Screen: NBC

Let Homicide: Life On The Street Out Of The Holding Cell

It's time to parole the cult pre-Wire procedural to streaming video.

The Show: Homicide: Life On The Street (1993-9)

The Concept: The first TV series derived from David Simon's book Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets -- the second is, of course, The Wire -- and well ahead of its time, H:LOTS followed a fictional Baltimore homicide squad. It's kind of a Law & Order/Wire pre-hybrid...the erectus to The Wire's sapiens.

Which is pretty much the kind of remark Bayliss (Kyle Secor) would make super-sincerely while Felton (Daniel Baldwin) or Bolander (Ned Beatty) snickered.

Opening Credits Cast: Secor, Baldwin, Beatty; Yaphet Kotto, Melissa Leo, Michelle Forbes, Callie Thorne, Reed Diamond; and of course Clark Johnson, Andre Braugher, and Richard "John Munch" Belzer.

Notable Guest Stars: Uh, everyone? Seriously, I think I was on it in Season 5. A random sampling includes James Earl Jones, Julianna Margulies, Chris Rock, John Waters (as a bartender), Neil Patrick Harris, Vincent D'Onofrio, and pretty much the entire cast of Oz.

Why It's In TV Jail: It's hard to say. It's available on DVD from Netflix, but it isn't streaming anywhere and it's not part of any rerun blocks -- and that's odd. Networks like Ion and Cloo could stand to tuck a couple of back-to-back H:LOTSes in among the endless Criminal Minds reruns, because the show lasted a syndicatable amount of time...and it's well regarded. I mean, I would call it a cult thing, but people who care about TV, and procedurals in particular, know about it.

But it always had kind of an aggro thing going on with NBC, the network dicking it around schedule-wise and whatnot. The show's twentieth anniversary is this year, so it's the perfect time to put it on Hulu, and yet: no. It's probably some licensing issue that nobody can be shagged to untangle.

Why It Deserves Parole: It got..."interesting" ratings, but a handful of awards, and despite a weird final season and some weak links in the acting chain (Jon Seda got better, but he never got good, exactly), it's a solid show; sometimes it's even great. It was conventional wisdom for a while that The Wire rendered Homicide irrelevant, and it's an understandable comparison given the source material, but it's not a fair one; you have to take it -- and Bayliss, around whom I designed several drinking games, one of which was entirely "shut up, Bayliss"-based -- on its own terms.

Also: Braugher. A star was born. He's so good.

Recommendation: Hulu, pronto. Failing that, an H:LOTS rock block on Saturday afternoons.