The character of tough, sarcastic, lollipop-sucking New York City police detective Theo Kojak was introduced in The Marcus-Nelson Murders, a 1973 TV movie based on the novel by Selwyn Raab, which in turn was inspired by the real-life Wylie-Hoffert murder case of 1963 that ultimately led to the Supreme Court's Miranda decision in 1966. Telly Savalas, a busy, baldheaded character actor who had only occasionally received above-the-title billing in his long career, became an international superstar in the role of Kojak, which he carried over into a long-running CBS cop show. Debuting October 24, 1973, Kojak was set in Manhattan (though not filmed there until its fourth season), where hard-boiled, thoroughly incorruptible Lt. Theo Kojak took his marching orders from his former partner and longtime friend, 13th precinct Captain Frank McNeill (Dan Frazer). Although Kojak had a habit of bending the rules to suit his needs, he was much valued by McNeill and the force because he invariably got results. Kojak's associates and assistants included plainclothes detective Lt. Bobby Crocker (Kevin Dobson), Detective Stavros (played by the star's brother George Savalas, who during the series' first two seasons billed himself as "Demosthenes"), and detectives Rizzo and Saperstein (Vince Conti, Mark Russell).
Extremely popular with both civilians and law enforcement personnel -- and a veritable cornucopia of such quotable lines as "Who loves ya, baby?" -- Kojak lasted five seasons and 118 hour-long episodes before it was canceled by CBS and ended its run on April 15, 1978. Seven years later, Telly Savalas revived the character for the TV movie Kojak: The Belarus File, which was followed two years later by another feature-length endeavor, Kojak: The Price of Justice. And from November 4, 1989, through June 30, 1990, five two-hour Kojak episodes -- in which the title character had been promoted to inspector -- were telecast as part of the crime-anthology series The ABC Mystery Movie. This time around, Telly Savalas' co-stars included Andre Braugher as Detective Winston Blake, Charles Cioffi as Chief George "Fitz" Morris, Kario Salem as Detective Paco Montana, and the star's daughter Candace Savalas as Kojak's secretary Pamela. Kojak was revived for a third weekly series run in 2005, with Ving Rhames starring in the title role created by the late Telly Savalas. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi