On the drive up US Highway 280 from Opelika to Birmingham last night, I listened to the radio to The Right Time With Bomani Jones on ESPN Radio. On the return from commercial break, one of the tracks that was being played was James Brown’s “The Payback”. Bomani used it in regards to a dustup in baseball the night before in which several players were victims of the beanball. I instantly thought of something else the track reminded me of. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: New York Undercover.
How I first came across this moment? The James Brown track was the song featured in the beginning of “Catman Comes Back”, which was the Season 1 finale where Ice T’s Danny Cort character kills Michael Michele’s Sandy Gill character. I came across the show itself several months earlier, in September 1994. Back then, FOX had a 2-hour, 3-show block that catered to the minority demographic on Thursdays. It started with Martin, which was followed by Living Single before concluding with New York Undercover. I simply tuned into the series premiere and was intrigued by the plot of the episode, which centered around a girl falsely accusing players from a rival football team of sexually assaulting her. And that’s how it started.
What it meant to me then? At the time, New York Undercover was something very different from the police procedurals that I had been accustomed to. Compared to NYPD Blue, Dragnet, Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order, and The Commish, it was far more edgy and hip. The primary characters were minorities and they wore legit “street” clothes to work. Something about that resonated with me. The episodes themselves were things I could relate to as an minority growing up in the inner city.
What it means to me now? The show was cancelled after Season 4, in which the cast and the storylines dramatically changed. Today, it’s basically a legacy program that reminds me of a time when being a cop was hip and cool.