No. of seasons
Final episode date
11 January 1996
Theme music composer
Country of origin
First episode date
28 September 1991
Stephen J. CannellStephen Kronish
Michael ChiklisTheresa SaldanaKaj-Erik EriksenJohn CyganMelinda McGrawGeoffrey NaufftsNicholas LeaGina BelafonteDavid Paymer
American Broadcasting Company
The Commish is an American comedy-drama television series that aired on ABC in the United States from 1991 to 1996. The series focuses on the work and home life of a suburban police commissioner in upstate New York.
The series stars Michael Chiklis as Tony Scali, a former NYPD detective who is now the police commissioner in the small upstate New York town of Eastbridge, and tends to work through problems with humor and creativity more often than with violence or force. Theresa Saldana plays Rachel Scali, Tony's wife, and Kaj-Erik Eriksen plays their young son, David. Also living with the family in the first season was Rachel's freeloading brother, Arnie Metzger, played by David Paymer. A daughter, Sarah, played by twins Justine and Dayna Cornborough, was born to Tony and Rachel in the second season. The show focused as much on family situations as it did on police drama. The series often deals with a wide range of topical social issues such as police corruption, racism, homophobia, drug addiction, disabilities, child abuse, illegal immigration, and sexual harassment. The series ran for five seasons.
Cast and crew
In addition to Commissioner Scali's family, the cast included police working for the town of Eastbridge.
Commissioner Scali went through three lieutenants at his headquarters during the run; Lt. Irving Wallerstein (Alex Bruhanski), his longtime buddy and second-in-command, was succeeded after only a few episodes by Lt. Paulie Pentangeli (John Cygan). At the start of the second season, Pentangeli shot an unarmed suspect who was reaching for a cigarette case. Although he was cleared of wrongdoing, Scali nonetheless fired him, suspecting that Pentangeli knowingly shot the suspect on whom they had insufficient evidence to prosecute. Pentageli was replaced by a female lieutenant, Cyd Madison (Melinda McGraw). She lasted two seasons until John Cygan returned to the series as Pentageli at the start of season four. Madison left the Eastbridge department to work as a commissioner in another city. Pentangeli returned despite his continuing disagreement with Scali regarding the nature of the shooting in season two. The star cops who also worked closely with the Commish included Stan Kelly (Geoffrey Nauffts), young, hot-headed Ricky Caruso (Nicholas Lea), and Carmela Pagan (Gina Belafonte). Series regular Kelly was killed off in season three, whereas other characters such as Pagan would simply disappear for longer stretches without explanation.
Chiklis's character, Tony Scali, was at least ten years older than Chiklis' age at the time. At one point, the network worried that Chiklis's weight loss would have an effect on the ratings and reportedly asked him to stuff his clothing. He also was encouraged to not shave his head to look still older.
The character, Tony Scali, was based on the real-life 30th Commissioner of New York City's Department of Correction, Anthony Schembri; Schembri also served as the Secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice under Governor Jeb Bush and as the Citrus County Florida County Administrator. Schembri was "discovered" after being a technical consultant for the TV series. Schembri was serving as the Police Commissioner of Rye, New York during that time. The show was unrealistic in that Tony would do many things a real-life police commissioner doesn't, such as chase criminals and investigate crimes.
Although this series aired on ABC, it was originally slated to be on CBS, but unresolved casting differences with CBS led Stephen Cannell to cease pre-production with that network. Eventually, Cannell took the series to ABC and it won the ratings war with CBS for that time slot (Saturday nights at 10pm).
Theresa Saldana received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in 1994.
Anchor Bay Entertainment released the first two seasons of The Commish on DVD in Region 1 in 2004–2005. Because of poor sales, no further seasons were released. These releases have been now discontinued and are out of print.
On October 12, 2010, Mill Creek released The Commish: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1. The 17-disc set features all 94 episodes of the series on DVD for the very first time.
In Region 4, Beyond Home Entertainment has released the first four seasons on DVD in Australia.
The Commish also screened on KTN (Kenya Television Network) in Kenya, Nelonen in Finland, NRK in Norway, TV3 in Spain, RCTI in Indonesia, ProSieben in Germany, Sky One in the United Kingdom, RTÉ One in Ireland and the Nine Network in Australia. It is still broadcast on SBS Net in Denmark, TV4 Guld in Sweden and Canale 5 e La7 in Italy. It also airs in the U.S. on Heroes & Icons.