Homicide: Colors

David Morse - Proof of Life

The Buffalo News April 27, 1995, Thursday, City Edition Copyright 1995 The Buffalo News

The Buffalo News

April 27, 1995, Thursday, City Edition


LENGTH: 765 words

'Homicide' Is A Brilliant Hour


Don't miss Friday's episode of NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street (10 p.m., Channel 2). Anyone who called a local radio talk show recently to vilify Middle Easterners should be sentenced to watching it.

Titled Colors, the plot about inherent racism in all of us couldn't be more timely in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing. Indeed, the timing of an episode written several weeks ago by Buffalo's Tom Fontana is almost eerie. Fontana is reunited with David Morse, the actor best-known for playing sincere Dr. Jack Morrison on St. Elsewhere.

Morse stars as Jim Bayliss, the sincere cousin of Detective Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor). Jim is brought into headquarters for questioning after shooting an outrageously costumed Turkish teen-ager (he looks like a member of the old group Kiss) who came to his door and appeared to be menacing to Jim. A decent family man, Jim may have some racist qualities that even he is unaware of and his cousin is unwilling to accept.

Tim Bayliss' partner, the often angry African-American Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher), is the lead investigator on the case. Pembleton isn't willing to take his partner's word that his cousin acted responsibly in self-defense.

Braugher, who may be the best actor on series television, gives an unusually restrained performance. Pembleton pursues the racism possibilities at the same time that he uneasily tries to respect his partner's family.

This is a brilliant hour that deals with many of the issues Americans confronted after wrongly concluding that the Oklahoma bombing was the work of a Middle East terrorist.

It also has many subtle colors to it, making viewers question how they might react in similar circumstances and whether they have some inherent racist qualities of their own.

Fontana said the episode actually is based on a Louisiana case in which a man shot a Japanese exchange student who knocked on the wrong door on his way to a Halloween party.

"Unfortunately, the timing of this particular episode is perfect, because here we are a nation not only in mourning and in shock over this tragedy but also where we kind of had that (racist) moment, if only for a second," said Fontana.

"The knee-jerk reaction was, it must be Arab terrorists," Fontana said. "The fact that the man arrested turned out to be the total opposite -- an Aryan survivalist from Western New York -- is so incredible because we all were kind of caught with our prejudice pants down.

"This episode is really about how there is a little bit of prejudice in everybody," Fontana added. "There is this thing in us that comes out and in perfectly honorable, good, solid people. Every once in a while we jump to a conclusion about someone because of the color of their skin or their religion for some reason."

Unbelievably, NBC hasn't concluded that Homicide has to be renewed. Fontana said the network will make its decision in mid-May.

Homicide finished No. 54 out of 87 shows that aired last week and often beats Picket Fences -- the Emmy winner for Best Drama for the past two seasons that airs at the same time -- in the ratings.

If Homicide isn't renewed, the only conclusion to be drawn is that NBC doesn't see a great show when it is right before its eyes.



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