Classic TV intros #8: The Equalizer

A regular series looking back on classic TV show intros …


The Equalizer (88 episodes, 1985-89).


Former secret agent Robert McCall (Edward Woodward) sets himself up as a New York private detective/trouble-shooter, dispensing sometimes rough justice upon criminals in defence of the helpless and powerless.

The intro

The Equalizer‘s theme tune was created by Stewart Copeland of The Police. It centres on a fast and heavy percussion beat – reminiscent of the kind of rapid heartbeat one might experience in situations of extreme danger – which underpins a simple but eerie synthesizer melody. A quick pan across a portion of the New York skyline at night (the illuminated art deco form of the Chrysler Building is clearly visible) segues into a sequence of people-in-danger scenes accompanied by alarming sounds such as screeching tyres and a crying baby: an aerial shot of a man running from an unseen danger, a man moving in on a lone woman in an elevator, a startled man in a phone box, a woman stranded on a deserted subway platform as a man appears menacingly in front of her, and so on. We then see a brief silhouette of McCall brandishing his trademark Walther PPK/S handgun, followed by a tracking shot underneath the title card which slowly pans around his shadowy figure, stood implacably in front of his Jaguar XJS, before finally illuminating his face.

The combination of music and visuals in this intro is hugely evocative, bringing to life the seedy underbelly which exists after dark in many large cities. From the opening beats, there is no mistaking this show’s take on New York for the ‘bright lights, big city’ of Friends or Ugly Betty. This is an environment every bit as dangerous as the world of espionage McCall left behind him.


Stewart Copeland was a particularly appropriate choice of theme composer, given that both his parents worked in the intelligence community. His father, Miles Copeland Jr, was one of the founding members of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the CIA, while his mother Lorraine worked with British military intelligence during WWII.

Copeland made a brief cameo as a pickpocket in one episode.

Woodward suffered a heart attack in the summer of 1987. Accordingly, the producers needed to find a quick replacement while Woodward recuperated. Robert Mitchum was brought in as an old friend of Robert McCall who helped McCall’s son search for his missing father in the two-part episode Mission: McCall. Richard Jordan was also employed as embittered former operative Harley Gage for eight episodes.

Martin Shaw, who had risen to fame as Doyle on The Professionals, turned down the role of McCall.

In June 2010 it was announced that Russell Crowe was looking to bring The Equalizer to the big screen, with Crowe himself attached to play McCall.

Links: IMDbTV.comWikipedia

Previous classic TV intros

#1 – Knight Rider

#2 – The Sopranos

#3 – Hawaii Five-O

#4 – Life On Mars

#5 – Battlestar Galactica

#6 – Danger Mouse

#7 – Sapphire and Steel

Do you think the intro for this show deserves the status ‘classic’? And do you have a favourite of your own? Watch out for more ‘Classic TV intros’ posts coming soon.