Who Loves Ya, Baby? Exploring the Iconic 1970s TV Show Kojak

The 1970s was a decade of iconic television shows that left a lasting impact on pop culture. One of the most popular shows of the era was Kojak, a police procedural drama that aired from 1973 to 1978. The show starred Telly Savalas as the titular character, a tough and charismatic detective with a bald head and a fondness for lollipops. We’d give odds that Telly’s bald head is one of the first things that come to your mind when you hear “Kojak.”

Kojak was a groundbreaking show that tackled serious issues such as racism, corruption, and organized crime. It was praised for its gritty realism and portrayal of a flawed but dedicated hero willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. The show’s popularity led to numerous spin-offs, movies, and even a revival series in the 2000s.

actor Telly Savalas as kojak with lollipop

Kojak: A Synopsis

The show follows the investigations of Lieutenant Theo Kojak, a bald, lollipop-sucking detective in the NYPD’s Manhattan South Precinct. Kojak is known for his tough-guy attitude, street smarts, and unorthodox methods of solving crimes.

Each episode typically begins with a crime being committed, followed by Kojak and his team of detectives working to solve the case. 

One of the most notable aspects of the show is the character of Theo Kojak himself. Played by Telly Savalas, Kojak is a complex character often struggling with his own demons. He is a widower who still grieves for his late wife, and he is also a recovering alcoholic who attends regular AA meetings. Despite his flaws, he is a dedicated and skilled detective respected by his colleagues and feared by criminals.

Main Cast

The 1970s TV show Kojak was well-known for its talented cast of actors who brought the gritty crime drama to life. The main cast of the show included:

  • Telly Savalas as Lieutenant Theo Kojak
  • Dan Frazer as Captain Frank McNeil
  • Kevin Dobson as Detective Bobby Crocker
  • George Savalas as Detective Stavros

Telly Savalas was the show’s star, playing the lead role. His portrayal of the tough and tenacious detective made him a household name and earned him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1974.

the cast of the tv show kojak against the new york city skyline

Dan Frazer played the role of Captain Frank McNeil, Kojak’s boss and mentor. Frazer’s character was the voice of reason in the show, often providing Kojak with guidance and support as he worked to solve complex cases.

Kevin Dobson played the role of Detective Bobby Crocker, Kojak’s loyal partner. Dobson’s character was known for his quick wit and sharp mind, and he often provided Kojak with valuable insights as they worked together to solve crimes.

George Savalas, the real-life brother of Telly Savalas, played the role of Detective Stavros. Although his character was often overshadowed by the man players, Savalas brought a unique charm and humor to the show that made him a fan favorite.

Kojak Production

The show was created by Abby Mann and first aired on CBS in 1973. The show was produced by Universal Studios and was filmed on location in New York City. The show was a hit with audiences and ran for five seasons, with 118 episodes, before ending in 1978.

The show’s production team worked hard to create an authentic New York City setting, using real locations and filming on the streets of the city. The show’s music, composed by Billy Goldenberg, also added to the gritty atmosphere of the show.

Another feature of the show that many will remember is Kojak’s ride. The Buick Regal was a popular car model produced by General Motors, and it was often featured in the show as Kojak’s signature car. The car was known for its sleek design and powerful engine, and it became an iconic symbol of the show. It was popular that toy and model versions were produced and snapped up by fans of all ages.

toy car in a box-Buick Regal favored by television show detective kojak

Kojak Spin-Offs

The popularity of Kojak led to the creation of several spin-offs. Here are some of the most notable ones:

  • Kojak: The Belarus File – This made-for-TV movie aired in 1985 and featured Telly Savalas reprising his role as Kojak. The plot revolved around Kojak traveling to Minsk to investigate the murder of an American businessman.
  • Kojak: Ariana – Another made-for-TV movie, this one aired in 1989. It starred Savalas as Kojak and featured him investigating a series of murders in Athens, Greece.
  • Kojak: Fatal Flaw – This 1989 TV movie saw Savalas once again playing Kojak, this time investigating a murder at a New York City hospital.

In addition to these movies, a reboot series was attempted in 2005. It starred Ving Rhames and lasted for one season of ten episodes.

Theme Song

The theme song was written by Billy Goldenberg and was titled “Who Loves Ya, Baby?” The song became very popular and was released as a single, reaching number 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1976.

The song features a jazzy, upbeat tune with a memorable trumpet riff. The lyrics, which were written by Academy Award-winning lyricist Alan and Marilyn Bergman, reference Kojak’s catchphrase “Who loves ya, baby?” and describe the character as a tough but lovable detective who always gets his man.

The theme song became so closely associated with the show that it was often used in promotional materials and is still recognized by many people today as a classic TV theme. The popularity of the theme song led to several cover versions and remixes over the years, including a dance remix by DJ Dimitri from Paris in 2004.

action scene from Kojak with Kojak holding a suspect by his tie and his partner holding a gun while keeping an eye out

Famous Quotes

Kojak was known for its memorable one-liners and quotes. Here are a few of the most famous:

  • “Who loves ya, baby?” – This iconic catchphrase was often used by Lieutenant Theo Kojak when he was feeling particularly confident or victorious.
  • “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” – This quote was used by Kojak and other characters on the show to justify their actions, even if they were morally questionable.
  • “You’re a lousy witness, you know that? I’m brilliant, but you’re a lousy witness!” – Kojak would often use this line when interrogating a suspect who was being uncooperative or untruthful.
  • “Everybody’s got a button, Lieutenant.” – This quote, spoken by Kojak’s colleague Detective Bobby Crocker, reflects the show’s theme of exploring the flaws and weaknesses of even the most seemingly upstanding citizens.

So, to conclude, when Telly asks, “Who loves you, baby?” the answer is a resounding “We do!”