Although it is stated numerous times that Theo Kojak is of Greek heritage, the name "Kojak" is actually of Polish origin. Kojak's heritage was changed to Greek in order to match Telly Savalas' Greek heritage.
The series was translated to Hungarian in the 1970s. The actor who gave his voice to Kojak, László Inke, resembled Telly Savalas so much, that a movie was shot in which he played Kojak (Kojak Budapesten (1980)). While the original series was in color, the Hungarian film was black and white. Also, according to the film's plot, Kojak was born in Hungary, and had been a very clumsy cop before emigrating.
Lieutenant Kojak's rhetorical question "Who loves ya, baby?" was ranked number eighteen in TV Guide's list of "TV's 20 Top Catchphrases" (August 21-27, 2005 issue). The line is also prominently featured on the slipcase of the season one DVD set.
Telly Savalas is seen throughout the series both sucking on his lollipop and smoking. The lollipop was used to cut back on smoking. His character Kojak even admitted once that he smoked too much and sucked on lollipops every day except on Sundays.
The feature length pilot episode, "The Marcus Nelson Murders," was a direct contrast to the regular show. The pilot was filmed extensively around New York, giving the production a more gritty look. Also, most of the supporting characters consisted of corrupt police officers and politicians.
Telly Savalas was living in Universal City, California, when cast for the series. (Most of the series was produced and filmed primarily in New York City, New York). Throughout the making of the series, he would travel to his suite and back every weekend and on other breaks to be with his family.
Though the series focus mostly on Kojak's police work, it occasionally veered into other areas of the character's lives, such as the first-season episode "Knockover" which included a subplot involving Kojak romancing a (much younger) female police officer.
Prior to starring on the show, Telly Savalas was also a singer, released five studio albums in his career, between 1972 and 1980. "If," from his third outing, Telly, was a curiosity that saw the actor sensually reciting the lyrics to Bread's 1971 hit over easy listening music. The Shatner-esque song flopped in the States, but took the No. 1 position on British pop charts for two weeks in March 1975.
Telly Savalas was the first choice for the lead role of Harry Orwell in Harry O (1973), but starring in this show, whilst doing film commitments in Europe had prevented him from doing the role, therefore, it was given to David Janssen.
A New York Chronicle article from 1957 reads "N.Y. Police Find Skeleton Remains of Murder Victim: Discovered in Demolished Office Building in Downtown Manhattan." The article was Written by Nancy Courey and Rafael Hernandez.
On one episode, both Kojak and Gittings are engaged in surveillance on a tire company associated with Hudson. Telly Savalas's left hand has what looks like a bandage or splint on one of his fingers. In scenes before and after this, there was no bandage.
As Kojak looks up at Beck's building around, there was a poster on a telephone pole behind him saying "Join the Demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention, New York City, July 11-15." This referred to the convention in 1976 which nominated Jimmy Carter for President.
According to the book The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV: In October of 1976, the [National] Gay Task Force [NGTF] issued a "media alert" for [this episode]. According to the gay newspaper, The Blade, the Task Force issued the alert because they were concerned the character "would be interpreted by a large segment of the public to be about homosexuality, thus perpetuating the common misconception that gays are child molesters." The article continues by stating there were no references to the word "homosexual," yet "a detective called the molester a 'fruitcake' and a psychologist said he had problems dealing with women." [This is not correct, the psychiatrist doesn't say any such thing (unless it was cut out of the show). When Kojak is talking to Mosher on the phone, he says "Are you counselling him [Dettro] in dealing with women?" - MQ] Washington D.C.'s CBS affiliate, WTOP-TV..., was the only station to insert a disclaimer at the beginning of the episode to "clarify that the program deals only with the subject of child molesting, not homosexuality. Prior to its broadcast, members of the Task Force viewed the episode and recommended some edits. A copy of the shooting script was sent to the NGTF's Production Consultant, who said he'd have approved the script with a few minor changes. According to Richard L. Kirschner, Vice President of Program Practices at CBS, the broadcast wasn't edited or delayed because there were "sufficient comments about molesting 'children' (meaning both male and female) rather than just boys. A member of the National Gay Task Force also agreed with CBS that the "fruitcake" remark "was a reference to a lunatic rather than a gay.
The "Light Duty Officer" who is a guard outside the District Attorney's office is played by Naked City (1958), who was Det. Frank Arcaro in the classic cop drama Naked City (1958), filmed entirely in New York City, which ran for 5 seasons.
Kojak thinks music sung by Frank Sinatra can jog Lisa's memory, Kojak takes an LP of Sinatra's music to her place. At the station house, he is shown holding this record, which is Some Nice Things I've Missed, released in July, 1974. This LP is described by one Sinatra website as "unnecessary" and "an embarrassing album that could only be treasured by fanatics and apologists." When Greg plays the Sinatra album at his apartment near the beginning of the show, you never hear Sinatra singing, by the way. There is what sounds like a very long introduction to the song instead.
This show was one of the seven television programs that Universal Television had been canceled that same year, in 1978, and it lasted five seasons. The remaining six were: Columbo (1971), whose show was the longest-running and had lasted for seven seasons, more than 2 years later: The Six Million Dollar Man (1974), which debuted, just 3 months after 'Kojak,' which lasted five years, Baretta (1975), whose show lasted 4 years, and 8 months before Switch (1975), whose show lasted 3 years, a few months before The Bionic Woman (1976), whose show lasted 3 years, and 4 months after this show debuted and Black Sheep Squadron (1976), whose show lasted 2 years.