Al Pacino is ‘Serpico’ in true police drama

Paramount+ and EPIX 2 show Sidney Lumet-directed film

Al Pacino in “Serpico”

After his star-making role as Michael Corleone in “The Godfather,” most moviegoers were just getting familiar with Al Pacino when he played the titular New York cop in “Serpico.” Paramount+ is streaming the fact-based 1973 drama, which EPIX 2 also has Saturday, Aug. 6; directed by Sidney Lumet, it revolves around Frank Serpico’s largely lonely crusade to combat corruption in his department.

Refusing to take bribes or favors, or to look the other way when it came to certain matters, made Serpico a source of worry for other police officers who had no problem with doing so. It also put Serpico’s life on the line every time he went on an assignment, since he wasn’t sure who would have his back. While the cast also includes such fine talents as Tony Roberts, John Randolph and (very briefly) Judd Hirsch, “Serpico” is clearly and rightfully Pacino’s show.

More Retro Rewinds

“Saved by the Bell” (MeTV, Sunday, July 31): Some of the characters of this long-popular teen comedy had an earlier run in the Hayley Mills-starring series “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” and this first post-pilot episode (“Summer Love”) comes from that version. It’s somewhat bittersweet to watch these days, since the now-deceased Dustin Diamond clearly had such a grasp of the character Screech from that early point.

 “The V.I.P.s” (Turner Classic Movies, Friday, Aug. 5): Luxury is the keynote of this first-rate 1963 soap opera, which made much hay of the then-scandalous romance of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. They play wealthy and troubled spouses who are among those socked in by fog at London’s Heathrow Airport. Margaret Rutherford won an Oscar in a great supporting cast that also includes Orson Welles (whose TCM “Summer Under the Stars” day this is a part of), Maggie Smith, Rod Taylor and Louis Jourdan.

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (EPIX, Saturday, Aug. 6): In one of her signature roles, Audrey Hepburn plays Holly Golightly — a social butterfly who ends up greatly affected by her new neighbor (George Peppard) — in this Blake Edwards-directed 1961 comedy-drama. The film’s famous song “Moon River,” by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, earned an Oscar; also featured are Patricia Neal, Martin Balsam, Buddy Ebsen and (in a casting that’s been somewhat controversial in later years) Mickey Rooney.

“The Odd Couple” (Decades, Saturday, Aug. 6): Tony Randall and Jack Klugman both had done productions of the Neil Simon play by the time they were enlisted to play unlikely roommates Felix and Oscar in this popular sitcom version, getting an almost-all-weekend “Decades Binge” showcase here. Veteran producer Garry Marshall was a driving force behind the series, which brought back Monica Evans and Carole Shelley as the Pigeon Sisters in the first season.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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