[[quoteright:336:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/new_equalizer_logo_6101.png]]
[[caption-width-right:336:This CoolOldGuy can ''equalize'' the odds in your favor.]]


->''"Got a problem? Odds against you? Call [[TitleDrop the Equalizer]]."''
-->-- newspaper advertisement.



An action-adventure television series originally broadcast on the CBS Network between 1985 and 1989. It starred British actor Edward Woodward as Robert [=McCall=] ''aka'' 'The Equalizer', a retired spy who assists people in need by way of [[RedemptionQuest atoning for his past actions]] as a premiere agent of the... er... 'Company'. Yeah, that's the ticket.

The character's past is never fully revealed to the audience, but is implied to be full of amoral shadows and secrets. He is a ruthless and pragmatic man, a killer many times over -- but also a sensitive and honourable man, whose humanity has somehow survived years of terrible disillusionment. The series' expert juxtaposition of all of these elements -- and the flat refusal to apologise for ''or'' justify any of them -- is what has made it a cult classic. (Well, that and the cool [[ThePolice Stewart Copeland]] soundtrack.)

In keeping with this dedication to the grey areas, the Equalizer's clients are usually average New York citizens seeking protection from stalkers, neighborhood hoodlums, abusive husbands, corrupt politicians, [[CorruptCorporateExecutive crooked businessmen]] and other largely untouchable villains. His fees are nominal and frequently waived altogether, while his services inevitably go far beyond simple bodyguarding.

A standard episode generally begins with the Equalizer convincing his reluctant client that hiring what appears to be a Brit-accented Charles Bronson is a good idea -- or, in a few notable instances, explaining why 'just shooting them all' is ''not'' the answer -- and ends with the execution of a complex (and often cruelly ironic) extended mindgame that leaves his opponents so crazed that they're either sobbing for mercy or forcing [=McCall=] to shoot them in self-defense. There is not a lot in the way of redemption, on this series, and what there is has been hard-earned.

He is helped in his investigations by contacts acquired during his intelligence years, ranging from scientists to mercenaries. Notable among these -- more so in later years, when health problems forced actor Woodward to slow down -- is recurring sidekick Mickey Kostmayer (KeithSzarabajka), a junior agent who doesn't quite understand what drives [=McCall=]'s crusade but is ferociously loyal anyway (it's stated in one episode that Mickey had been convicted of {{fragging}} his superior officer, and [=McCall=] proved his innocence). [=McCall=] also reluctantly does assignments for his former boss, known only as [[EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep Control]] (Robert Lansing), who in payment turns a blind eye to this wholesale 'borrowing' of Agency personnel.

TheFilmOfTheSeries, with DenzelWashington starring as [=McCall=], and also featuring Creator/ChloeMoretz, MelissaLeo and MartinCsokas is currently filming.
----

!!This show contains examples of:

* TheAtoner: [=McCall=] helps people partly to expunge his guilt over the amoral things he did as part of The Firm.
* BadassBoast: [=McCall=] gives too many to list, all of them terrifying.
* BadassGrandpa: While Robert [=McCall=] has a son who is about 20-25 years old, he doesn't seem to have any grandchildren. Regardless, he is still definitely a Badass Old Guy.
** Dyson as well.
* BadassLongcoat: It's pretty much [=McCall's=] trademark piece of clothing; see picture above. Lampshaded in the episode "Christmas Presence" in the following exchange between Harley Gage (an associate of [=McCall's=]) and a little boy who's obsessed with The Equalizer
-->Boy: "So when am I gonna meet the Equalizer? You told me I was gonna see him."
-->Harley Gage: "Will you get off this Equalizer kick for me. That's all you ever talk about. What's he got that I haven't got?"
-->Boy: "A trench coat."
** You can pretty much tell how much of a badass a Company agent (at least one that has a significant part of the story) is by how long his or her coat is. [=McCall=], Control (when he wears one), and Dyson wear the longest coats and they are three people who worked in The Agency who really, really shouldn't be messed with.
* BatmanGambit. [=McCall=] is a master manipulator and uses psychological warfare very effectively.
* BerserkButton: [[RapeIsASpecialKindOfEvil Rape]] and [[WouldHurtAChild hurting or exploiting children]] will send [=McCall=] into a rage that may overcome his usual iron control over how far he will go to punish or see that the perpetrator(s) don't ever do anything of the like again.
* BluffTheImposter: Either involving someone from [=McCall=]'s spy past trying to get him to reveal or betray a still-relevant secret, or involving [=McCall=] trying to earn the confidence of a wary high-profile target.
* BowtiesAreCool: Control seems to think so, the only times you ever see him without one it's because someone forcibly took it off him or he has to meet someone higher on the food chain.
* BrainwashedAndCrazy: Mickey, at least temporarily, after the MindRape below.
* BreakThemByTalking: [=McCall=] is quite masterful at this, hitting every emotional and psychological weak point he can find in his enemies.
* BriefAccentImitation: [=McCall=] imitates a [[AmericanAccents [=NooYawk=] accent]] for comedic effect to Mickey, repeating and mocking a very irritating and unhelpful New Yorker he was hoping would give him information.
* BruiserWithASoftCenter: Harley Gage is a tough bad-boy sort who tends to poke fun at [=McCall=] for his idealistic mission, but you get him around kids or someone who is in trouble and his tough outer shell gives way pretty quickly despite all his protests to the contrary.
* BrutalHonesty: [=McCall=] doesn't usually sugarcoat it, even at his most gentle.
* CallingTheOldManOut: [=McCall=]'s estranged son Scott doesn't hesitate to express how he feels about his dad being [[DisappearedDad gone for most of his life]]. Neither is he impressed when he later finds out [[MysteriousPast what [=McCall=] did for the Agency]] (like helping set up [[BananaRepublic brutal dictatorships]]).
* TheCasanova: Harley Gage.
* TheCastShowoff: Very (extremely very) occasionally an episode has used, to perfect effect, Edward Woodward's magnificent singing voice by having [=McCall=] croon a few lines of a song at tender or melancholic moments.
* ColdWar: Occasional episodes revolved around the [[MysteriousPast operations]] that [=McCall=] performed against the [[DirtyCommunists Soviets]] coming back to haunt him... some which ended in disaster and which he felt he needed to clean up.
* CombatPragmatist: While capable of using firearms, he prefers psychological warfare on his opponents, and is willing to work with cops given the right situation. He avoids direct fights whenever possible, and when he has to fight, he relies on his skills more than his weapons.
* ConsummateLiar: ILied is practically Control's catchphrase.
-->"It's what I do for a living, Robert."
** [=McCall=] is also extremely good at lying, however he only does so in the interests of protecting people.
* CoolCar: [=McCall=] drives a black Jaguar [=XJ6=], much to the dismay of clients who naturally assume his services are expensive.
* CrazyPrepared: [=McCall=] set up a whole protocol Scott should follow if he ([=McCall=]) should be captured, including instructions for contacting Control, instructions for where to go should Control either choose not to or be unable to help which contained instructions to go to Mickey who has further instructions on who to go to for help, and, of course, instructions on where to go and what to do should they be unable to prevent his death (i.e. where his will is and his money).
* CulturedWarrior: [=McCall=] is sophisticated, well read, regularly contributes articles on military history to journals of considerable repute, has an eclectic taste in music (though generally running towards classical and swing/jazz in genre), is an appreciator of fine art, prefers sports cars and tasteful clothes, and is an ex-black ops agent who can efficiently end you should you be foolish enough to come up against him.
* CynicalMentor: Dyson tends to act like this to Scott.
* DarkAndTroubledPast
* DeadpanSnarker: [=McCall=] is the undeniable master in the series.
* {{Defictionalization}}: Sometimes while on location on the streets of New York, Woodward would add money to parking meters that he noticed were about to expire, to save complete strangers a ticket -- an act that some NYC officials called (mildly) illegal. He would often leave a small card marked "Compliments of The Equalizer." Once the show became a hit, Woodward was also approached for assistance by so many people he started carrying leaflets for organisations that could actually help people in trouble.
* DemolitionsExpert: Mickey.
* DramaticChaseOpening. Subverted. The opening credits are a collection of dramatic chase openings, but they're so many that they get switched before the actual chases begin.
* DrowningMySorrows: Notably by [=McCall=] in one episode.
** Though he often goes into smaller ones of these after having to kill someone.
* EnragedByIdiocy: If there is one way guaranteed to get under [=McCall's=] skin it is by being idiotic; if it is simple stupidity which at worst puts you in danger, you are almost guaranteed some sort of scathing remark, however if your idiocy endangers someone else you may well be in for a [[TheReasonYouSuckSpeech Reason You Suck Speech]].
* FiveFiveFive. The phone number on the Equalizer's newspaper advertisement. Spoofed on the Late Show when DavidLetterman rang the number and [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMfsLySxIzA ends up talking to a woman in Information]].
* FloorboardFailure: Comes up as the Equalizer is being menaced by the villain on a building site. He warns the villain not to come any closer because there are broken boards between them; of course the bad guy doesn't trust this, so steps onto the broken boards and falls to his death.
* ForgotToGagHim: If one is going to hold Control captive, one must gag him or one may as well say he's not captured at all.
* FriendInTheBlackMarket: Usually when [=McCall=] needs a particular piece of equipment that is impossible or difficult to get legally or needs to be untraceable, he goes to Jimmy.
* FriendOnTheForce: Lt. Isidore Smalls
** Detective Alice Shephard
* FriendToAllChildren: [=McCall=] is generally very fond of children (despite sometimes covering it up with empty gruffness or irritation), and children tend to gravitate to him. Also, see BerserkButton for what happens when [=McCall=] gets involved in a case where someone harms a child.
* GirlOfTheWeek: [=McCall=] generally has somewhere between two and four per season. It's usually implied that they have been or do date for a considerable amount of time but you never see each one beyond one episode, rather implied to be because even though [=McCall=] wants to have a steady relationship he's still not very good at maintaining one.
* GrammarNazi: [=McCall=]. Though he usually (with great forbearance) tolerates it from friends and clients (unless utterly terrible), bad grammar from baddies quickly irritates him and often causes him to snarkily or snappishly correct them.
-->Assassin: "I ain't telling you nothing."
-->[=McCall=]: "What a ''terrible'' double-negative."
* TheGunslinger: Several characters, but notably Kostmayer, who always carries a handy [[CoolGuns Uzi or Ingram]] [[MoreDakka submachine gun]].
-->'''Mickey:''' So why can't we just bust in there and start shooting [the kidnappers]? Take 'em by surprise.
-->'''[=McCall=]:''': Mickey, there is a five-year-old child in that room!
-->'''Mickey:''' Oh, yeah. [lowers Micro-Uzi sheepishly] I, uh, forgot.
* GovernmentAgencyOfFiction: [=McCall=]'s former employer is only referred to as "The Agency" or "The Company", both well-known nicknames for the CIA. Not actually ''calling'' it the CIA gets around the issue of [[AcceptableBreaksFromReality how the mysterious Agency can legally operate inside the United States]].
* {{Handguns}}: [=McCall=] carries a stainless steel Walther PPK/S with Pachmayr grips. He's also seen using the .357 Desert Eagle, and the Uzi in its SMG or pistol variants.
* HeelFaithTurn: Brother Joseph Heiden in "Blood and Wine" used to be [[spoiler: a terrorist]] until he saw the light. [=McCall=] is understandably skeptical about the transformation.
* HeroicNeutral: Dyson. Had his [[JadeColoredGlasses idealism beaten out of him by years in the Company]]: seeing friends die, having to do terrible things, and being hurt time and time again by 'caring too much', and once out of the Agency takes considerable steps to make sure he's left alone by friend and foe alike.
* ImprovisedWeapon: One episode has [=McCall=] [[RightManInTheWrongPlace accidently held hostage]], whereupon he proceeds to kill the terrorists using a coat-hook screw rammed through the jaw and stranglation with a tie.
* InHarmsWay: Mickey loves being in on any sort of danger; the riskier the better. He lampshades it himself in his first appearance; [=McCall=] comes to ask him for his help (meeting Mickey while Mickey is fishing) but doesn't ever get that far before Mickey starts packing up his fishing gear
-->[=McCall=]: "What are you doing?"
-->Mickey: "Packing up. I figured you're here cause you need some whacko who's willing to stick his finger in the fan."
* IntergenerationalFriendship: [=McCall=] (who is old enough to be Mickey's father) and Mickey became friends after having been assigned missions together while [=McCall=] was still with The Company. They tend to look and act rather like a StudentAndMasterTeam when they work together, but just hang out and joke around when not on a job.
* KarmicDeath (actually more Karmic Punishment as those villains who die are usually just shot by [=McCall=]): Examples include a man who was robbing deaf people temporarily losing his hearing after [=McCall=] blasts him with a sound weapon, and a slum landlord almost losing his life in a fire set by his own hired arsonists.
* KnightInSourArmor: [=McCall=] is cynical in the extreme, but he's got a soft spot for people in trouble; hence his current occupation. He's also still an idealist (albeit a very jaded one), who is trying to do what it is he signed up for originally when he got into the army and espionage, i.e. protect people innocent people from those who would do them harm.
* Magazine/{{MAD}}: ''The Tranquilizer''.
* ManipulativeBastard: Control, of the [[TheSpock coldly analytical type]]. Could count as a MagnificentBastard on charisma and never knowing quite where he's coming from alone, but YMMV.
* ManlyTears: [=McCall=] when recalling the death of [[spoiler: his daughter]], which is obviously still a very present pain.
* MarriedToTheJob: Well, he sort of had to be with the sort of job he had, but [=McCall=] apparently didn't realize that it (and the secrecy involved) would be a leading cause in his divorce with Scott's mother and major factor in his inability to maintain a steady relationship afterwards (even after becoming The Equalizer because he'd gotten so used to not trusting himself with anyone that he doesn't open up easily even if he wants to).
* MindRape: A favourite tactic of [=McCall=]'s, and has been known to completely reduce a villain to a quivering jelly. Also used to brainwash Mickey into (almost) assassinating him in one episode.
* [[TheMissusAndTheEx The Mister and the Ex]]: [=McCall=] is on the ex end of things when he has to protect his ex-wife and her husband (who he actually ends up getting along with quite well).
* TheNeedsOfTheMany: Control's reasoning for being willing to [[spoiler: trade [=McCall=] for the return of several American agents. To be fair, he ''says'' he did have a plan to rescue him.]]
* NervesOfSteel: [=McCall=]. Even the one time he did find emotions getting in the way of his cold reasoning and planning ([[spoiler: he found out that a girl he was trying to protect and had gotten abducted, was his daughter]]) he still (after admitting it to himself and Mickey) managed to go through with the elaborate chess game he had planned before the emotions had clouded his judgment.
* NeverBeAHero: Scott sometimes tries to copy his father's methods, but usually ends up making an idiot of himself.
* NewYorkCity: The location shooting, and access to the Big Apple's wide pool of acting talent (including actors who were appearing on Broadway at the time) certainly didn't hurt this series.
* PoliceAreUseless: Albeit presented sympathetically as hamstrung by the larger justice system.
-->'''[=McCall=]:''' Who runs this city?
-->'''Detective:''' We do.
-->'''[=McCall=]:''' When your backs are turned, who runs this city?
* PopCulturalOsmosisFailure: [=McCall=] and Mickey often miss each other's references, so often so that there is a rather amusing moment where [=McCall=] enthusiastically recounts an episode of TheTwilightZone in the expectation that Mickey never saw it and Mickey letting him go the entire way through before revealing he ''had'', amusingly slightly disconcerting [=McCall=].
* PrivateDetective, SpyFiction, VigilanteMan: The series draws on tropes from all of these genres.
* {{Protectorate}}: Anyone [=McCall=] accepts as a client and/or whoever that client might think needs protection or extraction from a bad situation.
* RealMenCook: [=McCall=] is quite an accomplished chef.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: [=McCall=] is quite masterful at giving these.
* RevengeBeforeReason: Averted in "Torn" when [=McCall=] is tipped off by Jason about a double agent who betrayed his LoveInterest to the Soviets during the Hungarian revolution. Unfortunately at the same time, [=McCall=]'s client is attacked by her abusive father. [=McCall=] chooses to protect his client and successfully talks the man out of harming his daughter. The double agent escapes, and Jason [[KickTheDog makes a point]] of telling [=McCall=] that his girlfriend was executed by the Soviets minutes after her betrayal.
* ResignationsNotAccepted: Subverted. [=McCall=] "rewrote the rules." [=McCall=] used three factors to his advantage to resign. (1) His 'friendship' with Control, who would rather not kill him and is savvy enough to realise he might still get some use out of [=McCall=] if he doesn't push too hard. (2) His loyalty has never been in question and Control knows [=McCall=] will hold the classified information he has unto death. (3) [=McCall=] is just so badass that it would be far more trouble than it would be worth to try to kill him.
* RunningGag: Harvey the pharmacy deliveryman who is constantly trying to get [=McCall=] into whatever ultra-health food, pill, or fad he's into at the moment.
* SecretTestOfCharacter: Comes up sometimes as [=McCall=]'s method of getting clients to stand up for themselves by the end of a particular MindScrew on once-untouchable bad guys.
** Used on occasion with episodes involving [=McCall=] and Control regarding the spy agency, trying to determine who among their associates could be trustworthy. Especially in one memorable episode where Control is put on trial by the agency [[spoiler:only for the trial to have been set up by Control to see which of his subordinates would go through 'executing' him on questionable evidence. All of them do, and fail the test.]]
* SharpDressedMan: [=McCall=] dresses impeccably throughout the show; whenever he doesn't, it's significant in some way. Occasionally includes WaistcoatOfStyle.
* ShellShockedVeteran: [=McCall=] is very haunted man, having witnessed, gone through, and perpetrated terrible things, and he mentions he can't sleep for more than a couple of hours before the nightmares of those things wake him.
* ShoePhone: Subverted as all the spy gadgets used by [=McCall=] are available commercially in real life.
* ShoutOut: [=McCall=]'s troubled past clearly draws on Edward Woodward's title role in the 1967-72 BritishSeries ''Series/{{Callan}}'' about a reluctant killer in the [[TrenchcoatBrigade murky world]] [[SpyFiction of espionage]]; as well as issues raised by the trial of [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernhard_Goetz 'Subway Vigilante' Bernard Goetz]] and the movie ''Film/DeathWish'' (as seen in a Magazine/{{MAD}} spoof where Goetz, Charles Bronson and the Equalizer argue over who should shoot a subway mugger). His Walther PPK is an obvious reference to that most famous British spy, Film/JamesBond.
* SinisterSubway: Also shown in the TitleSequence.
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism: An in-depth exploration of this is pretty much the entire point of the series.
* SmugSnake: Jason Mazer.
* SpiesInAVan: Quite a few of these. Sometimes they are The Agency, sometimes The Opposition, and sometimes [=McCall=] and/or people he's working with.
* TheSpock: [=McCall=] is very much this but has tempered it some on his own by choosing to stick to ideals he had put away for the greater good when he was part of The Agency. He always prefers logic, rationalism, and hard facts to intuition, never allows emotion to control him, is always calculating and manipulating the odds, and willing to pay the cost himself to save someone's life.
** Control also, the only person in the series to out-Spock [=McCall=] and to whom [=McCall=] could look like TheMcCoy next to.
* TheSpymaster: Control.
* SteppingOutForAQuickCupOfCoffee: Smalls does this sometimes.
--> "I better not ''see'' you looking at this file, [=McCall=]."
* TheStoic: Dyson, of the ShellShockedVeteran kind. He couldn't compartmentalize like [=McCall=] could, so he ended up burying his feelings as deep as he could and rarely shows more than shadows of any emotion other than bitter cynicism.
* SuddenPrincipledStand: [=McCall's=] quitting The Agency.
* SugarAndIcePersonality: With friends and most clients [=McCall=] is kindly, soft-spoken, possessed of a sharp and mischievous wit, and (extremely) occasionally reveals flashes of endearing vulnerability; with everyone else he tends to be very formal, aloof, brusque, prone to be easily irritated, and quite sharp-tongued.
* SuspiciouslySimilarSubstitute: After Edward Woodward suffered a heart attack that forced him to cut down on his acting for awhile, the 'Equalizer' role was temporarily shared with Richard Jordan and Robert Mitchum (also playing former members of the Agency).
* TerrorHero
* TitleDrop: In the classified ad, as well as people who answer the ad when they first meet [=McCall=]
* UndyingLoyalty: Mickey to [=McCall=].
* VigilanteExecution: Averted. [=McCall=] never shoots anyone in cold blood, as noted preferring to use [[TryingToCatchMeFightingDirty psychological warfare]] to inspire a confession or attitude-adjustment (though quite a few villains conveniently [[VillainBall pull a gun at the climax so [=McCall=] can kill them in self-defense]]).
* VigilanteMan: [=McCall=]'s MO; he sees himself as helping people that the police can't or won't.
* VitriolicBestBuds: [=McCall=] and Dyson.
* WallOfWeapons: Hidden behind a tool board in his apartment's workshop.
* WarriorPoet: [=McCall=] is prone to think think deeply about - and incorporate into his life - poetry and music, and to discuss life, death, and war through them.
* WeHelpTheHelpless: [=McCall=]'s method of advertising; see the page quote.
* WellDoneDadGuy: [=McCall=] really wants to build a good relationship with his son.
* WhatTheHellHero: [=McCall=] is sometimes on the receiving end of this from Scott, and has given out some to cops and to Control.
** Control tends to be on the receiving end of these a lot.
* WhereDoesHeGetAllThoseWonderfulToys: The question of how [=McCall=] can afford his CoolCar, expensive New York apartment, and equipment is lampshaded several times, but never answered directly. It's implied that [=McCall=] was in a position to make (or perhaps skim) a large amount of money during his time with the Agency.
* WithFriendsLikeThese: [=McCall=] and Control often snark and butt heads (especially over Agency actions), but the other is usually who they turn to when they're in trouble or need someone to talk to. Can go into [[spoiler: WhoNeedsEnemies, especially on (but not limited to) Control's end.]]
* WhyDidItHaveToBeSnakes: [=McCall=] (to his chagrin and embarrassment) is deathly afraid of heights. However, it rarely impedes his competency.

----