Saturday, January 21, 2012

Karl Malden and 'The Streets'

I always dug TV shows filmed on location. There's something about shows produced away from the company town that gives them a flavor all their own. And I'm not talking about shows filmed in Canada that are supposed to be someplace else (like 'Smallville' which is supposed to be in the American mid-west). I mean shows where the location is part of the concept, like 'Hawaii Five-0' or 'Miami Vice'.

There's also 'road' shows like 'Route 66' and 'Movin' On' that have that same edge. Still another category is a sort of hybrid, like 'Northern Exposure' that was filmed near Seattle but was set in Alaska. And while 'Northern' doesn't qualify as a 'true' location show, I imagine filming in Alaska was next to impossible. But it does have that non-Hollywood production feel to it.

The original 'Hawaii Five-0' is probably the best of the bunch (I'm not a big fan of the new series, but it's okay). A close second is the 70's Quinn Martin series, 'The Streets of San Francisco'.

Watching 'Streets' now, I'm struck my how damn good Karl Malden is.

Malden came to Hollywood from Broadway, where he played Mitch in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'. He won the Oscar for the same role in the movie version, and remained a close friend of Marlon Brando for the rest of their lives.

Part of 'The Group' of naturalistic actors, Malden's Mike Stone character is one of TV's best. I really believe that this guy grew up in a tough San Francisco neighborhood, that he loves the City, his job and his daughter. And that he lives and dies with every Giants baseball game (the show often ends with some light moment of Stone cringing over the latest Giants outcome or trying to score tickets).

Malden's co-star, Michael Douglas (who Stone constantly refers to a 'Buddy Boy'), is also good, but you can see the difference in commitment during simple 'exposition' scenes. Malden is always 'on' whereas Douglas is just mouthing the words.

Another great thing about 'Streets' for me personally, is that I lived and worked in the City since the late 80's. Seeing the 1970's San Francisco is a blast. It's amazing how quickly some things change. I actually saw an episode recently where you can see a skyscraper under construction that I later worked in.

And in interior scenes are really cool. Getting a look inside the homes and apartments is a blast. I just saw an interior that had a 'sparkling popcorn' ceiling. Remember those?

The first two seasons of 'Streets' on are DVD. Check it out, pilgrim.


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