Wiseguy title, season one
|Created by||Stephen J. Cannell
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||75|
|Executive producer(s)||David J. Burke|
|Producer(s)||Stephen J. Cannell
|Running time||60 mins (approx.)|
|Production company(s)||Stephen J. Cannell Productions|
|Original release||September 16, 1987 – December 8, 1990|
Wiseguy is an American crime drama series that aired on CBS from September 16, 1987 to December 8, 1990, for a total of 75 episodes. The series was produced by Stephen J. Cannell and was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, to avoid the higher studio costs associated with filming in Los Angeles.
Wiseguy featured Ken Wahl as Vinnie Terranova, a deep cover operative for the fictional Organized Crime Task Force division of the FBI. Jonathan Banks played his superior Frank McPike and Jim Byrnes played Daniel "Lifeguard" Burroughs, who assisted Vinnie while in the field. Wahl left the series after three seasons and Steven Bauer joined the series alongside Banks and Byrnes, who were the only cast members to appear in every season.
As opposed to a typical crime drama series, Wiseguy was structured more like a typical soap opera would be; for example, a cycle of episodes would focus on a particular story and the story would conclude in the final episode of the cycle, which gave rise to the term story arc. Since each cycle dealt with a particular story, the episodes had a set of characters written just for those episodes. Actors such as Kevin Spacey, Ray Sharkey, and Tim Curry were among the actors who played central characters in story arcs over the course of the series.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Characters
- 3 Season One
- 4 Season Two
- 5 Season Three
- 6 Season Four
- 7 TV movie
- 8 Awards
- 9 DVD releases
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The series followed Vincent "Vinnie" Terranova, an undercover agent of the OCB (Organized Crime Bureau), a fictional division of the FBI. The show differed from previous crime dramas in its use of story arcs and in its focus on both the mechanics of being deep undercover and the consequences of the protagonist's actions.
Vincent Michael "Vinnie" Terranova (Ken Wahl) is an undercover agent who is 30 years old when the series begins. His job is to infiltrate criminal organizations, gather evidence, and then destroy the organization and bring the guilty parties to justice. At the beginning of the show, he is estranged from his family because of an eighteen-month prison sentence (meant to establish his "wiseguy" credentials with the criminal underworld) and continued ties to criminals. His Italian-born mother, Carlotta (Elsa Raven) calls him "Vincenzo" but his legal name is Vincent. Vinnie was often seen wearing Fordham University sweatshirts and hats as he and his brother Pete are Fordham graduates.
Frank McPike (Jonathan Banks) is Vinnie's superior officer, who assigns Vinnie to cases, supplies him with important information and coordinates back-up support. Since McPike is a known law enforcement official and Vinnie is deep undercover, McPike will often have Vinnie arrested on a trumped-up charge so that he can talk to Vinnie without revealing his identity (as he did in the first episode; Frank was the reason Vinnie was locked up and he was not happy that Frank did not spring him before the sentence was completed). Like many characters in law-enforcement dramas, Frank has a troubled marriage. He separates from his wife after diverting some money recovered from a gangster to pay for a liver transplant for her. Later, she is taken hostage in their home, and Frank personally shoots the criminal to free her. At the end, they are still not reconciled.
Daniel Benjamin "Lifeguard" Burroughs
Lifeguard (Jim Byrnes), whom Vinnie communicates with almost exclusively by telephone, is Vinnie's other contact person. Vinnie (ideally) calls him every morning with the latest updates on the case, and Lifeguard provides him with quick updates. He also, under the name of Mike Terranova, provides Vinnie with an emergency contact number (555-4958, a play on Vince's agent number), without revealing Vinnie's true identity. (The cover location is "Sailor Hardware"; the codephrase "Uncle Mike" indicates an emergency request for assistance). Like McPike, Daniel is divorced as a result of his work. His ex-wife stays in close contact, apparently because Daniel has resources she wants. Daniel endures this with resentment. Eventually he forms a relationship with OCB's west coast Lifeguard operator when Vinnie's investigations take him to Washington State.
- Father Pete Terranova played by Gerald Anthony
- Carlotta Terranova (Aiuppo) played by Elsa Raven
- Paul Beckstead played by Ken Jenkins
- Mark Cermak played by Dwight Koss
- Mel Profitt played by Kevin Spacey
Sonny Steelgrave storyline
Vinnie was launched into the first arc upon his release from prison. Sonny Steelgrave (Ray Sharkey) was the leader of the Atlantic City Mafia; his brother Dave (Gianni Russo) assassinated Vinnie's training agent, who had been investigating the Steelgrave organization. Vinnie infiltrated Steelgrave's "family," attracting the interest of Dave's daughter Tracy (Jessica Steen). He worked his way up to be Sonny Steelgrave's right-hand man after Dave's death and the apparent defection of one of the Steelgrave captains. When Vinnie finally tried to bring him to justice, Sonny Steelgrave committed suicide rather than face the death penalty. Vinnie was ultimately able to exorcise the guilt he felt over his betrayal of Sonny during a brief stay at a sanitarium.
(The first airing of the episode "No One Gets Out of Here Alive," the finale to the Sonny Steelgrave storyline, featured The Rascals' "Good Lovin'" and The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin," but because of issues with performance rights, the latter was subsequently replaced by various songs or an overdub of score music in later re-airings and in the DVD release. The original song was present, though, when the episode aired on CBS Late Night in 1989.)
|4||The Loose Cannon||1|
|5||The Birthday Surprise||1|
|6||One on One||1|
|8||A Deal's a Deal||1|
|9||The Marriage of Heaven and Hell||1|
|10||No One Gets Out of Here Alive||1|
- Ray Sharkey as Sonny Steelgrave
- Gianni Russo as Dave Steelgrave
- Jessica Steen as Tracy Steelgrave
- Dennis Lipscomb as Sid Royce/Elvis Prim
- Eric Christmas as Harry "The Hunch" Shanstra
- Joe Dallesandro as Paul "Pat the Cat" Patrice
- Joe Shea as Mack "No Money" Mahoney
- Nathan Davis as Don "Joey Bags" Baglia
- Robert Mangiardi as Aldo Baglia
Arc Guest Stars
- Robert Miranda as Tony Greco
- Billy Vera as Joey Romanowski
- Annette Bening as Karen Leland
- Dan Lauria as Jack Phillips
- David Marciano as Lorenzo Steelgrave
Mel Profitt storyline
Vinnie, using his reputation developed as a result of infiltrating the Steelgrave crime family, made contact with a hitman/assassin named Roger Loccoco (William Russ). However, Vinnie soon discovered a much bigger target: Roger's boss, the (mentally unstable) multi-billionaire international criminal mastermind and arms dealer Mel Profitt (Kevin Spacey), and his sister Susan (Joan Severance). Mel had an addiction to prescription medication (often administered to him by Susan) which further contributed to his unstable emotional state. He was also a believer in Malthusian economics. After much international intrigue involving Mel, Susan and Loccoco (who turned out to be a CIA agent, under even deeper cover than Vinnie), the entire organization was destroyed. Susan killed Mel (after he begged her to), and had a torrid affair with Vinnie, but subsequently went insane and was committed. The arc alluded to an incestuous relationship between Mel and Susan. Roger was seemingly killed in an explosion, but he briefly appeared to Vinnie afterwards. Disgusted with his own lies and deceptions ("I've turned friendship and loyalty into an obscene joke"), Vinnie attempted to quit the OCB, but McPike talked him into taking a six-month sabbatical instead.
Stephen J. Cannell, producer of Wiseguy, stated that the character Jim Profit from the short-lived Fox series Profit (which Cannell also produced) was named after and partially based on the Mel Profitt character.
|11||Last Rites For Lucci||1|
|13||Fascination for the Flame||1|
|14||Smokey Mountain Requiem||1|
|15||Player to be Named Now||1|
|16||The Merchant of Death||1|
|17||Not For Nothing||1|
|21||Dirty Little Wars||1|
|22||Date With an Angel||1|
- Joan Severance as Susan Profitt
- Kevin Spacey as Mel Profitt
- William Russ as Roger Lococco
- David Spielberg as Herb Ketcher
- Melanie Chartoff as Lillah Warfield
- Ben Halley, Jr. as Henri LaLonde
- Clyde Kusatsu as Kenny Sasusha
- Will Zahrn as Charles Shagrass
White Supremacy storyline
At the beginning of the second season, Vinnie had no intention of rejoining the OCB, and was trying figure out what to do with his life. When his brother Pete (Gerald Anthony) is killed by a white supremacist, however, Vinnie returned to the OCB, on the condition that he could go after his brother's killer. He quickly fell in with a supremacist group, headed by the opportunistic used car salesman and con man "Dr." Knox Pooley (Fred Thompson), and his "true believer" follower Calvin Hollis (Paul Guilfoyle). While Pooley's organization, the "Pilgrims of Promise," is both racist and anti-Semitic, the character himself is portrayed as hypocritical and amoral. Vinnie quickly brought down the organization, but the slippery Pooley escaped prosecution and was last seen in Florida, selling condominium timeshares to Jewish retirees. The story suggested Pooley was nothing but a swindler and Hollis the dangerous one.
|24||School of Hard Knox||2|
|25||Revenge of the Mud People||2|
|26||Last of the True Believers||2|
- Tim Guinee as Richard T. (Ritchie) Stramm
- John M. Jackson as Daryl Elias
- Fred Dalton Thompson as Knox Pooley
- Paul Guilfoyle as Calvin Hollis
- Jack Orend as Stan Corker
- Kerry Sandomirsky as Angela Terranova
Garment Trade storyline
David Sternberg (Ron Silver) and his father Eli (Jerry Lewis) ran a clothing business, and were being squeezed by the fearsome gangster Rick Pinzolo (Stanley Tucci). David goes to the OCB for help, thus Vinnie is recruited to act as security for the Sternbergs. After a small-time loanshark attacked and injured Vinnie, he was temporarily replaced by retired agent John Henry Raglin (Anthony Denison). (This was done in order to allow Ken Wahl to recover from a broken ankle he suffered in an on-set accident.) Raglin brought down (and killed) Pinzolo, but not in time to save Eli's business or David's life. Joan Chen appeared in one episode of this arc, as a rebellious Chinese sweatshop worker with whom the married Raglin briefly has an affair. After Raglin breaks Pinzolo's jaw, the character has his jaw wired shut, requiring Tucci to talk through clenched teeth afterward.
|28||7th Avenue Freeze Out||2|
|29||Next of Kin||2|
|30||All or Nothing||2|
|31||Where's the Money||2|
|32||Postcard From Morocco||2|
- Jerry Lewis as Eli Sternberg
- Ron Silver as David Sternberg
- Stanley Tucci as Enrico "Ricky" Pinzolo
- Anthony Denison as John Henry Raglin
- Harry Goz as Phil
- Patricia Charbonneau as Carole Goldman
Dead Dog Records storyline
Upon his recovery, Vinnie's next assignment took him into the music business, where he dealt with music impresario Isaac Twine (Paul Winfield) and his wife Amber (Patti D'Arbanville). He was set up as a new executive in a front company, "Dead Dog Records", which was originally created by the Drug Enforcement Administration, who offered it to the OCB when their investigation ended. Vinnie then attempted to infiltrate the music industry in search of corruption. The principal villain of this arc is English record mogul Winston Newquay (pronounced Noo-kway in the show, rather than Nyoo-key in the English fashion). Newquay, played by Tim Curry, ruthlessly cheats the artists under his control, funneling their money into his own companies while hiding his activities with accounting tricks.
Debbie Harry, Deidre Hall and Glenn Frey also appear during this story arc. In 1993, Chicago rock band The Lilacs put out a record called Penelope on a label called Dead Dog Records in homage to the show.
Because of the expense to acquire the rights to music featured in these episodes, the Dead Dog arc is not available on DVD as of this writing, although bootleg DVDs have circulated on the Internet.
|35||Dead Dog Lives||2|
|36||And it Comes Out Here||2|
|37||The Rip-Off Stick||2|
|38||High Dollar Bop||2|
|39||Hip Hop on the Gravy Train||2|
|40||The One that Got Away||2|
|41||Living and Dying in 4/4 Time||2|
|42||Call it Casaba||2|
- Tim Curry as Winston Newquay
- Patti D'Arbanville as Theresa "Amber" Twine
- Glenn Frey as Robert "Bobby" Travis
- Deidre Hall as Claudia Newquay
- Deborah Harry as Diana Price
- Paul McCrane as Johnny Medley
- Pamela Segall as Tanya Medley
- Paul Winfield as Isaac Twine
- Billy Wirth as Eddie Tempest
- Ron Taylor as Monroe Blue
Mafia Wars storyline
At the beginning of the third season, Vinnie had not been assigned any recent cases, but, in usual Wiseguy fashion, a case found him. Vinnie's stepfather, Don Rudy Aiuppo (George O. Petrie) was shot and wounded, leaving Vinnie the temporary head of the local Mafia commission. Vinnie investigated the other members, including Albert Cericco (Robert Davi). Eventually, Vinnie brought down most of the commission, only to find Aiuppo had been manipulating him to exact revenge on some rivals. An enraged Vinnie angrily told Aiuppo that, stepfather or not, he wanted nothing more to do with him. Aiuppo in turn tried to drive a wedge between Vinnie and his mother by implying that he had learned of Vinnie's undercover role from her. In reality, he had bugged a payphone outside his hospital room, thinking that the various Mafiosi visiting him would be using it just after taking their leave. Vinnie had used it to contact Uncle Mike.
|43||The Four-Letter Word (1)||2|
|44||Le Lacrime de Amore (2)||2|
|45||A Rightful Place||3|
|46||Battle of the Barge||3|
|47||Sins of the Father||3|
|48||Heir to the Throne||3|
- Robert Davi as Albert Cerrico
- George O. Petrie as Raphael Gaitanio Aiuppo, Rudy Flowers, aka Don Aiuppo
- Tony Mike Romano as Poochy
- John Snyder as Joey Grosset
- Michael Chiklis as Carlo Spoletta
- Anne De Salvo as Gina Grosset
- Chazz Palminteri as Peter Allatore
Washington, D.C. storyline
Vinnie was summoned to the Justice Department and put in charge of an investigation of Japanese yen counterfeiting, unaware that the whole thing was a setup by certain unscrupulous government figures who sought payback for damaging fallout from the Mel Profitt case. Based on the real-life Operation Bernhard, the conspirators aim to undermine the Japanese economy by printing large amounts of counterfeit Yen, smuggling them into Japan on cargo aircraft, and then announcing it all in order to devalue the currency. After the revelation, a convenient scapegoat is supposed to take the blame, in this case, Vinnie. When the plan is foiled en route, Vinnie nevertheless becomes the focus of an investigation, and is only saved when a third party "connects the dots" for the investigating committee.
- Norman Lloyd as General Leland Masters
- Stephen Joyce as Admiral Walter Strichen
- Kim Greist as Katherine (Kay) Gallagher
- Robert Harper as Dewitt Clipton
- Ray Stricklyn as Senator Pickering
- Stan Shaw as Major Vernon Biggs
- Georgann Johnson as Senator Janet Getzloff
Vinnie was made a deputy of a small town in Washington State, where local strongman Mark Volchek (Steve Ryan) was essentially treating the town like his own personal dictatorship. The arc took an unexpected turn when recent murders were determined to be the work of a serial killer based on the then real life unsolved Green River Killer cases. As a large federal task force was on its way to Lynchboro, Volchek, fearful of the disruption and attention, was determined to identify the killer through his knowledge of the town and residents. Through a rapid process of elimination based on the existing profile, Volcheck was able to narrow the suspects and flush out the killer. Vinnie had been set on adding Volchek to his list of victories when he witnessed the electrocution suicide of the killer which brought back flashbacks of Sonny Steelgrave. Unable to cope with the memories, Vinnie fled, but not before contacting Roger Lococco (William Russ), who took his place, and working with McPike, brought Volchek to his senses and freed the town. (This story-arc was, in mood and setting, eerily prescient of the early episodes of the show Twin Peaks, which debuted a few weeks after the sequence was aired.)
After the Volchek investigation had ended McPike went looking for Vinnie, who had taken a job with a Seattle company that was illegally dumping medical waste. Embroiled in the company manager's desperate attempts at covering up, Vinnie fled in repulsion from hired assassins as well as from his own burgeoning violent impulse, to find respite in a city church. Just as McPike found him in hiding there, a would-be assassin's bullet missed Vinnie and critically wounded McPike, propelling Vinnie on a final pursuit of justice.
|60||A One Horse Town||3|
|61||His Master's Voice||3|
|63||Let Them Eat Cake||3|
- Steve Ryan as Mark Volchek
- David Strathairn as Sheriff Matthew Stemkowsky
- James Stacy as Edward "Rogo" Rogosheske
- Darlanne Fluegel as Lacey Marseille
- Neil Gray Giuntoli as Donny
After the third season ended, Ken Wahl left Wiseguy over a dispute with CBS over the direction of the show. Steven Bauer was brought in to be the new lead character, a former United States Attorney named Michael Santana who had recently been disbarred. Jonathan Banks and Jim Byrnes returned, and new addition Cecil Hoffmann rounded out the cast. A new theme song by Mike Post, who wrote the original theme, was commissioned and had a more Latin flair.
The season began with a fully healed McPike on the lookout for Vinnie, who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. McPike discovered that Vinnie had been looking into the murder of a Catholic priest by a right-wing death squad in El Salvador, and also found out that he had apparently been abducted from his apartment. Since Vinnie had made contact with Michael Santana before disappearing, McPike traveled to Miami to meet with him. The two confirmed that Vinnie had been kidnapped.
Soon, McPike and Santana found Amado Guzman (Maximilian Schell), a Cuban-American businessman who worked for the Medellín Cartel laundering money. They also found out that Guzman was offering support to the Salvadoran death squad, which in addition to murdering the priest was responsible for Vinnie's kidnapping. With the help of U.S. Attorney Hillary Stein (Hoffmann), they took Guzman's operation down. However, they were never able to locate Vinnie and he was presumed afterward to have been killed by the death squad.
With the Guzman investigation closed, McPike convinced Santana to become an official OCB agent, but just as he was entering the job, the entire OCB organization was eliminated due to federal budget cuts. McPike, Santana and Lifeguard were immediately hired by the New York District Attorney's office, and began to investigate the New York drug underworld, as well as its death grip on a particular inner city high school run by the hardline and humanitarian educator Jesse Hains (Billy Dee Williams).
Although Wiseguy was a well-received series, it was not a particularly strong ratings draw. Ken Wahl's departure from the show caused a significant drop in the already-struggling ratings and CBS cancelled the show nine episodes into the fourth season with the New York story left unresolved.
Ken Wahl said that the entire fourth season concept was "ridiculous" because it got away from what Wiseguy had been about. Whereas before the show was more character driven, CBS wanted to make the show more of an action-based crime drama and Wahl felt he could not continue in the role if that was where they wanted to go.
|67||Fruit of the Poisonous Tree (1)||4|
|68||Fruit of the Poisonous Tree (2)||4|
|72||Witness Protection for the Archangel Lucifer||4|
|73||Point of No Return||4|
- Maximilian Schell as Amado Guzman
- Steven Bauer as U.S. Attorney Michael Santana
- Cecil Hoffman as U.S. Attorney Hillary Stein
- Billy Dee Williams as Jesse Hains
- Martika as Dahlia Mendez
There were also several stand-alone episodes between the arcs, most of which dealt with the personal lives of the main characters. For instance, after the "Dead Dog Records" arc, Vinnie has a liaison with Amber Twine, who was widowed when her husband suffered a heart attack during the main story. He attempts to live in her world of late nights with musicians but finds he has no interest in it, and she has no interest in his world. This sequence featured a cameo by blues harp player Kim Wilson and his band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds. In other episodes:
- Vinnie enters a mental hospital for general treatment and is set up by Daryl Elias, who can work computers and has a score to settle. Sonny Steelgrave is brought back via Vinnie's memory and Vinnie resolves his guilt issues.
- Mama Terranova falls for and marries an old flame, Rudy Aiuppo, whom she had formerly gave up, when he chose a life of crime. Aiuppo switches places with his recently reconciled (and dead-ringer) brother, who has returned to Italy, while Aiupo fades back into the old neighborhood.
- Vinnie, Frank and Lifeguard go on a camping weekend. Lifeguard's daughter shows up to tell him she's getting married. This episode is a fan favorite, and was a favorite of co-star Jonathan Banks.
- Lifeguard's family troubles continue as he comes to grips with becoming a grandfather. He steps in when his son-in-law gets involved with an unscrupulous construction company.
- Frank has family problems when his father, Mike Terranova, gets thrown out of a nursing home. (2 part episode.)
- Vinnie attends his high school reunion, where he is reunited with an old flame who now works for the NYPD. This episode brought back Mike "Mooch" Cacciatore from the Garment Trade arc as Vinnie's high school buddy.
- Vinnie discovers his late father's old diary and sees his very honest father faced the same temptations from criminals that Vinnie faces today.
- Vinnie attends the bachelor party of his friend Jimmy, and helps Jimmy get out from under a loan shark's thumb.
- Steelgrave's cohort, Sid Royce, the Harvard-educated accountant for Pat Patrice, is arrested, but discovers Terranova is a federal agent. Royce is given immunity, turns state's evidence, and he and his wife enter witness relocation. Royce becomes a Foot Locker-type shoe salesman named "Elvis Prim" in Bettendorf, Iowa, far from the bright lights of New York, but his wife leaves him for a cowboy. Royce goes off the grid and tracks down McPike just as McPike and his separated wife are on the verge of reconciliation. McPike kills Royce in a hostage situation.
Vinnie's absence from the series was explained with him being forced into wiretapping by the FBI due to his actions in season 3 regarding his stepfather and abandoning his duty in Washington state (effectively retconning the series and disregarding the entire fourth season, including Vinnie's kidnapping and the disbanding of OCB). Vinnie is ordered to infiltrate the organization of criminal boss Paul Callendar (Ted Levine). The movie had many of the same themes as the TV show, including Vinnie's constant conflict in betraying the people he had grown to care about.
While the movie was a critical success, ABC aired it against NBC's Thursday night Must See TV lineup and it failed to draw. In addition, Wahl suffered a broken neck in 1992 in a fall that left him temporarily quadriplegic and by the time the Wiseguy reunion was commissioned, he had been in near constant pain after he regained the use of his arms and legs and would likely not have been physically capable to take on the demands of the role. Thus, the movie was the last time the original Wiseguy cast appeared in their roles. The movie was rerun on Sleuth in 2008.
On October 25, 2011, NBC announced a pilot commitment for an updated series written by Alex Cary.
|1989||Casting Society of America||Best Casting for TV, Dramatic Episodic||Vicki Huff|
|1990||Edgar Award||Best Television Episode||David J. Burke and Alfonse Ruggiero
(For episode "White Noise")
|1990||Golden Globe Award||Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series - Drama||Ken Wahl|
|1988||Viewers for Quality Television Awards||Founder's Award||Ray Sharkey|
In May 2009, Mill Creek Entertainment announced that they had acquired the rights to release Wiseguy on DVD in Region 1. They subsequently released the complete first season on August 25, 2009. On March 9, 2010, Mill Creek released Wiseguy: The Collector's Edition, a 13-disc set featuring episodes from all 4 seasons. However, due to rights issues with the music contained in the show, the 'Dead Dog Records' arc from Season 2 is not included.
Beyond Home Entertainment has released all four seasons on DVD in Region 4. Again, due to rights issues with the music contained in the show, the 'Dead Dog Records' arc episodes are not contained on the Season 2 release.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 4|
|Season 1||22||August 25, 2009||December 1, 2008|
|Season 2||22||N/A||March 4, 2009|
|Season 3||22||N/A||July 8, 2009|
|Season 4||9||N/A||September 9, 2009|
The first season became available on iTunes on April 28, 2008.
- "The New Classics: TV". Entertainment Weekly. June 18, 2007. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
- Nugent, Phil (2007). "Swimming with Sharkey". TheHighHat.com. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
- TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 184. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.
- Clark, John (June 22, 2003). "Acting a former life for 'Wiseguy' / Now retired, Wahl recalls smart series". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- Mill Creek Picks up Cannell Shows at TVShowsOnDVD.com
- Wiseguy - The Complete 1st Season at TVShowsOnDVD.com
- Announcement for Wiseguy - The Collector's Edition at TVShowsOnDVD.com