A Death In The Family

'Shellshocked.' 'Like being hit with a punch.' 'It's a blow to Fells Point.' -- Baltimoreans mourn the end of 'Homicide.'

May 14, 1999|By CHRIS KALTENBACH | CHRIS KALTENBACH,SUN STAFF

It sounds like a redundancy, saying "Homicide" is dead. But it is. And for many of those whose lives it touched, yesterday was a time for mourning -- and reflection.

"I'm speechless. I'm bummed," said Tim Lee, 22, who works in his family's dry cleaning business on Boston Street in Canton and enjoyed chatting with two of the show's writers when they came in with their dry cleaning.

"I grew up in Baltimore and I'm pretty proud of the city. To see something that puts Baltimore on Hollywood's map, and to have that canceled is pretty sad. How many shows can you sit there and go, `Oh my God, I know that place?' "

"I don't want to talk about it," said a woman answering phones on the "Homicide" set, at Fells Point's old recreation pier. "I'm a little shellshocked. Not that I should be."

True enough. Signs that the end were coming have certainly been out there. NBC, which stuck with the show for seven seasons despite lukewarm ratings, has been treating it like an unwanted stepchild of late, pre-empting it for "Law & Order" reruns, switching episodes at the last minute, not revealing its fate until a few days before the announcement of the network's fall lineup.

"In the end, everything is only about numbers," executive producer Barry Levinson said. "I think we had some very strong supporters in the past, like [former president of NBC Entertainment] Warren Littlefield, who really stood behind the show. We're not a Top-10 show, but we do provide [decent] numbers. But once you pull out a little bit of support for the show, and you don't really want to advertise it with any sort of aggressiveness, that tells you something to begin with."

Still, all the foreshadowing in the world wouldn't have made the reality any easier to take. At least four crew members from the show were walking around the set yesterday, all of them too emotional to talk or even give their names.

Across the street at the Daily Grind, the Fells Point coffee bar cast member Reed Diamond once said made the best cappuccino in Baltimore, co-managers Kelly Rogers and Steve Rowell contemplated life without their most famous customers.

"I'm really sorry to see them go," said Rowell, who appropriately enough was dressed in black. "I made a lot of friends as a result of that show being here."

"That show brought a lot of visitors into this area who normally wouldn't show up here," said Rogers.

Both agreed the cast and crew were a delight to have around, normal people who blended in with the regulars -- even if they did have to deal with the occasional autograph seeker.

"Andre [Braugher] always used to order a double mocha chocolatta ya-ya," said Rowell, admitting he could name the drink, but not spell it. Kyle Secor would order a double soy hot chocolate ("He was into health stuff," Rogers said). Ned Beatty, Rowell recalled with a look of disgust, ingested a steady diet of peanut butter, jelly and mayonnaise sandwiches.

Pat Moran, who started her showbiz career as a crony of John Waters and last year won an Emmy for her work as the show's casting director, was in tears yesterday. Word of NBC's decision, she said, "was like being hit with a punch.

"It was the darling of the critics, but it wasn't stupid enough to be the darling of the masses," she said. "They'll probably put `America's Stupidest Videos' in its spot."

Added former Circuit Court Judge Elsbeth Bothe, "I think it's a shame because it does have a sophistication and attraction. I loved watching Baltimore, all the identifiable places, the street names, the characters. These were real people in the detective department."

Although it didn't always paint Baltimore in the best light -- it was, after all, about people being killed -- "Homicide" and Charm City were the best of friends.

"All the people associated with the show have been wonderful to Baltimore," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who appeared on "Homicide" a few times himself. "They have encouraged students in our schools interested in dramatic arts. They have made themselves available for community events and they produced a show of outstanding quality. I'm really sorry the show wasn't renewed."

"It's a real blow when you lose a show of this magnitude, with the economic impact it's had in the community and the impact that the cast and crew have had," said Michael B. Styer, director of the Maryland Office of Film. "The bright side is they've been so successful in terms of production that Baltimore and Maryland have to be considered seriously for doing productions. Not every area of the country can support the complete shooting of a series. We've got the crew base. Ninety percent of the people who work on the show come from Maryland."

Richard C. "Mike" Lewin, Maryland's secretary of business and economic development, agreed. "This was one of the best returns on investment we've had in the department of business and economic development. We spent less than $1 million in the Maryland film office and got more than $75 million back in economic development."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.