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Homicide: Life on the Street

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The four new episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street represent your last chance to save this great but low-rated cop show. Does NBC, which has shown far too little faith in the series since it premiered last January, want a quote to use in promoting it? Okay, here goes: If you like NYPD Blue, you’ve got to watch Homicide.

In what, for Homicide, is a drastic ploy to win new viewers, this first episode is constructed around a guest star: Robin Williams appears as the husband of a woman who is murdered in the opening seconds of the show. Williams’ angry, grieving widower-the blood of his wife staining his windbreaker-adds extravagant emotions to a series that usually gets its best effects from suppressing them. It was generous of the star to help his friend, Homicide executive producer Barry Levinson (Toys; Good Morning, Vietnam), but don’t let Williams distract you from the real stuff here: the brilliantly jagged murder-investigation scenes and the exceptional performances from homicide-detective costars Daniel Baldwin and Melissa Leo. As long as the other three new episodes feature a lot more of the bristlingly relentless cop played by Andre Braugher than we see here, there’s no reason to doubt that Homicide is in peak form.

P. S. The title of this episode is ”Bop Gun”-if that doesn’t make sense to you, know that it is also the title of an old Parliament-Funkadelic song, and that small, subtle references to P-Funk music are scattered throughout the show. Like so much in Homicide, these details are unexplained yet nevertheless rich and evocative. A