Revisiting Homicide: Life on the Streets (NBC, 1993-1999)

Procedural police drama Homicide: Life on the Streets is one of the most interesting series ever broadcast on American television history. Here is a riveting documentary on the making of the most acclaimed episode “The Subway” which won Peabody award for Outstanding Writing in television fiction that year for James Yoshimura–a Japanese American teleplay writer and producer who is the backbone of the series. Naturally, this documentary centers on Yoshimura’s role in the making of this gripping Homicide‘s episode. The documentary also features executive producer Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Wag the Dog) and supervising producer David Simon whose book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets is the basis for the series’ premise. To those who appreciate Simon’s The Wire, Homicide may serve as a possible blueprint for The Wire’s unusual take on police drama and narrative experimentation. What I find fascinating about this documentary is the fact that it captures the nuts-and-bolts creative television production, not to mention the perennial battle between creative forces like Yoshimura and the institution, i.e. NBC. Kudos to PBS for putting this documentary out, but more especially to one who generously uploaded this on YouTube. Much obliged.

Note: The documentary is broken down into 9 parts. So there rest can be watched on YouTube. Just type: The Anatomy of a “Homicide: Life of the Street” (1998)


So, what do you think of Breaking Bad’s pilot episodes?

Thanx for everyone who came to Shadows’ screening last night, more especially for Miklos and Shadows Film Club who have given us the opportunity to showcase pilot episodes. Much thanx also for those who stuck around and hung out with us afterward at the cafe. It was a good conversation! That’s indeed a good start for this forum.

Now to kick off our forum on television fiction, we can start with a small discussion. Now that you’ve seen the pilots, share your thoughts and impression of Breaking Bad’s pilot; Do you think it’s a strong pilot? What do you like about it? What would be the highlights of it according to your interest (the story idea; the acting; the plotting; the style (setting, cinematography, editing, etc)? Just whatever aspects that you think are important to highlight from the pilot episodes, feel free to share.



Groningen Telefiction Initiative is launching!

[Drop a line, post comment, say hello, then we’ll talk about TELEVISION!]

[Send an e-mail to to be included in the mailing list for the next Groningen Telefiction Initiative meeting!]

Coming soon: Pilot Episodes screening at Shadows Film Club

Groningen Telefiction Initiative will launch its pilot project with pilot episodes screening of some very interesting television series that will blow your mind off…

Shadows Film Club at the University of Groningen (every Monday) will be hosting the screening. This will be somewhere in late October.

Be prepared!

Boardwalk Empire: An ”Expensive” Pilot Episode?

”I’ve always been interested in the idea of a long-form…novel-like approach to storytelling’‘–Martin Scorsese in The Making of Boardwalk Empire

So last Sunday was the premiere of HBO’s new series Boardwalk Empire. For us who do not live in the U.S., we may not able to catch it on its original broadcast, so I guess we have to wait until the whole first season is finished and when good fellas at HBO release the DVD version of it. Nevertheless, thanx to generous uploader out there, I managed to get the first episode, i.e. the pilot, and watched it with high expectation.

Before the show was launched, I knew that there are going to be big names working behind and on the screen for this period drama set during the prohibition-era Atlantic City in the 1920s. Terence Winter, a veteran of The Sopranos’ Emmy award winning screenwriting team, created the show based on a book by Nelson Johnson, Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City. Mark Walhberg is in it as an executive producer, Steve Buschemi plays the leading role as a corrupt politician Nucky Thompson, and to top it off, Martin Scorsese directed the pilot episode.What more can you ask?

My first impression of the pilot is that it’s definitely an expensive one. Expensive mise-en-scene with expensive cast and an expensive looking mise-en-shot. So from stylistic point of view, I am already hooked. As far as narrative goes, I’m not too sold on the core storyline between Nucky’s take-a-walk-on-the-wildside by flirting with organized crime and so forth and his ambiguous moral ambivalence of being a supporter of the Prohibition law while importing alcohol only to be sold at higher price to cash in more cash obviously; oh and his initial compassion with Kelly Macdonald’s domestic violence victim housewife character, which I suspect will be pursued even more detailed in the forthcoming episodes.

Perhaps BE’s pilot characterise a different type of the so-called ‘quality tv’ poetics, in which a gradual build up is maintained at a relatively slow pace with minimum climaxes as if the showrunner is saving them for more surprises and mysteries in the upcoming installments; in contrary with Lost’s or Breaking Bad’s spectacular pilot episodes with bombastic events and actions done and happened to the characters. Perhaps I am too hopeful because of my experience with The Wire’s slow narrative build up.  I guess that could be a good thing or a bad thing. Nonetheless, I am anticipating more narrative twists and shouts in the subsequent episodes of Boardwalk Empire.[In particular, with Michael Kenneth Williams’, a.k.a Omar Little of The Wire, acting in the upcoming episodes!]

Check out the Making of Boardwalk Empire on HBO’s website here: