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Retro T.V. Reviews: The Equalizer (1985)

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Show Name: Equalizer

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Spy fiction, Mystery and Thriller

Seasons: September 18, 1985 to August 24, 1989

Network: CBS, A&E (Syndication)

Starring: Edward Woodward and Keith Szarabajka


I watched this with my dad when this was on TV. I mostly remember watching this in syndication on A&E, back when they would put older shows at 6 pm every night.

I felt it to be the right time to write about this as I just watched the Equalizer movies with Denzel Washington, but I was very disappointed with them. I remembered the show to be better.

So let us see if this is the case.


If you are familiar with the CBS TV shows of the 1980's, you will notice that they all have something in common. They all have a formula which they used week in and week out. All you need to do is watch Murder She Wrote or Simon & Simon and you will see the formula.

The show is about an ex Government Agency spy or agent named Robert McCall (played by Edward Woodward). Due to his involvement with the agency and to redeem himself, he takes on some cases. These cases are mostly pro bono. He puts his ads in the newspaper for people that need help.

So think of this as a Knight Rider type show where McCall looks for the little guy, meets Spencer for Hire.

There you have it. It is a very simple premise that lasted about 4 years.

Trailer for TV Show

Why do I like this TV show?

1) The Equalizer Theme

The theme was always catchy to me. It had has that 1980 strong electro pop sound. I think that it had one of the catchiest themes on TV at the time. IT has that recognizable beat where you know it is The Equalizer theme. Every good show has a good theme.

The show's theme was created by written and performed by Stewart Copeland.

2) Robert MacCall

One the reasons that I appreciate the TV show more than the movies is because Robert Woodward seemed to play the character with more emotion. Where Denzel Washington seems to try to make the character cool, his 80's counterpart was more brash and appeared to kick more ass than in the movies. It should be noted that Denzel Washington plays an American, where as Robert McCall although worked for an American agency, is British. May be that is where the difference comes from.

There was just something about Edward Woodward that just had that extra thing that made people comeback every week. Was it his brand of vigilante justice? Was it the storylines that made fans come back? We are not sure but the sum of all its parts was entertaining TV. I know I just wanted to get to the last 15 minutes of the show to see Robert McCall kick some arse.

3) Guest Stars

Like many shows of the time like Murder She Wrote or Perry Mason, many young actors got their start on this show as a guest star. Back then we did not know who they were but now we see them and we are stunned at how far they have come since their first few roles.

Melissa Joan Hart

Steve Buscemi

Adam Horovitz (from Beastie Boys fame)

There were many more like John Goodman (Roseanne), Ed O'Neil (Modern Family and All My Children), Vincent D'Onofrio (Daredevil) and Christian Slater (Young Guns II) just to name a few. So many artists and actors got their first break in acting on this show which is really cool to see.


I think that this TV show still holds up for the most part. Yes it is very 80's centric and it is a product of its time. Most kids nowadays will look at the technology and see that it is very old. The stories do hold up but have probably been done 10000 in other similar series. The storylines were not exactly original.

Edward Woodward was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Actor every year that the show was on the air. So I guess my family were not the only ones to enjoy the show.

The Equalizer was eventually cancelled due to a decision that CBS had to make. According to a few sources, CBS had picked up the series for a 5th season, however, they had to make a decision between this and Murder She Wrote. CBS opted for Murder She Wrote.

I was also surprised that there was some talk of a crossover show with Magnum P.I. starring Tom Selleck (Blue Bloods) but that never materialized. I would have to admit that would be an odd pairing, but I would be curious to see if it could work. Magnum is a fly by the seed of your pants kind of detective, whereas Robert McCall is very calculating with his way of solving cases.

If you watched the new movies and liked them, you owe it to yourself to watch these old episodes. Yes they are older and show their age, but they are still enjoyable to watch. May be it is the nostalgia speaking but the shows were well produced back at that time.

What was also great about the show is that there was no real continuity. Every episode was its own thing. So if you missed one it was not the end of the world. I find many new shows do not do that anymore. Everything is an episode that is to be continued, which is annoying.

I hope that these are eventually released on Netflix or Amazon Prime as I would like to see the full series again and looking at the progression of the show. I think the main difference between the show and the movie, is the spirit. I believe that the movie version went through the motions, whereas the TV show, you liked the character and was rooting for him the whole time.

What do you think? Am i on the right track or off my rockers? Let us know below.

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