Homicide: Life on the Street: Wikis


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Homicide: Life on the Street
HLOTS title.jpg
Homicide: Life on the Street title card
Format Police procedural, Drama
Created by Paul Attanasio
Starring Daniel Baldwin (1993-1995)
Ned Beatty (1993-1995)
Richard Belzer(1993-1999)
Andre Braugher (1993-1998)
Reed Diamond (1995-1998)
Giancarlo Esposito (1998-1999)
Michelle Forbes (1996-1998)
Peter Gerety (1996-1999)
Isabella Hofmann (1994-1996)
Clark Johnson (1993-1999)
Yaphet Kotto(1993-1999)
Melissa Leo (1993-1997)
Toni Lewis (1996-1999)
Michael Michele (1998-1999)
Max Perlich (1995-1997)
Jon Polito (1993-1994)
Kyle Secor(1993-1999)
Jon Seda (1997-1999)
Callie Thorne (1997-1999)
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 122, 1 TV Movie (List of episodes)
Running time approx. 1 hour (per episode)
Original channel NBC
Original run January 31, 1993 – May 21, 1999; TV movie February 13, 2000

Homicide: Life on the Street is an American television police procedural series chronicling the work of a fictional Baltimore Police Department homicide unit. It ran for seven seasons on the NBC network from 1993 to 1999 and then was followed by a 2000 TV-movie that served as a de facto series finale. The series was based on David Simon's nonfiction book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, and many characters and stories used throughout the show's seven seasons were based on individuals and events depicted in the book (Simon would also use them in his own series for HBO, The Wire). Although Homicide features an ensemble cast, Andre Braugher (who portrayed Det. Frank Pembleton) eventually emerged as the series' breakout star.[1]

The bulk of the show's first-run episodes aired on Fridays at 10 PM EST on NBC.



Homicide: Life on the Street was adapted from Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, a non-fiction book by Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, based on his experience following a Baltimore Police Department homicide unit. Simon, who became a consultant and producer with the series, said he was particularly interested in the demythification of the American detective. Although detectives are typically portrayed as noble characters who care deeply about their victims, Simon believed real detectives regarded violence as a normal aspect of their jobs.[2] Simon sent the book to film director and Baltimore native Barry Levinson with the hopes that it would be adapted into a film, but Levinson thought it would be more appropriate material for television because the stories and characters could be developed over a longer period of time. Levinson believed a television adaptation would bring a fresh and original edge to the police drama genre because the book exploded many of the myths of the police drama genre by highlighting that cops did not always get along with each other, and that criminals occasionally got away with their crimes. Levinson believed an adaptation would have a fresh and original edge.[3] Levinson approached screenwriter Paul Attanasio with the material, and Homicide became Attanasio's first foray into television writing. The series title was originally Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, but NBC changed it so that viewers would not believe it was limited to a single year. The show was renamed Homicide: Life on the Street, in part because they believed the use of the term "life" would be more reaffirming than the term "killing streets".[4] The opening theme music was composed by Baltimore native, Lynn F. Kowal, a graduate of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.[5]

"The greatest lie, I think, in dramatic TV is the cop who stands over a body and pulls up the sheet and mutters, 'Damn' and looks down sadly. To a real homicide detective, it's just a days work."

Homicide's purpose was to provide its viewers with a no-nonsense, police procedural-type glimpse into the lives of a squad of inner-city detectives. As opposed to many television shows and movies involving cops, Homicide initially opted for a bleak sort of realism in its depiction of "The Job", portraying it as repetitive, spiritually draining, an existential threat to one's psyche, often glamor- and glory-free—but, nonetheless, a social necessity. In its attempt to do so, Homicide developed a trademark feel and look that distinguished itself from its contemporaries. For example, the series was filmed with hand-held 16 mm cameras almost entirely on-location in Baltimore (making the idiosyncratic city something of a character, itself). It also regularly used music montages, jump-cut editing, and the three-times-in-a-row repetition of the same camera shot during particularly crucial moments in the story. The episodes were also noted for interweaving as many as three or four storylines in a single episode. NBC executives often asked the writers to focus on a single homicide case rather than multiple ones, but the show producers tended to resist this advice.[4]

Despite premiering in the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot, the show opened to lackluster ratings, and cancellation was an immediate threat. However, the show's winning of two Emmy Awards (for Levinson's direction and Fontana's writing of the pilot episode) and the success of another police drama—the more sensational NYPD Blue—helped convince NBC to give it another chance beyond the truncated, nine-episode-long first season. (Incidentally, Homicide's four-episode second-season renewal ties it with Seinfeld as the lowest number of episodes ordered in network history.) Homicide consistently ranked behind ABC's 20/20 and CBS's Nash Bridges in the Nielsen Ratings. Despite the poor ratings, reviews have been consistently strong from the beginning of the series. Commentators were especially impressed with the strong amount of strong, complex, well-developed and non-stereotypical African American characters like Pembleton, Lewis and Giardello.[6]

The police department scenes were shot at the historic City Recreation Pier in the Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore. Although NBC occasionally pressured the show's producers to write happy endings to the homicide cases, the network gave an unusual amount of freedom for the writers to create darker stories and nontraditional detective story elements like unsolved cases where criminals escape.[7] Nevertheless, in its attempt to improve Homicide's ratings, NBC often insisted on changes, both cosmetic and thematic. For example, by the beginning of the third season, talented but unphotogenic veteran actor Jon Polito had been ordered dropped from the cast. At around this same time, the network also began clamoring for more on-screen romance and violence. In order to have episodes NBC considered more eye-catching air during "sweeps" periods, it sometimes aired them out of order, often to the detriment of story arcs that had developed over several episodes or even entire seasons. Probably the most infamous of such gaffes was NBC's decision to broadcast an episode featuring the program's first sex scene ("A Model Citizen") prior to the airing of the much acclaimed episode, "Crosetti". (The detective, Polito's character, had been in Atlantic City on vacation since the end of the second season's four episodes; for reasons never fully explained—but perhaps not difficult to surmise—he returns to Baltimore and drowns himself rather than return to his job.) As a result of this deviation from the producers' intended order, viewers of "A Model Citizen" found out from a comment made by his ex-partner, Detective Meldrick Lewis, merely that Crosetti had died but not how or when.

Considered by critics to be one of television's most authentic police dramas, as well as an excellent dramatic series propelled by a talented ensemble cast, Homicide garnered three straight Television Critic's Awards for outstanding drama from 1996 to 1998 and was the first drama ever to win three of the prestigious Peabody Awards for best drama (1993, 1995, 1997).

The reality of Homicide's negligible Nielsen ratings hovered over all things, however, and always left the show in a precarious position, cancellation-wise; it also had a harder time gaining a large audience because fewer viewers are at home watching TV on Friday nights. To NBC's credit, though, the network managed to keep what TV Guide referred to as "The Best Show You're Not Watching" on the air for five full seasons and seven seasons in all. In July 1997, NBC gave the series producers an ultimatum to make Homicide more popular than Nash Bridges or face cancellation. When this goal was not reached, the studio began serious consideration to canceling the show, but a number of unexpected shocks at NBC increased Homicide's value. Among those factors were the loss of the popular series Seinfeld and the $850 million deal needed to keep ER from leaving the network.[7]

Homicide was at one time syndicated on Lifetime and Court TV. While these networks no longer air the program, it is now on the all-crime television cable station Sleuth, and airs occasionally on WGN America. Also, all seven seasons are available on DVD. One DVD set combines the first two seasons. Additional sets contain the complete third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh seasons. A boxed set shaped like a filing cabinet features an additional disc containing the Homicide TV movie and the relevant Law & Order crossover episodes - those without this disc had to rely on Law & Order recap clips on the season DVDs.

Significantly, the DVDs contain the episodes in the producers' intended order, not the order in which NBC aired them. TNT has aired some of the episodes which crossover with Law & Order. These were aired immediately following the relevant Law & Order episode.

The show has spawned changes in the real life Baltimore homicide unit. As seen in the show the unit originally used a dry erase board in order to visually track detectives progress at solving crimes. After the show began to air the Baltimore Police Department discontinued the practice, believing the board, which concentrated on "clearance rates" for crimes, had a negative impact on publicity. It was later, at the insistence of the detectives, brought back.[8]

Plot synopsis

Seasons 1 and 2

The series opens with Det. Tim Bayliss being assigned to Lt. Al Giardello's unit and partnered with Det. Frank Pembleton. Pembleton resents having his style cramped with a partner, and Tim, nervous and obviously intimidated, isn't sure he's up to the job. As (bad) luck would have it, his first case is the murder of a young girl, Adena Watson, an 11-year-old whose slaying is given full "red ball" treatment (the term "red ball" being Baltimore police slang for a case designated as top-priority by the unit's brass, usually because of the heavy media coverage it garners). The Adena arc culminates with the first-season episode, "Three Men and Adena", in which Detectives Bayliss and Pembleton interrogate their prime suspect for hours on end within the confines of the unit's claustrophobic interview room, "The Box." Bayliss' character would go on to demonstrate a particular sensitivity where child murders were concerned and, in a fifth-season episode, reveals to Pembleton a series of traumas from his own childhood explaining why.

Episode 9 "Night of the Dead Living", the last from season one, has the unit working the graveyard shift on a hot summer evening. Meanwhile, the squadroom's air-conditioning has broken down and tempers are running as high as the temperature. Remarkably, the episode is little more than characters sitting around talking, complaining, musing. No murders are investigated, and the camera does not leave the squadroom until the final scene, where the detectives gather on the precinct rooftop at sunrise for a spraying from a garden hose wielded by Lt. Giardello.

The second season while 4 episodes long featured both guest appearances from Robin Williams and a young Jake Gyllenhaal (ep. 10 "Bop Gun") and a police related murder dividing Giardello and Pembleton. The shooting of an unarmed African American drug dealer in East Baltimore leads to the suspicion of white uniformed police officers causing a backlash from the local community. Under pressure to solve the shooting from the politicians and community at large, Captain Barnfather and Colonel Granger allow Detective Pembleton to interrogate the uniformed officers much to the disdain of Lieutenant Giardello. Gee explains to Pembleton that it is more important to be on the same side as his fellow officers as opposed to the local black community causing Pembleton to coerce a confession out of another drug dealer who was innocent of the murder. Pembleton however causes Gee to regret the coercion with the sense that Pembleton's interest in finding the shooter is based on justice not his loyalty to the black community or fellow officers in Blue. The uniformed Lieutenant, James Tyron is then found to have shot the dealer on a tip from Detective Kay Howard and a search of the Lieutenant's residence.

Two of the episodes from the second season contain characters named after popular Seattle-area grunge musicians. In "Black and Blue", actor Isaiah Washington plays a character named "Lane Staley" (Layne Staley),[9] and in "A Many Splendored Thing", actor Dan Garrett plays a character named "Chris Novoselic" (Krist Novoselic). [10]

Season 3

Homicide saw its cast rotate and it dealt with these changes with varying degrees of effectiveness. The first major cast member to leave was Jon Polito. His character, Det. Steve Crosetti, was killed off and the exploration of how his death occurred and how the unit reacted to it is the focus of the above-mentioned season-three episode 19 "Crosetti." [In seasons one and two, a frequent obsession of Det. Steve Crosetti was that there was much more involved in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln than had been reported. Det. Crosetti's infatuation with this bordered on a conspiracy theory obsession.]

Throughout the remainder of the series, Crosetti's partner, Meldrick Lewis, would occasionally refer to Crosetti with affection, as well as express regret that he hadn't been able to predict and prevent Crosetti's death.

The third season also featured a trilogy of episodes 25 to 27 ("The City That Bleeds," "Dead End," and "End Game") in which three detectives are seriously wounded as a result of a gunman's ambush, two of them almost fatally; meanwhile, the rest of the unit grapples with this reminder of their own mortality as they hunt for the perpetrator. When the likely suspect Gordon Pratt (Steve Buscemi) cannot be charged for the shootings, he leaves the station house and is later found shot to death, and Det. Bayliss, and the audience, are left to consider the possibility his murder was vigilante justice from the police.

Homicide often mixed its characters' personal lives with their professional ones, including several affairs among the department's officers (which tended to end badly).

Series 3 continued the tradition of using the names of popular Seattle musicians of the time as character names. In episode 5, 'Happy To Be Here' Darryl LeMont Wharton stars as Matt Cameron, an impressionable teenager persuaded to commit murder. [Cameron] was the drummer in Soundgarden at the time and currently plays drums for Pearl Jam.

Seasons 4 and 5

The fourth season saw the departure of two other cast members, Daniel Baldwin (who played Beau Felton) and Ned Beatty (who played Stan Bolander). These characters were said to be on long-term suspension due to some off-duty (and off-screen) carousing that had, in their superiors' opinions, put the Baltimore P.D. in a bad light. When the show's producers decided not to bring these characters back, their departures were retconned into Stan retiring and Beau disappearing—a disappearance that was later revealed to be the result of Beau's working undercover.

A new addition to the cast was Reed Diamond as arson detective Mike Kellerman. After working with the Homicide unit in the two-part season premiere, Kellerman transfers to Homicide and becomes the central figure in a storyline that spans both the fifth and sixth seasons. This mammoth arc begins with Mike's questionable shooting death of prominent drug lord Luther Mahoney in episode 74 "Deception", season five (Mahoney first makes an appearance in episode 53 "The Damage Done" in Season 4), whom he'd cornered when Mahoney had lowered, but not dropped, his weapon. A gang war erupts in the aftermath of the death.

In addition, Giardello's less-than-stellar relationship with his superiors (who generally regarded him as a "renegade") cost him promotions. Among other things, they took issue with his tendency (albeit unproven) to leak information to the local media when he felt it necessary, as well as his willingness to ignore department protocols in order to get things done. His superiors included Deputy Commissioner for Operations James C. Harris and Colonel George Barnfather (both black), as well as Captain Roger Gaffney (white).

Gaffney was previously a detective, and had been transferred out of homicide (for incompetence and disrespect to rank) to missing persons by then-lieutenant Megan Russert. Despite his belligerence and ineptitude (not to mention the character's less than subtle racism), he was eventually promoted to shift commander, and soon thereafter to Captain (both positions which, ironically, were once held by Detective Russert before her double-demotion). He was chosen for promotion to Captain over Lieutenant Giardello by Commissioner Harris, in retaliation for Giardello's refusal to "play ball" over a previous case involving a Baltimore congressman. Harris, when he was a training officer in the 1960s, had once helped out a young Giardello when he was assigned a racist training officer that made him ride in the back of the squad car. Harris chose Gaffney for retaliatory promotion because he was a "fat Irish ass," very similar to Giardello's training officer. This was revealed in episode 65 "Blood Wedding".

In episode 75 "Narcissus" in season 5, written by Yaphet Kotto, Giardello gets the last word on Harris, whose name resurfaces when Burundi Robinson, a renegade retired African-American Baltimore cop turned local separatist leader, and his group are involved in a confrontation with the police. Giardello, who attempts to negotiate with Robinson, discovers the former cop, Harris's onetime partner, left the force after taking blame for heroin stolen by Harris. Harris then interferes in the current confrontation trying to protect Robinson, who along with the male members of his group, commits mass suicide at the end. Giardello later formally referred Robinson's accusations against Harris to the Mayor.

One notable change involved Pembleton (Andre Braugher's character); who was a high-strung chain smoker, when he suffers a severe stroke during an intense interrogation. It was at the request of Braugher that his brilliant, quick-minded character be hobbled to give him a greater dramatic context. While Pembleton returned the next season with his speech stammering and halting, with words not coming quickly, adverse audience feedback led to a quick and full recovery that would not have occurred with a real stroke patient. Soon Pembleton, who referenced the stroke from then on, was back to his pre-stroke intensity and drive.

In the episode "The Wedding", Melissa Leo played not only her starring role of Det. Kay Howard, but also her sister, Carrie Howard, under the pseudonym Margaret May, who many believe in itself was a pun on the songtitle "Maggie May".

Season 6

The sixth season is noted for its three-part opener, "Blood Ties" (ep. 78-80), guest-starring James Earl Jones as a local philanthropist and pillar of the African-American community whose family becomes the focus of a highly sensitive investigation.

The sixth also features the plainly titled episode, "Subway" (ep. 84), which used real time (an actual 60 minute story timeline), about a man who has fallen between a subway car and the edge of the platform and becomes crushed in between the two. Although still alive and without pain due to the spinal severance, he will die from his injuries the moment the car is pulled away from his body. The paramedics know this, but the victim himself does not. Because it's a death literally waiting to happen, the homicide unit is called in to investigate whether the man fell by accident or was deliberately pushed from the platform; at the same time, two detectives attempt to find the victim's girlfriend so they can exchange farewells. Andre Braugher as Detective Frank Pembleton, and Vincent D'Onofrio as the doomed victim John Lange would earn Emmy nominations for their performances in this episode. The episode, which was inspired by an episode of the documentary series Taxicab Confessions, later became the subject of its own documentary, Anatomy of a Homicide.

Another notable episode from this season is the two-part finale, "Fallen Heroes" (ep. 99-100), which concludes the Kellerman/Mahoney storyline that began in season five. Perhaps the program's bloodiest episode, "Fallen"'s focus is a violent firefight that takes place inside the walls of the squadroom itself. The late Luther Mahoney's nephew, Junior Bunk, is arrested in connection with a murder, and, left unwatched for a crucial few seconds, swipes a gun from an officer's unlocked desk drawer. After the smoke clears, three police officers and Bunk are dead, two Homicide detectives (Ballard and Gharty) are critically wounded, and a retaliatory attack is launched against the remnants of the Mahoney drug-cartel. Lives are left in shambles and careers are destroyed by episode's end.

Bayliss is critically wounded as he takes a bullet for a distracted Pembleton. Kellerman, interrogated by Pembleton and Falsone at Giardello's order, admits his poor judgment in shooting Mahoney and is forced to resign from the force in order to save Lewis and Stivers. Anguished over his inability to act in the heat of the moment, Bayliss taking the bullet for him, and being forced to use his interrogation skills against one of his own, Pembleton turns in his badge. This marked Braugher's departure from the series, though he did return for Homicide: The Movie.

Season 7

Andre Braugher's Detective Frank Pembleton is no longer present on the show, nor is Reed Diamond's Michael Kellerman, save for a two-episode guest appearance. Giancarlo Esposito is added to the cast as Giardello's son Mike, who is added to the homicide unit as liason to the FBI.

Frank Pembleton's emotionally fragile former partner, Bayliss, begins to unravel under the stress of the job and the effects it has on his unorthodox personal life. (Near the end of the sixth season, Bayliss had begun experimenting with long-simmering bisexual urges and, after a brush with death, spends part of the seventh as a convert to Buddhism; as one might expect, neither is well regarded by his co-workers.) In the episode "HOMICIDE.com" (ep. 113), a serial killer is caught and in the series finale (ep. 122 "Forgive Us Our Trespasses") the case comes back to haunt Bayliss due to the killer, Luke Ryland, being set free on a technicality. (Court delays lead to Ryland's trial being pushed back so far that he is released due to a violation of his Sixth Amendment rights.) Ryland is later gunned down in a manner that leaves no evidence, and his killer is revealed in Homicide: The Movie.

The season also included the episode 120, "Lines of Fire", in which Mike Giardello winds up his FBI career by negotiating with an armed father holding his children hostage. The episode reunited Esposito with his former Bakersfield, P.D. costar Ron Eldard.

In deference to the sensitive climate that existed following the Columbine massacre, a number of seventh-season episodes that featured gun violence had their order shuffled so they would be aired further away from the April 20, 1999 date of the tragedy. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, Channel 4 television did not broadcast the first two episodes of season five, which featured a siege in a school, following the 1996 Dunblane massacre.[11]

Television movie

(for a more detailed analysis, see full article, Homicide: The Movie)

In the 2000 TV movie filmed after the series ended, Homicide: The Movie, the squad's former lieutenant, Al Giardello, is running for mayor (on a controversial pro-drug-legalization platform, a reference to Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke) and is close to victory when he is shot during a campaign speech.

The assassination attempt inspires the arrival of the entire unit, past and present, in a joint effort to bring down the gunman. Every regular from the series, as well as several recurring characters, reunites in an effort to track down Giardello's killer.

References to the movie with the subtitle Life Everlasting are unsupported, as the movie's title appears as simply Homicide: The Movie.

Crossover episodes

Homicide crossed-over four times with Law & Order. In three of these episodes, a case would begin with L&O (the higher-rated show) in New York City for Part One before moving the action to Baltimore for Part Two:

  • In the pre-credit sequence of the episode "Law and Disorder" (H:LotS ep 3x15), Chris Noth appears as his Law & Order character, Mike Logan, handing off a prisoner (portrayed by Baltimore native John Waters in a cameo appearance) to Frank Pembleton, while they engage in friendly banter about which city, New York City or Baltimore, is better.
  • "Charm City" (L&O ep 6x13) /"For God and Country" (H:LotS ep 4x12)--A terrorist attack targeting African-Americans kills 20 people in New York, and the Baltimore cops connect it to an earlier racially-driven attack that killed six people. The cops team up to find a militia leader with vile plans before he gets away with murder.
  • "Baby, it's You" Part I (L&O ep 8x6) /"Baby, it's You" Part II (H:LotS ep 6x5)--A teenaged supermodel dies after being sexually assaulted. The dual-city investigation focuses at first on an obsessive fan and later on her father, before a stunning revelation closes the case.
  • "Sideshow" Part I (L&O ep 9x14) /"Sideshow" Part II (H:LotS ep 7x15)--A murder investigation in New York leads cops in a maze of intrigue that includes a lesbian hitwoman, gang members, and political machinations both for and against the current Administration.

Law & Order producer Dick Wolf is a good friend of Tom Fontana, and named the Law & Order character Joe Fontana after him. Detective John Munch would later move to New York and join the NYPD's SVU (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit).

"A Doll's Eyes" [ep 4x04] contains a cameo crossover with the CBS Series Chicago Hope. In the episode the organs of the murder victim, a young boy, are shipped to various hospitals across the country. The heart is placed in a cooler with the destination label "Chicago Hope Hospital", and during a montage is received in Chicago by a heart surgeon played by Mandy Patinkin, who also plays surgeon Jeffrey Geiger in Chicago Hope; although the character is unnamed in Homicide episode, the implication is that he is the same character.

Homicide also references the show St. Elsewhere: The Homicide episode "Mercy" features Alfre Woodard reprising her St. Elsewhere character, Dr. Roxanne Turner, while Ed Begley, Jr. has a cameo as his St. Elsewhere character, Dr. Victor Ehrlich (who is unnamed in the movie's dialogue, but identified during the closing credits) in Homicide: The Movie.

Besides this, the character John Munch, played by Richard Belzer, has appeared in several other shows, such as The Beat, The X-Files, Arrested Development, The Wire and Law & Order: Trial by Jury, and he is slated to appear on the French adaption of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Paris enquêtes criminelles.


Original cast

Several regulars from across Homicide's seven-year run. Left to right: Ned Beatty, Clark Johnson, Richard Belzer, Melissa Leo, Kyle Secor, Andre Braugher, Callie Thorne, Yaphet Kotto, Peter Gerety, Toni Lewis, Jon Seda.

Joined in season 3

Joined in season 4

Joined in Season 5

Joined in Season 6

Joined in Season 7

Recurring characters

Character timeline

Actor Character Season
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Cast members
Daniel Baldwin Beau Felton    
Ned Beatty Stanley Bolander    
Richard Belzer John Munch  
Andre Braugher Frank Pembleton    
Clark Johnson Meldrick Lewis  
Yaphet Kotto Al Giardello  
Melissa Leo Kay Howard    
Jon Polito Steve Crosetti    
Kyle Secor Tim Bayliss  
Isabella Hofmann Megan Russert        
Reed Diamond Mike Kellerman      
Max Perlich J. H. Brodie        
Peter Gerety Stuart Gharty      
Michelle Forbes Julianna Cox      
Jon Seda Paul Falsone      
Toni Lewis Terri Stivers      
Callie Thorne Laura Ballard    
Giancarlo Esposito Michael Giardello    
Michael Michele Rene Sheppard    
Cast member Recurring/Guest
Recurring characters
Ami Brabson Mary Pembleton
Željko Ivanek Ed Danvers
Clayton LeBouef Col. George Barnfather
Ralph Tabakin Dr. Scheiner
Lee Tergesen Officer Chris Thormann
Sean Whitesell Dr. Eli Devilbiss
Michael Willis Darin Russom
Sharon Ziman Naomi
Judy Thornton Judy
Gary D'Addario Lt. Jasper
Walt MacPherson Capt. Roger Gaffney
Harlee McBride Alyssa Dyer
Rhonda Overby Dawn Daniels
Kristin Rohde Officer Sally Rogers
Mary B. Ward Beth Felton
Erik Dellums Luther Mahoney
Mekhi Phifer Junior Bunk
Hazelle Goodman Georgia Rae Mahoney
Ellen McElduff Billie Lou Hatfield
Austin Pendleton Dr. George Griscom

Notable guest appearances

A number of well-known actors and celebrities appeared on the show, including Joan Chen, Neil Patrick Harris, Eric Stoltz, James Earl Jones, Moses Gunn, Robin Williams, Steve Buscemi, Alfre Woodard, Marcia Gay Harden, Lily Tomlin, Peter Gallagher, Chris Rock, Pat Hingle, Wilford Brimley, Steve Allen, Joe Perry, Bruno Kirby, Charles S. Dutton, Kate Walsh, Edie Falco, Vincent D'Onofrio, Kathryn Erbe, Christopher Meloni, Luis Guzmán, Steve Burns, Elijah Wood, Fisher Stevens, Jake Gyllenhaal, Lewis Black, Bruce Campbell, Paul Giamatti, Terry O'Quinn, David Morse, John Glover, Terry Kinney. Tony Todd, Charles Durning, Isaiah Washington, Jeffrey Donovan, Jena Malone, and Jerry Stiller, among many others. Jason Priestley joined the cast in the climactic television movie, during which his character referred to Pembleton and Bayliss as "legends." Typically, well-known actors making guest appearances on Homicide were cast in fully-developed roles central to the episode in which they appeared. Robin Williams's sensitive portrayal of a grieving widower and father in the early episode "Bop Gun" is a notable example, as is Steve Buscemi's role as a suspected gunman in the third-season "End Game."

Recurring characters of particular note include the Mahoney crime family. Luther Mahoney, a recurring villain throughout seasons four and five, is a crime and drug kingpin who uses others to do his dirty work and masterfully manipulates the law to repeatedly escape conviction and hide his connection to the crimes committed by his underlings. At first, he is depicted as an almost friendly rival, with both Mahoney and the police mutually amused by Mahoney's antics. Gradually, however, the police—particularly Kellerman and Lewis—grow frustrated with Mahoney, until Lewis viciously beats him during an arrest, and Kellerman fatally shoots Mahoney under questionable circumstances.

In the following season, the Mahoney organization is taken over by Luther's sister Georgia Rae, who seeks both legal and illegal forms of revenge against the Baltimore Police Department.

Mekhi Phifer makes several appearances as Junior Bunk, a dim-witted street thug who is initially depicted as someone with the potential to go straight. His crimes grow increasingly violent, however, and in his final appearance he is revealed to be Georgia Rae's son, with the real name of "Nathaniel Lee Mahoney". Junior's final appearance takes place after the character has been hardened by jail time, and the once minor criminal deals the homicide department a major blow with a multiple shooting in the police station, killing several uniformed cops (extras) and injuring some of the main characters. In retaliation, the police declare all-out war on the Mahoney crime organization; several cops, including Bayliss, are injured, and several criminals, including Georgia Rae, are killed as a result.

However, some celebrities made essentially cameo appearances which were more lighthearted in nature. Director (and Baltimore native) John Waters appeared twice, once as a nameless bartender listening to a disconsolate Detective Bolander, and another time as a talkative prisoner awaiting transfer from New York to Baltimore (escorted by Det. Mike Logan, played by Chris Noth). Out traveling on his motorcycle, Jay Leno stopped in at the Waterfront to have a beer, quickly departing after finding his bartenders strangely silent. In one particularly self-referential episode, journalist Tim Russert appeared as himself, bickering about Christmas presents with his "cousin", Lieutenant Megan Russert. Film director Barry Levinson, who also executive produced Homicide, acted as himself directing an episode for a show-within-a-show called Homicide in the episode, “The Documentary.”

Both the mayor of Baltimore (Kurt Schmoke) and the governor of Maryland (Parris Glendening) made brief appearances in the episode about the death of Beau Felton, appearing at the memorial press conference for Felton's death in the line of duty.


For a list of the episodes, see List of Homicide: Life on the Street episodes

DVD releases

A&E Home Video has released all 7 Seasons of Homicide: Life on the Street on DVD in Region 1.

The TV movie Homicide: The Movie (also known as Homicide: Life Everlasting) made after the regular series ended was released on DVD in Region 1 by Trimark Pictures on May 22, 2001.

Note: The UK DVD releases, by Fremantle, are a bit misleading in their numbering. "The Complete First Series" includes both the first and second seasons, "The Complete Second Series" is the third season, and the numbering continues off-by-one for the rest of the releases.

Title Episodes Originally aired Release date (all regions) Discs
The Complete 1st and 2nd Seasons 13 1993-1994 May 27, 2003 4
The Complete 3rd Season 20 1994-1995 October 28, 2003 6
The Complete 4th Season 22 1995-1996 March 30, 2004 6
The Complete 5th Season 22 1996-1997 September 28, 2004 6
The Complete 6th Season 23 1997-1998 January 25, 2005 6
The Complete 7th Season 22 1998-1999 June 28, 2005 6
Homicide: The Movie 1 February 13, 2000 May 22, 2001 1
The Complete Series 122 (plus three Law & Order crossovers and Homicide: The Movie) 1993-2000 November 14, 2006 35

Internet spinoff

Homicide: Life on the Street featured an Internet-only spinoff, the web-show Homicide: Second Shift. It was an early Internet tie-in that featured a look at the other shift that worked Homicide after the television show characters went off shift. The show featured separate stories and ran for three seasons, from 1997 to 2000, at NBC.com. "Homicide.com”— the Homicide:Life on the Street season 7 episode—was the middle part of a crossover with Homicide: Second Shift. Though the television episode was self-contained, parts one and three (online only) provided expanded context for the story.[12]

Impact on African American cinema

Homicide was noteworthy amongst network TV shows in its multi-dimensional depictions of various African Americans throughout the show. While not specifically an African American themed show, it was set in majority African American Baltimore, Maryland and would naturally display various issues and characteristics of the city's African American community. Homicide managed to cross several racial barriers that were not crossed on previous television series and portrayed by and large a more progressive depiction of African American characters than other previous television series.[13] The show was commended at several award ceremonies themed to African American cinema such as the NAACP-sponsored Image Awards which would nominate both the show itself and its major cast members such as Yaphet Kotto, Andre Braugher, Clark Johnson, Toni Lewis, Michael Michele, and Giancarlo Esposito for various awards.[14]


  1. ^ Fretts, Bruce (1998-05-01). "The show that wouldn't die". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,282863,00.html. Retrieved 2008-12-18.  
  2. ^ a b Simon, David. (1998-11-04). Anatomy of "Homicide: Life on the Street". [Documentary]. Baltimore, Maryland: Public Broadcasting Service. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0324999/.  
  3. ^ Kalat, David P. (1998). Homicide: Life on the Street: The Unofficial Companion. Los Angeles, California: Renaissance Books. p. 102. ISBN 1580630219.  
  4. ^ a b Levinson, Barry. (2003) (Audio commentary). Homicide Life on the Street - The Seasons 1 & 2. [DVD]. A&E Home Video.  
  5. ^ "Lynn F. Kowal". http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1862139/. Retrieved 2009-09-28.  
  6. ^ Leonard, John. (1998-11-04). Anatomy of "Homicide: Life on the Street". [Documentary]. Baltimore, Maryland: Public Broadcasting Service. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0324999/.  
  7. ^ a b Bogosian, Theodore. (1998-11-04). Anatomy of "Homicide: Life on the Street". [Documentary]. Baltimore, Maryland: Public Broadcasting Service. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0324999/.  
  8. ^ "Homicide: Life on the Street, The Board". http://www.borderline-productions.com/jimking. Retrieved 2008-12-19.  
  9. ^ "Black and Blue". Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1994-01-20. No. 3, season 2.
  10. ^ "A Many Splendid Thing". Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1994-01-20. No. 4, season 2.
  11. ^ DVD Times - Homicide: Life on the Street Season 5
  12. ^ Wolk, Josh (1999-02-05). "Life on the Web. 'Homicide' welcomes its website cast to the show -- a first step in NBC's plans to nab TV defectors". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/report/0,6115,84131_3%7C14154%7C%7C0_0_,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-27.  
  13. ^ Mascaro, Thomas A. (2004-03-22). "Homicide: Life on the Street: progress in portrayals of African American men". Journal of Popular Film and Television. OCLC 4652347. ISSN 0195-6051. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-115399891.html. Retrieved 2007-09-23.  
  14. ^ "Awards for "Homicide: Life on the Street"". http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106028/awards.  

External links

Preceded by
60 Minutes
48 Hours
Homicide: Life on the Street
Super Bowl lead-out program
Succeeded by
The Good Life

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