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Creative Side by Richard Lindheim,
co-Creator of The Equalizer
Part III: Beginning the Series

EQZ Viewers' Newsline (Summer 1989)

With the exuberance that came with the order for thirteen episodes for the Fall of 1985 came problems. None of the people responsible for producing The Equalizer pilot were available for the series. I had moved two years earlier from producer to executive at Universal, and the studio wanted me to remain in my development position. Michael Sloan had to return to MTM Productions, where he was under contract. While they were gracious enough to loan him to Universal for the pilot, they were not about to let him produce the series.

In addition, while the pilot had been filmed in Manhattan, it was never anticipated that the series would be shot there. Plans were to shoot The Equalizer in Los Angeles. But the casting of Edward Woodward made this unworkable creatively. While Edward certainly could have worked in Los Angeles, it was strongly felt that his portrayal of Robert McCall, and his British accent would be an incongruity with the L.A. scene. Harvey Shephard at CBS and those of us involved at Universal agreed that, if financially possible, the series should be filmed in New York.

At one time there were numerous New York based dramatic series. Well remembered are The Naked City and The Defenders. But in recent years film production has migrated to the West Coast. Moreover, costs for filming in New York had risen greatly. It was questionable whether anyone could efficiently and affordably shoot a TV series in Manhattan.

Fortunately, Universal had a superb producer named Jim McAdams. Jim had produced many successful series at the studio, perhaps his most notable being Kojak. While Kojak took place in New York, it was actually filmed in Los Angeles with occasional trips back East for special filming. But Jim McAdams had always liked New York, and was convinced that a series could be effectively filmed there. After a screening of the pilot and subsequent conversations, Jim agreed to move to New York to produce The Equalizer series.

�With the production problem solved, we turned to the task of finding a head writing producer. With Michael Sloan irrevocably unavailable, we turned to an excellent young writer-producer, Joel Surnow. Joel had worked on the first year of Miami Vice, and had been responsible for creating some of the interesting peripheral characters and best stories of that series. He was looking for new challenges, where he could have greater autonomy. Upon looking at the pilot and after several discussions, he agreed to head the creative team. He asked co-worker on Miami Vice and friend, Maury (Maurice) Hurley, to join him.

Neither Joel nor Maury had ever met Jim McAdams, and none of them had ever met or worked with Edward Woodward. This was a totally new team, and they got to work energetically.

With the last-minute casting of Edward, there was no time to effectively adapt the pilot script to him. The changes made in production were superficial. Now, for the series, proper consideration could be given. The pilot scenes of Edward chasing and outrunning a young man and beating up a gang of thugs were, fortunately, accepted by the test audience, but a bit unbelievable. It was recognized that we had a very intelligent and professional McCall in Edward Woodward, who would not readily resort to physical force. The character was altered to profess his disdain for violence and hatred of gunplay, and to emphasize his cleverness and professionalism. All agreed that, for situations where major physical action was required, the series needed a character to assist McCall. The result was Mickey Kostmayer. In addition to Kostmayer, Joel and Maury created the characters of Sterno and Jimmy.

While Joel Surnow had liked the pilot he wanted to give the series a much hipper look. He and Jim discarded the original main title created by Michael Sloan and myself, which was picturesque but conventional, and designed the series title with which everyone is familiar. The music also changed. The pilot was originally scored with a jazz theme by Lalo Schifrin. Joel knew Stewart Copeland, the drummer for "The Police," and asked him to compose the theme for the show, and to score it as well.

Since the beginning of the series, there has been controversy regarding the balance between spy-oriented stories and pure concept stories. Both the studio and the producers agreed there should be considerably fewer spy stories than stories of McCall helping victimized people. The network, however, wanted almost the total elimination of espionage material. It continues today to be a subject of debate.

CBS was also concerned about entrusting this new series to young, unproven writer/producers. With Michael Sloan not being available, they demanded an older, more established writer to be head of the creative group. That created problems. After an extensive search with few good possibilities, Universal persuaded Woody (Heywood) Gould to join the staff. Woody was under contract to Universal, lived in New York, and was familiar with the city. He had written the feature Fort Apache, The Bronx. Woody was a good choice, but he had never produced a television series before. More importantly, he and Joel had very different ideas about style and stories, and quickly disliked one another. Joel and Maury in Los Angeles fought Woody and his writing staff in New York, and the scripts were caught in the middle.

Finally, in frustration, Woody quit, and the network backed down in their demands for an older, more established writer. But the damage had been done. Scripts came so late that directors did not have time to adequately prepare, and Jim McAdams was struggling to make the show happen at all. Edward Woodward worked incredible hours and had script revisions arriving late at night for shooting the next morning. And if this were not bad enough, the Nielsen ratings were anemic.

At one point or another everyone working on the series wanted to quit in frustration and exhaustion. But they did not. They worked and worked, and people in Hollywood were very complimentary towards The Equalizer. Its style was unique, the concept interesting, and Edward Woodward appealing. A high-placed ABC executive promised that, if CBS cancelled the show, he would buy it.

Slowly the public's recognition of the show began to build. People started to recognize Edward on the street. Often they got the name wrong, calling him "The Analyzer," "The Enforcer," or Edward�s favorite, "The Equivocator." But it was recognition. There were serious doubts that the show would return for a second season, but, at the last minute, CBS renewed the show for thirteen episodes.

Joel and Maury, however, left to pursue other projects, feeling their most creative work was done. Ed Waters and Coleman Luck took the creative reins. With an organization honed through hard work and experience, The Equalizer moved into a second year...

Home | 4 New Shows | Equalizer Movie | Duo To Script | Mad Magazine | Get Tough | Welfare Hotel | All New York | New TV Hero | Squeeze | Jolly Good Shows | Child Death | Gray Panther | Creative Side--1 Creative Side Part 3

Home
4 New Shows
Equalizer Movie
Duo To Script
Mad Magazine
Get Tough
Welfare Hotel
All New York
New TV Hero
Squeeze
Jolly Good Shows
Child Death
Gray Panther
Creative Side--1
Creative Side--2
Creative Side--3

 

  

Creative Side by Richard Lindheim,
co-Creator of The Equalizer
Part III: Beginning the Series

EQZ Viewers' Newsline (Summer 1989)

With the exuberance that came with the order for thirteen episodes for the Fall of 1985 came problems. None of the people responsible for producing The Equalizer pilot were available for the series. I had moved two years earlier from producer to executive at Universal, and the studio wanted me to remain in my development position. Michael Sloan had to return to MTM Productions, where he was under contract. While they were gracious enough to loan him to Universal for the pilot, they were not about to let him produce the series.

In addition, while the pilot had been filmed in Manhattan, it was never anticipated that the series would be shot there. Plans were to shoot The Equalizer in Los Angeles. But the casting of Edward Woodward made this unworkable creatively. While Edward certainly could have worked in Los Angeles, it was strongly felt that his portrayal of Robert McCall, and his British accent would be an incongruity with the L.A. scene. Harvey Shephard at CBS and those of us involved at Universal agreed that, if financially possible, the series should be filmed in New York.

At one time there were numerous New York based dramatic series. Well remembered are The Naked City and The Defenders. But in recent years film production has migrated to the West Coast. Moreover, costs for filming in New York had risen greatly. It was questionable whether anyone could efficiently and affordably shoot a TV series in Manhattan.

Fortunately, Universal had a superb producer named Jim McAdams. Jim had produced many successful series at the studio, perhaps his most notable being Kojak. While Kojak took place in New York, it was actually filmed in Los Angeles with occasional trips back East for special filming. But Jim McAdams had always liked New York, and was convinced that a series could be effectively filmed there. After a screening of the pilot and subsequent conversations, Jim agreed to move to New York to produce The Equalizer series.

�With the production problem solved, we turned to the task of finding a head writing producer. With Michael Sloan irrevocably unavailable, we turned to an excellent young writer-producer, Joel Surnow. Joel had worked on the first year of Miami Vice, and had been responsible for creating some of the interesting peripheral characters and best stories of that series. He was looking for new challenges, where he could have greater autonomy. Upon looking at the pilot and after several discussions, he agreed to head the creative team. He asked co-worker on Miami Vice and friend, Maury (Maurice) Hurley, to join him.

Neither Joel nor Maury had ever met Jim McAdams, and none of them had ever met or worked with Edward Woodward. This was a totally new team, and they got to work energetically.

With the last-minute casting of Edward, there was no time to effectively adapt the pilot script to him. The changes made in production were superficial. Now, for the series, proper consideration could be given. The pilot scenes of Edward chasing and outrunning a young man and beating up a gang of thugs were, fortunately, accepted by the test audience, but a bit unbelievable. It was recognized that we had a very intelligent and professional McCall in Edward Woodward, who would not readily resort to physical force. The character was altered to profess his disdain for violence and hatred of gunplay, and to emphasize his cleverness and professionalism. All agreed that, for situations where major physical action was required, the series needed a character to assist McCall. The result was Mickey Kostmayer. In addition to Kostmayer, Joel and Maury created the characters of Sterno and Jimmy.

While Joel Surnow had liked the pilot he wanted to give the series a much hipper look. He and Jim discarded the original main title created by Michael Sloan and myself, which was picturesque but conventional, and designed the series title with which everyone is familiar. The music also changed. The pilot was originally scored with a jazz theme by Lalo Schifrin. Joel knew Stewart Copeland, the drummer for "The Police," and asked him to compose the theme for the show, and to score it as well.

Since the beginning of the series, there has been controversy regarding the balance between spy-oriented stories and pure concept stories. Both the studio and the producers agreed there should be considerably fewer spy stories than stories of McCall helping victimized people. The network, however, wanted almost the total elimination of espionage material. It continues today to be a subject of debate.

CBS was also concerned about entrusting this new series to young, unproven writer/producers. With Michael Sloan not being available, they demanded an older, more established writer to be head of the creative group. That created problems. After an extensive search with few good possibilities, Universal persuaded Woody (Heywood) Gould to join the staff. Woody was under contract to Universal, lived in New York, and was familiar with the city. He had written the feature Fort Apache, The Bronx. Woody was a good choice, but he had never produced a television series before. More importantly, he and Joel had very different ideas about style and stories, and quickly disliked one another. Joel and Maury in Los Angeles fought Woody and his writing staff in New York, and the scripts were caught in the middle.

Finally, in frustration, Woody quit, and the network backed down in their demands for an older, more established writer. But the damage had been done. Scripts came so late that directors did not have time to adequately prepare, and Jim McAdams was struggling to make the show happen at all. Edward Woodward worked incredible hours and had script revisions arriving late at night for shooting the next morning. And if this were not bad enough, the Nielsen ratings were anemic.

At one point or another everyone working on the series wanted to quit in frustration and exhaustion. But they did not. They worked and worked, and people in Hollywood were very complimentary towards The Equalizer. Its style was unique, the concept interesting, and Edward Woodward appealing. A high-placed ABC executive promised that, if CBS cancelled the show, he would buy it.

Slowly the public's recognition of the show began to build. People started to recognize Edward on the street. Often they got the name wrong, calling him "The Analyzer," "The Enforcer," or Edward�s favorite, "The Equivocator." But it was recognition. There were serious doubts that the show would return for a second season, but, at the last minute, CBS renewed the show for thirteen episodes.

Joel and Maury, however, left to pursue other projects, feeling their most creative work was done. Ed Waters and Coleman Luck took the creative reins. With an organization honed through hard work and experience, The Equalizer moved into a second year...

Home | 4 New Shows | Equalizer Movie | Duo To Script | Mad Magazine | Get Tough | Welfare Hotel | All New York | New TV Hero | Squeeze | Jolly Good Shows | Child Death | Gray Panther | Creative Side--1 | Creative Side--2 | Creative Side--3

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