Watch Wiseguy

  • TV-14
  • 1987
  • 4 Seasons
  • 7.8  (2,861)

In the late 1980s, CBS introduced viewers to a gritty, complex crime drama called Wiseguy. The show starred Ken Wahl as Vinnie Terranova, an undercover agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Terranova is tasked with infiltrating and bringing down organized crime syndicates throughout the country. Throughout the course of the show's run, he works with and against various criminals and law enforcement officials, navigating the dangerous world of organized crime while trying to keep his own identity and allegiances intact.

One of the show's most compelling elements was its deep, nuanced character development. While Terranova is at the center of the show, Wiseguy introduces viewers to a whole host of fascinating and complex characters. There's Frank McPike (Jonathan Banks), Vinnie's handler and his closest friend in law enforcement. McPike is the voice of reason in Terranova's often-chaotic world and works constantly to maintain their cover identities while also keeping Vinnie from being consumed by the criminal underworld. Jim Byrnes plays Lifeguard, McPike's colleague at the FBI who provides additional support and assistance throughout the show's narrative.

On the criminal side, Wiseguy boasts villains that are just as complex and multifaceted as the protagonists. One of the most notable bad guys is Mel Profitt, played by the excellent Maximilian Schell. Profitt is a high-powered drug dealer with a vast network of connections and a penchant for playing mind games with his enemies. While he's undoubtedly ruthless and frightening, Schell's performance brings a level of complexity to Profitt that makes him one of the most compelling and memorable villains in television history.

Steven Bauer rounds out the main cast as Michael Santana, a character who is initially introduced as an antagonist in the show's second season. Santana is a rival drug dealer who, like Vinnie, is constantly working behind the scenes to outsmart and battle his enemies. As the show progresses, however, Santana evolves into a key ally and friend to Vinnie, adding another layer to the show's intricate web of alliances and rivalries.

Another factor that sets Wiseguy apart from other crime dramas of its era is its commitment to authenticity. The show wasn't afraid to delve deep into the world of organized crime, examining the inner workings of various syndicates with an almost documentary-like approach. The writing is sharp and realistic, with dialogue that feels authentic to the people and situations it's depicting.

Wiseguy also tackled more serious and controversial topics than most crime dramas of its time. In one memorable episode, the show explores the issue of police brutality and corruption, forcing viewers to confront the ugly realities of law enforcement's darker side. In another, Vinnie poses as an anti-Semitic neo-Nazi sympathizer in order to infiltrate a white supremacist group. The show's willingness to delve into these issues and tell stories that were often difficult to watch made it one of the most groundbreaking crime dramas of its era.

All of these elements combined to make Wiseguy one of the most beloved and influential crime dramas of its time. Even now, more than thirty years after its initial airing, the show remains a benchmark of quality storytelling in the crime genre. With its complex characters, authentic depictions of organized crime, and willingness to tackle tough issues head-on, Wiseguy set the standard for what a truly great crime drama can and should be.

Wiseguy is a series that is currently running and has 4 seasons (77 episodes). The series first aired on September 16, 1987.

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Changing Houses
9. Changing Houses
Santana goes after a group of high school drug dealers who shot his niece after she witnessed the murder of her high school principal
Dead Right
8. Dead Right
Hillary asks Frank and Santana for help in a lawsuit involving defective aircraft parts
Point of No Return
7. Point of No Return
When his brother-in-law disappears, Santana is drawn into a web of police corruption
Witness Protection for the Archangel Lucifer
6. Witness Protection for the Archangel Lucifer
December 8, 1990
Convinced of Santana's loyalty, Guzman tells him to deliver $85 million in bearer bonds to El Salvador. After Santana is captured by Salvadoran soldiers, a team of agents arrest Guzman as he tries to save himself with info about Terranova's killers
La Mina
5. La Mina
December 1, 1990
Santana learns the details of Guzman's money laundering operation and comes face to face with the drug lord who cost him his job as a Federal prosecutor
The Gift
4. The Gift
November 24, 1990
Santana impresses Guzman with his trustworthiness and finds himself getting deeper into Guzman's operations, a move that endangers his father and Dahlia
Black Gold
3. Black Gold
November 17, 1990
The arrival of a shipload of Haitian "boat people" in Miami inadvertently interferes in Santana and McPikes's plans to catch Guzman in an illegal act, and opens up a new case
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, Part 2
2. Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, Part 2
November 10, 1990
When Vinnie disappears, McPike fears he has been kidnapped by a Salvadoran death squad, and his investigation locks him into a with Michael Santana, a disbarred Cuban-American Federal prosecutor contracted by Vinnie shortly before he disappeared
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, Part 1
1. Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, Part 1
November 10, 1990
While Frank is in Washington to talk to Paul about returning to work, Dan calls to say Vinnie missed his last check-in. Frank goes to Vinnie's house and finds evidence that he was kidnapped. Despite Paul's objections, Frank begins his own investigation, finding out from Carlotta that Vinnie was looking into the death of a priest in El Salvador. Frank follows the trail to Miami and Michael Santana, a disbarred Federal prosecutor, and the last person Vinnie contacted.
Where to Watch Wiseguy
Wiseguy is available for streaming on the CBS website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Wiseguy on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon, Vudu, The Roku Channel Free, Tubi TV, Pluto TV and Peacock.
  • Premiere Date
    September 16, 1987
  • IMDB Rating
    7.8  (2,861)