90s Detective Shows: “The Commish” and “Silk Stalkings”

The more I delve into the world of detective shows for this blog, the more I realize just how many shows there are out there that I’ve never seen. For that reason, I wanted to challenge myself this year by watching (at least) two TV shows every month that I haven’t seen before. In order to get a good feel for each show, I am making myself watch at least five episodes before writing about it.

This month, it just so happened that the two shows I picked to watch were produced in the early 90s and created by Stephen J. Cannell, who had previously helped create The Rockford Files, The A-Team, and 21 Jump Street.

The Commish

The Commish is an American series that ran from 1991 to 1996. It revolves around the life of Tony Scali, a former NYPD cop who is now working as the police commissioner in a city somewhere in upstate New York. The show stars Michael Chiklis in a role very different from the one he later played on The Shield. Scali is an interesting character–he’s the ultimate good guy who solves cases and rules his department with kindness and ingenuity.

The show is more of a cop show rather than a detective show–the crime cases aren’t really the focus of each episode. Rather, they are there in the background as the show explores a number of serious issues and themes. In addition to the cops and staff in his precinct, the stories involve Scali’s wife, 10-year-old son, and his brother-in-law who is an unwelcome permanent guest in his house. So far, I’ve watched the show from the pilot up until the 5th episode of the first series, the latter of which was a special two-parter in which Scali has to investigate the death of two cops.

I liked this show. Each time I put on an episode, it kept my interest. It was just the right mix of drama, mystery, and comedy which gave the show a particularly realistic feel.

Click here to stream The Commish on Amazon Prime.

The Commish is also available on DVD here.

Silk Stalkings

Silk Stalkings is an American crime drama that ran from 1991 until 1999. To be honest, I’m not sure why it lasted so long because in my opinion it was just OK. Having watched the first five episodes of the series, it seemed to me like Silk Stalkings was just a knock-off Miami Vice, but with way more sex scandals thrown into the mix. According to the lingo used in the show, “silk stalkings” are high profile crimes of passion.

The show is set in Palm Beach, Florida and initially follows two best friends and detective partners: Chris Lorenzo (played by Rob Estes) and Rita Lee Lance (played by Mitzi Kapture). I’ve read that in later seasons their relationship changes and these characters later get replaced. At the beginning, the cast also includes Ben Vereen as their chief. Ben Vereen had previously starred in another Stephen J. Cannell detective show called Tenspeed and Brown Shoe opposite Jeff Goldblum.

As much as I wasn’t impressed by this show, I did find it got marginally better the more episodes I watched. After the first two episodes, the characters seemed less melodramatic and the settings became more natural. In the first two episodes, it seemed like none of the interiors they were in had windows!

I looked it up and found that the show’s creator, Stephen J. Cannell, was the one two write the script for the first two episodes before the job fell to other writers. It seems to me that Cannell does better when his show ideas are mitigated by other people. He was the sole creator of Silk Stalkings, whereas his other more popular shows were often co-creations with other people.

One thing that I appreciated about the show was the focus on the female detective. Due to the fact that she’s introduced as someone trying to live with a (probably benign) brain aneurysm, I feel much more emotionally invested in her character. She is also the one who will occasionally do voice over narration in the episode–although I still don’t understand all the golf metaphors she uses!

Click here to stream Silk Stalkings on Amazon Prime.

Silk Stalkings is also available on DVD here.

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