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Who loves ya, baby? Kojak is back

Ving Rhames brings baldheaded cop back to small screen
/ Source: The Associated Press

When last seen, New York City police Lt. Theo Kojak was a baldheaded lollipop addict with a trademark line — "Who loves ya, baby?" — and Greek heritage.

That was SO 1970s (1973-78, exactly, and a brief eight-month run that ended in June 1990). The 2005 Kojak, coming to USA Network on Friday, is a baldheaded lollipop addict in search of a trademark line.

But is Ving Rhames, filling the shoes of original star Telly Savalas, supposed to be Greek in the new "Kojak" series?

"Kojak, huh?" says a bad guy about to get a brutal interrogation from the lieutenant. "No offense, but what kind of name is that for a fine, handsome Nubian prince like yourself?"

Rhames also is an executive producer on the series that debuts with a two-hour movie at 9 p.m. EST Friday and moves to its regular time slot at 10 p.m. EST Sunday.

So, Greek or not, the role was his.

But when he and fellow executive producer Tom Thayer introduced the series to TV reporters in January, they were pressed on how a character played by a black actor could be named Kojak.

"It is an unusual name, and it seems to be associated with Greeks. Therefore, is there just an explanation of how he got the name Theo Kojak?" one reporter asked.

"No," said Thayer.

"My last name is Rhames," said Rhames. "No one's ever asked me what's the origin of it."

Reporters pressed again, getting no satisfaction.

Give Rhames and company a break. It's not like they took the Greeks out of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Although, given how quickly the TV version of the hit movie bombed, some cross-ethnic casting might have helped.