Sometimes, when you watch a show you loved years ago, you wonder why you loved it so much in the first place. Wiseguy is not one of those shows.
The Stephen J. Cannell series revolved around Vincenzo Terranova [Ken Wahl], an undercover member of the Organized Crime Bureau. Terranova had just come out of eighteen-months of jail time and leveraged his way into a position as a right-hand man to mob boss Sonny Steelgrave [Ray Sharkey]. This, ten years before Donnie Brasco…
Like most of Cannell’s productions, Wiseguy was notable for its solid, frequently brilliant writing and compelling performances. Unlike the majority of Cannell productions, Wiseguy was consistently grittier and nastier than anything else that aired at the time. Whether Vince and Sonny were bare-knuckle boxing [The Pilot], or facing down the attempts of Pat “The Cat” Patrice, the action was harsh, the relationships being juggled were unequalled, and the feel was very real. Even the accountants had attitude!
Another first [or near first] had Vinnie ordered into group therapy because of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome in an ep called Last Rites For Lucci – and ep that showed both the positive ways therapy can help and what can happen if someone refuses to admit he’s got a problem.
The first season of Wiseguy also featured an arc with Vinnie working on a guy named Mel Profit [Kevin Spacey] who was an entirely different species of silky but crazy evil.
Important regular/recurring cast members included Terranova’s boss/handler, Frank McPike [Jonathan Banks]; “Lifeguard” [Jim Byrnes], his phone/emergency contact, and Carlotta Terranova [Elsa Raven], his mother.
The first season of Wiseguy has been out of circulation for awhile, but thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment, it’s back in a very affordable package. Because Mill Creek has picked up the rights to the series for a decent price, in combination with a very basic package [unique box which contains the four DVDs in black paper envelopes with cellophane on the title side of the discs], they can offer the series for a quarter of what it might cost. The picture and sound are very good, suggesting that Mill Creek had access the show’s masters.
There are no bonus features.
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Final Grade: A