`I'M NOT a detective," says Richard Belzer, "but I play one on
Beginning tonight Belzer and the rest of the cast of NBC's
"Homicide: Life on the Street" return from hiatus limbo for a
four-week run of new episodes.
The series's previous run of nine episodes early last year was
enough to win it two 1993 Emmy Awards: a directing nod for series
co-executive producer (and feature-film director) Barry Levinson; a
writing award for co-executive producer Tom Fontana for the episode
"Three Men and Adena."
With the series's future hanging on only four episodes, are the
producers feeling some pressure?
"Yes, there's an enormous amount of pressure," says Fontana.
"To tell you the truth, I think it's a little unfair only because,
in this day and age especially, hour dramas need nurturing. They
need time. Audiences want to get familiar with the characters.
That's how an hour drama stays on the air. It's about the audiences
feeling comfortable with the characters. It's like making friends."
"Homicide: Life on the Street," inspired by David Simon's
non-fiction book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," follows
a squad of homicide detectives in Baltimore: Beau Felton (Daniel
Baldwin), John Munch (Richard Belzer), Frank Pembleton (Andre
Braugher), Meldrick Lewis (Clark Johnson), Kay Howard (Melissa
Leo), Steve Crosetti (Jon Polito), Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor),
Stanley Bolander (Ned Beatty) and the commander, Al Giardello
(Yaphet Kotto). The series is shot in Baltimore, a favorite
location for Levinson's feature films.
The opening episode (9 tonight on Channel 5), "Bop Gun,"
features Robin Williams playing a family-man tourist whose wife is
murdered by muggers.
Says Fontana: "It's terrific. Evidently (Williams) watched the
show last year and liked the show. Obviously he has a long-term
relationship with Barry. He read the script and said, `I'll be
there. When do you want me?' He came in for three days and shot,
worked like a dog. It was quite a special event for all of us. It's
very intense. He had no opportunity to do jokes and didn't want an
opportunity. He wanted to play it exactly how it was written."
With a mix of intense emotion, dogged police work and humorous
banter among the detectives, "Bop Gun" typifies the philosophy of
Fontana explains: "This comes from Barry right at the
beginning, the idea that we're doing a police show with no gun
battles, no car chases. …