Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Television Production
CBS (Tuesdays 9:30-11:00PM ET); 7 episodes x 74 mins
Regular Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft); Ed Barth (Lt. Al Rossi).
Executive Producer: Allan Balter; Producer: William Read Woodfield; Based on the character created by Ernest Tidyman; Music: Johnny Pate / Theme music: Isaac Hayes; Associate Producer: Dann Cahn; Production Assistant: Fiseha Dimetros; Music Supervisor: Harry V Lojewski; Photography: Keith C Smith, Michael Hugo (35mm, Metrocolor, 1.33:1); Art Directors: Bill Ross, Jacki Poplin, Edward C Carfagno; Set Decorators: Richared Friedman, Raymond Paul; Sound: Bob Miller, Hal Watkins (Mono); Hairdresser: Billie Jordan; Editors: George Folsey Jr., Pete Kirby, Mark Hendry; Make Up: Jack Wilson; Costumes: Norman Burza, Sylvia Liggett (Mr Roundtree’s Clothes: Botany 500); Unit Production Manager: Phil Rawlins; Assistant Directors: William McGarry, Robert Enrietto; Casting: Shelley Ellison; Property Master: Fred Chapman; Still Sequences: John Bryson.
- The Executioners (9 October 1973)
- The Killing (30 October 1973)
- Hit-Run (20 November 1973)
- The Kidnapping (11 December 1973)
- Cop Killer (1 January 1974)
- The Capricorn Murders (29 January 1974)
- The Murder Machine (19 February 1974)
- Richard Roundtree received $30,000 per episode.
- Shaft has moved to a swank high-rise apartment in midtown Manhattan – No. 1207 at 2160 East 67th Street according to the NYC telephone directory seen in The Murder Machine – which seems to be based around a pool table and breakfast bar.
- Shaft drives a car here, a 1973 Dodge Charger – something he didn’t do in the books or the first movie.
- Initially hopeful of a second season, following a decent showing in the ratings, CBS finally announced on 20 April 1974 that the show had been cancelled.
The toning down of the John Shaft character was necessary to make him palatable for a prime-time TV audience. In the early 1970s US TV was still highly conservative and the violence and sex had to be kept to a minimum and contained within the boundaries of what the broadcasters deemed as taste. John Shaft in the movies has much casual sex and although that is hinted in the series – particularly in The Kidnapping, Hit-Run and Cop Killer – we only ever see him in bed alone. The shootouts are regular, but we never see much blood. The beatings are there too, but, as in The Killing, they are edited to be inferred rather than graphically depicted as they were in the three films. Roundtree’s confident portrayal occasionally gets close in tone, albeit not often enough, to his big screen interpretation.
“Mr. Shaft has plenty to do, but somehow the people he does things to seem more interesting than he is. The only other regular on the show, Shaft’s friend, police lieutenant Al Rossi … is also on the stereotypical side. The result is that each episode must depend almost entirely on the guest stars and the plot. And so far the plots have been, at best, only fair to muddling.” – Cleveland Amory, TV Guide
“It has two things in common with the movie. Richard Roundtree, a fine actor, still plays Shaft. And the theme music is the same. Any other resemblance to the original is purely coincidental.” – Jay Sharbutt, Gettysburgh Times, 9th October 1973
“I found the series to be solid fun, removed from the comparisons to the movies, these telefilms are brisk 70s cop show style tales with our charismatic lead in the middle. ” – MarcFusion.com, 21 October 2017
Region Free (US) – Warner Archive burn-on-demand DVD-R was released on 4 October 2011.