Posted on September 15, 2002
'Hack' can be hailed for more than its Phila. setting
By Jonathan Storm
INQUIRER TELEVISION CRITIC
The Hack: Under felony indictment. Booted from his house and family and the police force after stealing drug money. Out some cash because the Eagles actually won a game. Badgered by his buddy, a priest named Grzelak, to atone before God. Forced to drive a crummy cab because the Chechen dispatcher doesn't like him.
Still, it might be fun to be The Hack. First, you've got this Clint Eastwood movie moniker: The Hack. Then you actually get to act like Clint Eastwood, so viewers never think about the implication of mediocrity in your name. You get to frown a lot and hardly talk, except when you bark at solid citizens because they want to go off half-cocked, but you know all the cop tricks.
"I could look into that for you," you tell them when they plop into the back of your cab, victimized by some sleazy miscreant, not knowing what to do.
And then you get to dress up in disguises and crack wise at the bad guys before you hit 'em with a board, or a crowbar, or whatever's handy. (No guns, please - remember that indictment.) Or just stare 'em down and knock 'em around with your amazing strength and incredibly huge hands.
Then, like the Lone Ranger, you disappear before the authorities come to clean up.
Hack is CBS's new Philadelphia drama (Fridays at 9, starting Sept. 27). It stars David Morse, who actually lives in Philadelphia and told the producers he'd do the show only if he didn't have to go too far to work. What a difference from last season's Philly. That series has come and gone, and producer Steven Bochco still has never spent a moment in our fair city.
Playing The Hack must be especially fun for Morse, who as Dr. Jack Morrison on the wonderful '80s hospital show St. Elsewhere was visited with many a sorrow - his wife died, and he was raped, among other things. Now he gets to dish out justice.
The Hack (it's slang for cabdriver) is actually named Mike Olshansky. He's from Fishtown. He, too, feels victimized by circumstances. "If you walk into a bust, and there's 40 grand on the table and only 32 gets turned in, well, that just ain't the end of the world," he tells his priestly buddy, played by George Dzundza, one of the original Law & Order cops. The boys from Internal Affairs apparently thought otherwise, which is why The Hack is driving a cab and not wearing a badge.
But The Hack figures maybe he can boost his self-image and make it up to God by doing a little high-violence, freelance Good Samaritan work.
He drives everywhere in Philadelphia, day and night, and if you live in, or even visit, the city and watch two or three minutes, you'll see something familiar - reason enough to tune in.
But with its beautiful location filming and minor-key music, and with the laconic Morse and his ex-partner, played by the distinguished Andre Braugher from Homicide: Life on the Street, Hack has a dark simplicity that makes it entertaining, too.
It's fun to see the criminals get creamed by a world-weary cabdriver hooked on No-Doz and Visine.