I think that all reviews of adaptations, remakes, and sequels should be done by two reviewers: one who has experienced the original material, telling you how well it captures the spirit of the original, reflecting on the faithfulness of the work. The other review should be by someone who has not experienced the original, judging the work on its own merits. You can have a great adaptation which has little to do with the original (say Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and you can have a slavishly accurate adaptation of a strong work and yet have it be a weak work (the TV miniseries version of The Shining, perhaps.) Those are separate factors, and need to be weighed seperately.
For the new version of Kojak, I will have to be the second reviewer. Although the original run was not actually before my time, and the reruns have long been available, I can’t recall ever watching an episode, and my impressions of it come more from references and parodies. The new version certainly captures some aspect of the cartoon image of Kojak – a gruff bald guy with spherical lollipops (at first I wrote “suckers”, but I realized that made him sound like some sort of odd squid) – and plays agains it in other ways – black not greek, and with moments of strongly-displayed sensitivity.
The pilot featured the hunt for a serial killer of prostitutes, not exactly a subtle police drama item. And it did focus on a gruesome style of killing, in ways that made some portion of our viewing audience turn away. And it relies on story points that aren’t exactly fresh, with twists that could be seen a half an hour ahead of time (possibly leading to the sense of a very padded episode, which was encouraged by efforts at fancy slow-mo moments.)
But that is not to say that it’s devoid of anything interesting. Ving Rhames is definitely a screen presence here. Chazz Palmienteri is always a good thing to have on a project, even if he’s not fully used here. And the dialog had quite a bit of snap to it. There is hope for this, and the overall watchability will depend largely on the selection of stories.