Friday, May 24, 2013

"Homicide - Life on the Street" Seasons 1 and 2

When the book by David Simon first came out, I was living in Baltimore and working in the area in which the book, and later this TV series, takes place. The book was the result of a years work by the author, riding with the Homicide Unit, seeing the bodies, feeling the streets, and hearing the anguish that had become Southwest Baltimore in the face of the growing drug epidemic of the late 1980's and early 90's. And you know what? It paid off.

This is one of the best of the TV drama series concerning police work. It is also the show which set the standard for all the other series; shows such as “Law and Order”, “NYPD Blue”, and even “The Shield”. It was also one of the first shows where the cops didn’t just joke around while solving cases. These officers, between solving murders, also delved into their own problems and demons, as well as some of the more pressing issues of the day.

With a roster of actors ranging from Richard Belzer, Melissa Leo, Ned Beatty, Yaphet Kotto, Kyle Secor and all the rest, the cast of this series is one of the best ever assembled. Newcomer Andre Braugher is in fine form as the “loner” of the group who finds himself suddenly partnered with another detective. Daniel Baldwin plays his beleaguered partner.

Together, these detectives track down, and hopefully solve, the homicides which seemingly pour into their precinct, located at the end of the tugboat piers in Fell’s Point. Many people have asked me if that was really the police station in real life. I am happy to report that it was. It was also the home to the tugboats of the Moran family business out of New York at the time. The Fell’s Point area is the music and entertainment district in Baltimore which is situated just east of Harborplace. It caters to the college crowd, featuring music and bars with a flavor unique to “Baltimore”.

Directed by Barry Levinson, himself a native of Baltimore and veteran of such films as “Diner”, the show really feels like the city. And, being filmed there, it even has the gritty feel that still lingers from the day when it was a home to shipyards such as Bethlehem Steel. It is, decidedly, a blue collar town.

What I love the most about this series, aside from the writing; which by the way, the whole cast contributed to at one time or another during the series iconic 7 year run; is being able to see the streets where I worked, and even in some cases lived, during my 18 years in that city. At one point, the show became so connected to the city’s image in fighting crime, that on two occasions, criminals who were fleeing the police surrendered to the TV cast when they rounded the corner onto Howard Street where the show was being filmed that day. Talk about realistic…

I was born in Brooklyn, New York but I came of age in Baltimore, where I found myself living while going to school after I got out of the Navy. I met my wife there, and it’s where my daughter was born. More than other city on earth, it contains the essence of who I really am. Perhaps that is why I am so drawn to this show. And that reminds me of an old country song, written by by Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard in 1966, but best performed by Bobby Bare, about Baltimore. It's used to be on just about every jukebox in the city. Remember, it was, and still is, a decidedly blue collar town;


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