Wiseguy (CBS 1987, Ken Wahl, Jonathan Banks)

Crime drama series Wiseguy can now be seen as something of a missing link between the world of Scorsese’s Mean Streets and The Sopranos. Vinnie Terranova works as an undercover cop for the OCB (Organised Crime Bureau) trying to bring down some of America’s biggest mobs. Streetwise Vinnie was quick to ingratiate himself during his first assignment, bringing down big time Atlantic City mob boss Sonny Seagrave, the downside was that all of his family and friends (apart from his priest brother Peter) was convinced that he really had gone over to the criminal side.

Vinnie’s only contact with the police was with his boss at OCB, Frank McPike and his phone contact known as Lifeguard, as the series progressed Vinnie moved on to different cases, helping to bring down smuggler Mel Profitt, a very tangled case indeed as Vinnie becomes a little too close to Mel’s unbalanced but beautiful sister Susan and discovering that the CIA also have a “Wiseguy”, Roger LoCocco, posing as a hitman, in on the case. Things go drastically wrong and during the fallout LeCocco is assassinated, Susan ends up in a mental asylum and Vinnie, having had enough, quits.

The following season saw Vinnie trying to live a “normal” life as a gas station attendant in Brooklyn but when his brother Pete is killed it isn’t too long before he is back working for the OCB, first off bringing down a protection racket and then getting involved in murky goings on in the music business. Things changed drastically for him though when his mother, a widow, decided to remarry and just happened to fall in love with Rudy Aiuppo, New York’s most notorious crime boss. When Rudy is then injured in an assassination Vinnie finds himself taking his place, the ideal place to be to bring the man and his organisation down. After the fall out from this Vinnie undertook just one more case for the OCB, inveigling his way into the rural town of Lynchboro, which is ruled with an arm of iron by the wildly eccentric Mark Volchek.

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The final season saw a new Wiseguy on the scene in the shape of Michael Santana, Vinnie had enough once and for all. Santana was a disbarred Federal prosecutor who was taken on by McPike to expose corrupt businessman Amado Guzman. 1996 saw a one off TV Movie revival with Vinnie once more back in the fold, probably an attempt to bring the series back but it never happened unfortunately.

Created by the brilliant Stephen J. Cannell, this is a strong and highly charged series with brilliant playing from Ken Wahl who never quite realised his star potential. Vinnie always managed to get just that little too involved with his cases which made the fallout that much more difficult for him to take.

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Some big names also popped up over the course of the series including the likes of Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, Stanley Tucci, Joan Severance, Ron Silver, Jerry Lewis and Tim Curry.

production details
USA / CBS / 75×60 minute episodes and 1×90 minute episode / Broadcast 16 September 1987 – 8 December 1990

Creators: Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo

KEN WAHL as Vinnie Terranova (1987-89)
JIM BYRNES as Daniel Benjamin Burroughs aka Lifeguard
STEVEN BAUER as Michael Santana (1990)
GERALD ANTHONY as Father Peter Terranova(1987-89)
RAY SHARKEY as Sonny Steelgrave (1987)
JOE DALLESANDRO as Paul Patrice (1987)
DENNIS LIPSCOMB as Sid Royce (1987)
ERIC CHRISTMAS as Harry “The Hunchback” Schanstra(1987)
WILLIAM RUSS as Roger LoCocco (1988)
JOAN SEVERANCE as Susan Profitt (1988)
KEVIN SPACEY as Mel Profitt (1988)
DAVID SPIELBERG as Herb Ketcher (1988)
ELSA RAVEN as Carlotta Terranova Aiuppo (1988-89)
KEN JENKINS as Beckstead (1988-90)
JERRY LEWIS as Eli Sternberg (1988-89)
RON SILVER as David Sternberg (1988-89)
PATRICIA CHARBONNEAU as Carole Sternberg (1988-89)
STANLEY TUCCI as Rick Pinzolo (1988-89)
GLENN FREY as Bobby Travis (1989)
PATTI D’ARBANVILLE as Amber Twine (1989)
PAUL WINFIELD as Isaac Twine (1989)
TIM CURRY as Winston Newquay (1989)
MAXIMILLIAN SCHELL as Amado Guzman (1990)
MARTIKA as Dahlia Mendez (1990)

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.