A City's Gritty TV Roles

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A look at shows that have used Baltimore as backdrop.


On-air: HBO, 2002-present

Synopsis: Now in its last season, the celebrated drama -- based on creator David Simon's years on the crime beat for the Baltimore Sun -- chronicled police efforts to take down a West Baltimore drug ring and the drug market's effect on city residents and political leadership.

Why It's So Baltimore: Baltimoreans and Marylanders have made guest appearances on the show: Former mayor Kurt Schmoke played a city health commissioner; convicted drug kingpin Melvin Williams portrayed a church deacon; and former Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich was a state trooper.


On-air: NBC, 1993-99

Synopsis: Based on the David Simon book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," the critically adored series depicted a crime-ridden Baltimore and angst-ridden detectives including such colorful characters as cynical Detective Munch (Richard Belzer) and brilliant Detective Pembleton (Andre Braugher).

Why It's So Baltimore: Much of the series was filmed in Fells Point with appearances by real-life Baltimore celebs. The city's Recreation Pier on Thames Street was transformed into the fictitious squad room that featured the memorable board listing murder victims.


On-air: HBO, April-May, 2000

Synopsis: Baltimore native Charles S. Dutton directed this six-week, fact-based account, based on yet another David Simon book, about a notorious open-air drug market located less than 20 blocks from Camden Yards. The series centered on a 15-year-old drug dealer and his addict parents.

Why It's So Baltimore: Residents of a tough East Baltimore neighborhood had small speaking parts and walk-ons in this mini-series (that actually depicted an area of West Baltimore). It concluded with Dutton talking with the four Baltimoreans whose stories are told in the series.


On-air: Fox, 1991-94

Synopsis: Dutton starred in this comedy as a hard-working Baltimore sanitation worker surrounded by his working wife, his freeloading younger (and troubled) brother and opinionated father. Jamie Foxx appeared in the final season as "Crazy George" Stevens.

Why It's So Baltimore: Well, it wasn't really, since the entire series was shot on a Los Angeles sound stage, though the series's exterior shots were filmed in Baltimore and plenty of references gave it that "you are there" feeling.

-- John Maynard

© 2008 The Washington Post Company