised the series for its visuals and cast, others criticized its storylines as either too violent or formulaic.

Premise and characters[edit]

A detective drama, Swift Justice follows Mac Swift (James McCaffrey), a former United States Navy SEAL who joins the New York City Police Department (NYPD).[1][2] Mac is frequently challenged by his police sergeant father, Al Swift (Len Cariou), and his other superiors, including Andrew Coffin (Giancarlo Esposito).[1][2][3] Mac is assisted by his partner and best friend, Detective Randall Patterson (Gary Dourdan).[1][3] Creator and executive producer Dick Wolf compared Mac's friendship with Randall to Martin Riggs' partnership with Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon film franchise.[4][5]

In the pilot episode, Mac attempts to capture a man (Skipp Sudduth) who steals credit card numbers by running a prostitution ring. During the case, he collaborates with a hooker, Annie (Kim Dickens), and becomes romantically involved with her. She had turned to the profession to pay for her college tuition and her mother's nursing home bills.[1] When Annie is murdered, Mac's behavior becomes increasingly extreme and erratic,[3] leading to his termination from the police department at the end of the pilot.[1]

In subsequent episodes, Mac works as a private investigator who assists those "denied [help] because of the rules of conventional law enforcement".[2] He helps people by "build[ing] cases against the bad guys that can stick in court" rather than vigilantism.[6] Throughout the series, Randall provides Mac with information about cases. After the pilot, Al is demoted from a beat officer to working at a desk.[2] Portrayed as experienced with computers,[2] Mac is financially stable due to royalty payments from software he had developed.[1] He sets up an email address to receive messages from his clients.[6] According to a publicity note from United Paramount Network (UPN), Mac relies on "technology, intellect, charisma and muscle" to solve cases.[7] The network promoted the character as "a true crime fighter of the technology-driven 90's".[3]

Critics compared the show's concept to the crime drama The Equalizer and the 1988 film Die Hard.[1][3][6] The Orlando Sentinel's Hal Boedeker identified it as an "urban western".[7] Wolf likened Swift Justice to "Batman without the mask",[3] and summed up its tone as politically incorrect.[8] He based Mac Swift on Paladin from Have Gun – Will Travel.[9] Storylines include a rock singer who is denied a divorce from her abusive husband, a woman whose son is kidnapped by her ex-husband, and a man who tortures his victims by hitting them with golf balls.[2][6] Many commentators noted the show's use of violence,[3][10][11] particularly how the pilot's opening sequence involves nine deaths.[10] Despite its frequent inclusion of violent scenes, the show does not show blood or gore.[12]

Production and broadcast history[edit]

An older man wearing a light jacket over a blue shirt. He is looking toward the camera, while speaking in a microphone.
Dick Wolf was the creator and executive producer of Swift Justice.

Produced by Wolf Films in association with Universal Television, Swift Justice was shot on location in New York City.[1] During filming, Jean-Claude La Marre, who guest starred as a hustler, was nearly arrested by a police officer. La Marre accused him of racial profiling. Representatives from Swift Justice and the NYPD did not comment on the incident.[13] Rick Marotta produced the music, which Variety's Todd Everett described as "all synthesizers and percussion".[1] According to New York's Maureen Callahan, the show was a low-budget production.[13]

Swift Justice was part of UPN's "aggressive new spring schedule", where the network expanded its programming to three nights per week.[6] Picked up as a mid-season replacement,[14] the series was broadcast on Wednesday nights at 9:00 pm EST.[2] Thirteen episodes aired between March 1996 and July 1996.[15] Scotty Dupree of Mediaweek wrote that UPN picked up Swift Justice, along with The Sentinel, to attract a male audience. Dupree said that they were the only television programs, aside from JAG, marketed to men on Wednesday nights.[16] Rocky Mountain News' Dusty Saunders cited Swift Justice as an example of how the network was moving toward action-adventure programs.[17]

Swift Justice's pilot episode was shown with "a viewer advisory for violence".[5] During the show's broadcast, watchdog organizations and viewers were critical of the representation of violence on television.[3][7][18] UPN canceled Swift Justice, Nowhere Man, Minor Adjustments, and The Paranormal Borderline, in favor of black sitcoms.[19] The network had decided to remove Swift Justice from its schedule following viewer complaints about its violence.[20][21] During a 2013 interview with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Wolf said that UPN executives had since considered it a "cancellation error" as the network did not have another drama with ratings comparable to Swift Justice.[8]


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUS viewers
1"Out on a Limb"Jace AlexanderDavid H. BalkinMarch 13, 1996 (1996-03-13)N/A
Mac Swift falls in love with a prostitute while investigating a man stealing credit card information.
2"Pilot Episode"Jace AlexanderN/AMarch 20, 1996 (1996-03-20)3.7[22]
Mac helps a woman find her son who has been kidnapped by her ex-husband, and discovers he is a leader of a Neo-Nazi group.
3"Sex, Death and Rock 'n' Roll"Frederick King KellerGary GlasbergMarch 27, 1996 (1996-03-27)N/A
Randall Patterson asks Mac to help his friend who is being denied a divorce from her husband.
4"Supernote"Frederick King KellerJerry Patrick BrownApril 3, 1996 (1996-04-03)2.0[23]
A federal agent hires Mac to find her partner, who was last seen investigating counterfeit money
5"Where Were You in '72?"Oscar L. CostoJames DaleApril 10, 1996 (1996-04-10)N/A
Mac helps a former political activist locate a person trying to kill her.
6"Takin' Back the Street"Lee BonnerSonny GordonApril 24, 1996 (1996-04-24)N/A
A woman hires Mac to investigate the murder of her mother, who had attempted to organize her neighborhood against drug dealers.
7"No Holds Barred"Frederick King KellerGary GlasbergMay 1, 1996 (1996-05-01)N/A
While trying to find a woman's missing boyfriend, Mac gets involved in illegal cage fighting.
8"Horses"Matthew PennJonathan Robert KaplanMay 8, 1996 (1996-05-08)N/A
While investigating the murder of a horse, Mac is confronted by a loan shark.
9"Bad Medicine"Frederick King KellerBob RogersMay 15, 1996 (1996-05-15)N/A
Prior to his death, a scientist asks his colleague to contact Mac about a case.
10"Isaiah's Daughter"Jesús Salvador TreviñoWilliam HasleyMay 22, 1996 (1996-05-22)2.1[24]
An Amish man travels to Manhattan to find his daughter, and asks for Mac's assistance.
11"The Haze"Frederick King KellerSonny GordonJuly 2, 1996 (1996-07-02)2.1[25]
A woman hires Mac to find the person trying to kill her, but she forgot key details due to her drinking problem.
12"Stones"N/AN/AJuly 10, 1996 (1996-07-10)N/A
Mac helps a girl on probation when her friends rob two million dollars of jewels from a professional thief.
13"Retribution"Frederick King KellerMark LissonJuly 17, 1996 (1996-07-17)N/A
Mac and Randall reunite with a woman they helped escape from a serial killer. She has dreams the murderer will pursue her again in the near future.

Critical reception[edit]

Critics praised Swift Justice for its visuals.[1][5][6] Despite criticizing the series for relying on clichés, Todd Everett said it was the best looking show on UPN.[1] Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote that the show had "a visceral, close-to-the-streets feel", but noted that the plot was filled with many overused conventions and clichés.[6] Judy Nichols of The Christian Science Monitor singled out its "fast-moving action" and "spurts of breakneck-pace camera work".[5] On the other hand, The Boston Globe's Frederic M. Biddle felt the visuals alone could not carry the show.[26][27] James McCaffrey and his character received a positive response from critics.[3][6] The New York Times' John O'Connor praised the show for characterizing him as an action hero with a sensitive side.[3] Johnson described McCaffrey as "handsome, but neither too impressed nor too pretty to buy as an action lead".[6]

The show's frequent use of violence was criticized.[10][11] Panning the premise as unrealistic, Scott D. Pierce of the Deseret News summed up the series as "full of violence, questionable messages, violence and more violence".[10] The San Francisco Chronicle's John Carman described Swift Justice as a "competent action show", but felt that "it isn't good enough to compensate for its excesses".[11] Some commentators criticized the series' plot as generic.[1][6][28] In their 2007 book Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of The WB and UPN, Susanne Daniels and Cynthia Littleton dismissed Swift Justice as a "run-of-the-mill gumshoe drama".[28] Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel referred to the show as "an unpleasant throwback to the 1980s".[7] Howard Rosenberg, writing for the Los Angeles Times, was critical of the pilot episode for its plot holes.[12]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Everett, Todd (March 12, 1996). "Swift Justice". Variety. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Brooks & Marsh (2009): p 1344
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j O'Connor, John J. (March 13, 1996). "Television Review: Sort of Like Batman, With Uzis and Laptops". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  4. ^ Mink, Eric (March 12, 1996). "Cop Show 'Swift'-ly Sets Its Tone". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Nichols, Judy (March 12, 1996). "Worth Noting on TV". The Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Johnson, Steve (March 13, 1996). "The Formula: Debut Of UPN's 'Swift Justice' Built Around Several Conventional Ideas". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d Boedeker, Hal (March 13, 1996). "New Shows: Flat, Flashy And Lousy". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Dick Wolf on producing Swift Justice". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. January 10, 2013. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  9. ^ Jicha, Tom (March 13, 1996). "Shooting at the V-Chip". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d Pierce, Scott D. (March 13, 1996). "'Faculty' is Too Dumb, 'Swift' is Too Violent". The Deseret News. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c Carman, John (March 13, 1996). "UPN's 'Justice' Arrives With A Splatter". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  12. ^ a b Rosenberg, Howard (March 13, 1996). "'Faculty' Short on Laughs; 'Justice' Is Long on Holes". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  13. ^ a b Callahan, Maureen (April 22, 1996). "Life Intimidates Art". New York. 29 (16): 18. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  14. ^ Coe, Steve (August 28, 1995). "From fighting cavities to fighting V-chips.(Richard Wolf goes from advertising copywriter to screenwriter)". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018. (subscription required)
  15. ^ "Episode Guide". TV Guide. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  16. ^ Dupree, Scotty (March 4, 1996). "UPN aims for boys' night in; Wednesday now a six-way race". Mediaweek. v6 (n10): 8(1). Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  17. ^ Saunders, Dusty (March 20, 1996). "Quasi-Network UPN Moving into Action-Adventure Arena". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018. (subscription required)
  18. ^ Graham, Renee (May 21, 1996). "Reader Feedback: Would you let your child watch this? A naughty 'Nanny' may be fine, but parents prefer to X out 'Files'". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018. (subscription required)
  19. ^ Lowry, Brian (May 17, 1996). "UPN Tries to Lure African Americans". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  20. ^ Heldenfels, R.D. (September 18, 1996). "Network TV is supposed to be getting more family-friendly, but…". Knight Ridder/tribune News Service. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018. (subscription required)
  21. ^ Rice, Lynette (October 21, 1996). "TV reduces violence. (UCLA study of television violence during 1995-96 season)". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018. (subscription required)
  22. ^ Williams, Scott (March 29, 1996). "NBC Tops Nielsen Ratings". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018. (subscription required)
  23. ^ "Home Improvement' is No. 1". San Francisco Chronicle. April 10, 1996. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018.
  24. ^ "NBC Tops Nielsen Ratings". Rocky Mountain News. May 31, 1996. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018. (subscription required)
  25. ^ Williams, Scott (July 12, 1996). "NBC Tops Nielsen Ratings". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018. (subscription required)
  26. ^ Biddle, Frederic M. (March 13, 1996). "A 'Swift' kick at the V-chip". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018. (subscription required)
  27. ^ Biddle, Frederic M. (March 22, 1996). "'Sentinel' packs some heat". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on August 25, 2018. (subscription required)
  28. ^ a b Daniels & Littleton (2007): p 95

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