By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, there used to be a Baltimore cop show called Homicide: Life on the Street. The guy from Brooklyn Nine-Nine was in it and it was a great show! I can’t find it anywhere on streaming. Can you help? Is it on streaming? — Gordon, Glen Burnie, Maryland.
Gordon, Homicide: Life on the Street, which aired on NBC for seven seasons (1993-99), starred Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) as Frank Pembleton, a mercurial but brilliant detective on a murder squad in Baltimore. But the show, which it says here was one of television’s greatest ever, was truly the product of an incredible ensemble cast (Yaphet Kotto, Richard Belzer, Kyle Secor, Clark Johnson, Melissa Leo, Ned Beatty, among so many other outstanding performers) and equally talented writing and production team including Barry Levinson, Paul Attanasio, and Tom Fontana.
Homicide: Life on the Street pre-dated HBO’s classic Baltimore police drama, The Wire, but the similarities are striking, starting with David Simon, the co-creator of the HBO show and the writer of the book that Homicide was based on. Simon pitched Levinson, the director of such Baltimore-based films as Tin Men and Diner, to turn his book into a film, but Levinson wisely went the small screen route.
Like The Wire, Homicide offered a realistic look at being a cop in an urban war zone with both heroism and hubris front and center. And the acting was first-rate with Emmy-worthy performances in each episode.
But now that I’ve whet your appetite to watch a few episodes, I have to inform you that Homicide is not available on streaming. Even worse, no one seems to know why, not even Levinson. In this excellent oral history of the show, the director/producer told The New York Times that he can’t figure out why Homicide isn’t available.
“For the last four years, I’ve tried to get an answer for why we’re not on streaming,” Levinson said. “No one, I mean no one, has been able to give me an answer. There’s money to be made. You can’t figure out how to handle whatever rights issues that may come up? You’re talking over 120-some episodes. And somehow no one can figure out how to handle the rights? That doesn’t make sense!”
You can buy the DVD boxed set of the show at Amazon with all seasons included here. But it’s not cheap. $174.99 for the 35-disc collection.
I also found an episode on YouTube, which you can see below:
Gordon, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann