Work on a movie of The Equalizer is back on course. For those who forget, The Equalizer was an occasionally good 80s show starring Edward Woodward as the hardest OAP in New York (okay, he was in his 50s at the time). If there was an injustice, he would right it with his CIA training and skills, usually violently. Not sure how much resonance it will have nowadays, given the plummeting crime rates in New York for the last decade: maybe they’ll shift it to Los Angeles, although changing the plot to “rich, white, English guy cleans up the violence of South Central” would make it walk a very thin tightrope, I reckon.
Woodward got the job as The Equalizer after the producers saw a few old episodes of Callan, one of the best British television shows ever made. I caught the first episode in a double bill with an episode of Danger Man at the NFT last Friday. Typical NFT audience (stop chatting, you scrotes: save it till the end) but everyone was quiet for Callan, the story of a former British government assassin blackmailed into working for his ex-employers again. Callan remains one of the most bleakly realistic shows ever made – only The Sandbaggers exceeds it as a realistic depiction of espionage. It paved the way for even grittier shows such as The Sweeney and Special Branch. Only the third and four seasons are available on DVD, although most of the first two black and white seasons do still exist and if you ever get a chance to see them, grab it. They make 24 look like the unrealistic cartoon it is, while pre-empting its theme that the “good guys” will often use the same ruthless techniques as the “bad guys”.
Danger Man, incidentally, was a slightly cartoony episode itself, improved only by the impressive Patrick McGoohan and its failure to use that tried and tested method of 60s spies dramas “everyone foreign speaks English, even when they’re by themselves”. Some of the Swiss German accents were iffy, but for the most part, the pronunciation was pretty good, giving the otherwise outlandish plot some grounding in reality, as McGoohan tries to infiltrate a dastardly plot without speaking the language of the locals.
Scary fact: Ian Hendry and Colin Blakely were identical twins during the 60s. Check it out and you’ll see that I’m right.