Format Crime drama
Created by Abby Mann
Starring Telly SavalasDan FrazerKevin DobsonGeorge Savalas Mark Russell Vince ContiAndre Braugher
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 125 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Abby Mann James Duff McAdams
Running time 60 minutes (per episode)
Original channel CBS
Original run October 24, 1973 – March 18, 1978


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Kojak title screen, from the first season

Kojak is an American television series starring Telly Savalas as the title character, bald New York City Police Department Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak. It aired from October 24, 1973, to March 18, 1978, on CBS. It took the time slot of the popular Cannon series, which was moved one hour earlier. Kojak's Greek American heritage, shared by actor Savalas, was prominently featured in the series.


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The show was created by Abby Mann, an Academy Award-winning film writer best known for his work on drama anthologies such as Robert Montgomery Presents and Playhouse 90. Universal Television approached him to do a story based on the 1963 Wylie-Hoffert "Career Girls Murders". The crime involved the brutal rape and murder of two young professional women in Manhattan.

Due to poor police work and the prevailing casual attitude toward suspects' civil rights, the crimes in the Wylie-Hoffert case were pinned on a young African American male, George Whitmore, Jr., who had been arrested on a separate assault charge. After illegally obtaining a confession, the police had the suspect all but convicted until a second investigation by a different team of detectives exonerated the suspect and identified the real killer, a white junkie.

Mann developed the project as a gritty police procedural, but with a subtext focusing on institutionalized prejudice and the civil rights of suspects and witnesses. The result was the 1973 made-for-TV movie, The Marcus-Nelson Murders. The opening and closing titles of the film emphasized the point that it was a fictional account of the events that led to the creation of Miranda rights by the US Supreme Court in 1966.

Telly Savalas starred in The Marcus-Nelson Murders as a police detective whose last name was spelled "Kojack." The film would serve as a pilot for the Kojak television series. Kojak himself was a composite character, based on a number of detectives, lawyers, and reporters who were involved in the Wylie-Hoffert murder case.


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Telly Savalas as Lt. Theo Kojak with ubiquitous lollipop

The series was set in the New York City Police Department's Thirteenth Precinct (the building shown was actually Ninth Precinct),Manhattan South Patrol Borough. The show revolved around the efforts of the tough and incorruptible Lieutenant Theodopolous ("Theo") Kojak (Telly Savalas), a bald, dapper, New York City policeman who was fond of lollipops and using the catchphrase, "Who loves ya, baby?" Kojak was stubborn and tenacious in his investigation of crimes - and also displayed a dark, cynical wit, along with a tendency to bend the rules if it brought a criminal to justice. Savalas described Kojak as a "basically honest character, tough but with feelings -- the kind of guy who might kick a hooker in the tail if he had to, but they'd understand each other because maybe they grew up on the same kind of block."

In the early episodes of the series, Kojak smoked heavily; in order to reflect the anti-smoking sentiment gaining momentum on American TV, the writers decided that Kojak had quit smoking. He began sucking on lollipops as a substitute, which became a trademark of the character (although Kojak is frequently seen smoking a cigarillo when he winds up a case by interrogation of the main suspect(s)). The lollipop made its debut in the Season 1 episode "Dark Sunday", broadcast on Dec. 12, 1973; Kojak lights a cigarillo as he begins questioning a witness, but thinks better of it and sticks a lollipop (specifically, a Tootsie Pop) in his mouth instead. Later in the episode, Kevin Dobson's character asks about the lollipop and Kojak replies, "I'm trying to bridge the generation gap."

His longtime supervisor was Capt. Frank McNeil (Dan Frazer). Later in the series, McNeil was promoted to Chief of Detectives in Manhattan. Kojak is the commander of the Manhattan South Precinct's detective squad. His squad includes one of his favorite employees: young plainclothes officer, Det. Bobby Crocker (Kevin Dobson). Detectives Stavros (played by Telly's real-life brother George Savalas, who originally used the name "Demosthenes" as his screen credit; under his real name, Savalas also received a Production Associate credit during the early seasons), Saperstein (Mark Russell), and Rizzo (Vince Conti), all gave Kojak support.

Although the show primarily focused on Kojak's police work, it occasionally veered into other areas of the character's lives, such as the first season episode "Knockover" which included a subplot involving Kojak romancing a (much younger) female police officer.

In 1976, acclaimed crime writer Joe Gores received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Episode in a TV Series Teleplay for the third-season episode "No Immunity for Murder" (first aired November 23, 1975).

The show ended in 1978, after five seasons, due to low ratings. Reruns of Kojak became successful in syndication and TV Land. Years after the series ended, Savalas reprised the role in two TV movies, The Belarus File (1985), an adaptation of the John Loftus book The Belarus Secret, and The Price of Justice (1987), based on Dorothy Uhnak's novel, The Investigation. Kojak is not a character in either book.

In 1989–1990 Kojak returned to television in five two-hour episodes that aired on ABC, rotating with three other series as part of the ABC Mystery Movie. No longer a lieutenant commanding a precinct detective squad, Kojak had been promoted to inspector and put in charge of the NYPD's city-wide Major Crimes Squad. Andre Braugher was cast as a young detective assigned to Kojak's command.

Series stars The Savalas Brothers (Telly & George), Frazer and Dobson are the only cast members to appear in every episode of the original series, and stayed throughout its entire run.


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  • Telly Savalas - Lieutenant Theo Kojak - A bald detective
  • Dan Frazer - Capt. Frank McNeil - Kojak's boss
  • Kevin Dobson - Det. Bobby Crocker - Kojak's partner
  • George Savalas (Demosthenes) - Det. Stavros - Kojak's supporting co-worker
  • Mark Russell - Det. Saperstein
  • Vince Conti - Det. Rizzo
  • Andre Braugher - Det. Winston Blake (1989-90 ABC revival)


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The somewhat more well-known first Kojak theme, in two distinct arrangements is the work of Billy Goldenberg, who scored the early episodes. John Cacavas composed the second main title theme used throughout the show's 5th and final season. In addition, Cacavas composed the music score for most of the series.


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Kojak aired for 5 seasons on CBS, from 1973 to 1978. In the mid-eighties Kojak returned in two made-for-TV movies. In 1989, eleven years after the series ended, Telly Savalas returned to play Kojak in 5 TV movies that aired on ABC as part of their ABC Mystery Movie theme block which aired on Saturday nights.


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In March 2005, a new Kojak series debuted on the USA Network cable channel and on ITV4 in the UK. In this re-imagined version, African-American actor Ving Rhames portrays the character. The series only lasted one season.

Cultural impact

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In the hit 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit, Cledus Snow (Jerry Reed) referred to a police officer with a radar gun as a "Kojak with a Kodak", reflecting contemporary CB slang.

In the film Foul Play (film), characters belonging to Chevy Chase (actor) and Goldie Hawn commandeer a livery vehicle with two Asian tourists in the backseat. When the tourists become agitated at his high speed driving, Hawn informs them that he is a policeman like Kojak. Even though the tourists know very little English, the name Kojak turns their chagrin to enthusiasm and they enjoy the high-speed pursuit. When the car stops and they are left in the backseat, the male tourist cracks a smile and yells "Kojak! BANG! BANG!"

In the Godley & Creme song "Snack Attack" from their 1981 album "Ismisms" there is a line in the words which goes "Feel like Kojak sitting in a Cadillac . . . ."

In The Benny Hill Show, a sketch which is a reimagining of Jack and Jill features Benny Hill in a skullcap, shades, and lollipop, in character as Kojak.

In Canada some Canadians were concerned that the show left an impression in Canadian youth that they had rights, such as to be informed of an offense, and that it dipected American police reading people their rights in accordance with the Miranda ruling. In his 1980 book Deference to Authority: the Case of Canada, American sociologist Edgar Fredenberg who came to Canda in the early 1970s to avoid the draft was concerned that Canadians were more upset over depictions of Americans practicing their civil rights on a TV show dealing with civil rights issues than that they did not have those rights. In 1982 the right to be informed of a criminal offence and of one's rights was enummerated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In Brazil the show was so successful that in the 1970s and 80s the term "Kojak" became Brazilian slang for "bald man". Like a tribute, Kojak was a theme of Brazilian carnival-time music, a very rare honour. Telly Savalas visited the country to do promotional work.

In Rio de Janeiro, the expression: "I won't give a chance to Kojak" became popular among criminals — as in, the speaker would avoid leaving any clue that would lead the police to him or her. Later, this expression became popular among lay people. Nowadays, it means "I won't let anyone see my mistakes".

On French television, actor Henry Djanik dubbed Kojak. He also dubbed "Dog Savalas", who was modelled on Telly Savalas, and was a character from the manga and anime versions of the popular Japanese series Space Adventure Cobra.

In the Slovenian town of Maribor, in Liberation Square (Trg Svobode) there is a World War II monument shaped like a head. Made of copper, it portrays heroes and leaders of the partizan liberating army. Local people refer to it as "Kojak".

In Chile, Hungary and Romania, a "kojak" is a slang to refer to any kind of lollipop.

In poker, specifically Texas Hold 'Em, the starting hand K-J is often referred to as Kojak.

In Ace Attorney Investigations, the trenchcoated Detective Badd is first seen with a white stick between his lips. When he takes it out it's revealed to be a lollipop.

Comedy duo Bob & Ray parodied Kojak on their WOR radio show, titled "Rorschach".

Reportedly, the communist government of the former Yugoslavia purposefully scheduled the very popular Kojak show on Sundays so as to discourage citizens from attending church services.

German bicycle tyre manufacturer Schwalbe make a bald tyre called the Kojak.

DVD releases

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Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released Season One of Kojak on DVD in Region 1, 2 and 4.

Mediumrare Entertainment released seasons 2 & 3 on DVD in Region 2 on April 26, 2010.

Shock Entertainment released seasons 2 & 3 on DVD in Region 4 on August 11, 2010.

DVD NameEpisodesRelease dates
Region 1Region 2Region 4
Season One22March 22, 2005July 18, 2005June 1, 2006
Season Two25N/AApril 26, 2010August 11, 2010
Season Three24N/AApril 26, 2010August 11, 2010
Season Four25N/AN/AN/A
Season Five22N/AN/AN/A

Some of the content on this page has been provided by the following page on Wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kojak

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