08 DOG DAY SISCO
March 31, 2004 (USA)
Writer: Sebastian Gutierrez
Director: Rick Wallace
Only eight episodes into production, and already a bottle show? A “bottle show” is an episode designed specifically to save money by scaling way back on the number of sets, locations and guest actors. These usually involve the main characters being stuck someplace—locked in a vault or trapped in a snowbound cabin—allowing the director to shoot more setups per day using the same basic set. Bottle shows normally appear near the end of a series’ production cycle after a few episodes have been allowed to run over budget and the cast and crew are tired and need an “easy” show as a breather. Perhaps the studio, after early KAREN SISCO episodes failed to rank high in the Nielsen ratings, urged the producers to cut costs in an effort to improve its ROI (Return On Investment).
“Dog Day Sisco” is, obviously, patterned after the 1973 film DOG DAY AFTERNOON, and reunites star Carla Gugino with her co-star (Gil Bellows) and her writer/director (Sebastian Gutierrez) on the 1998 crime drama JUDAS KISS. Karen Sisco (Gugino) and her father Marshall (Robert Forster) stop off at their bank on the way to breakfast, just a few minutes before it’s hit by armed robbers. Wearing ski masks and naming themselves after Looney Tunes characters, the crooks appear to the Siscos to be frightened amateurs, which could make them more dangerous, not less. Hiding her badge behind a trash can in order to hide her identity as a United States marshal, Karen does her best to keep the robbers’ emotions on an even keel and prevent any bloodshed. Outside the bank, the lives of the hostages are in the hands of FBI negotiator Donnie Pepper (Bellows), a reckless and stubborn agent in whose abilities Karen and her boss Amos Andrews (Bill Duke) have little faith.
If you’ve ever seen a TV cop show, you’ve basically seen this episode, as the hero-taken-hostage scenario is a genre standard. What sets “Dog Day Sisco” apart from other is its leading performances by Gugino and Forster, who have the most screen time together in any episode to date. The Karen/Marshall relationship is one of television’s most intriguing daughter/father dynamics in that they’re good friends as well as relatives. Even when they aren’t speaking, the deep bond the characters have for each other is clear to the audience. Not only does “Dog Day Sisco” put Gugino and Forster together for the entire hour, but it also gets Duke out from behind his desk and at the crime scene, where his impatience with the cocky Donnie Pepper makes from some sparkling repartee.
Though Gutierrez got the nod to pen the teleplay as a freelancer, he didn’t direct it. Handling the helming chores was Rick Wallace, an Emmy winner who began as a producer and director on Steven Bochco productions like HILL STREET BLUES and L.A. LAW and continues to be very busy working on MEN IN TREES, THE CLOSER and COMMANDER IN CHIEF. Marley Shelton, most recently in GRINDHOUSE, plays the lone female member of the bank heist gang, and red-haired Glenn Morshower (Special Service agent Pierce on 24, a fan favorite character) does his terse authority figure thing as the chief of the Miami-Dade police force.
Hardly anyone has seen “Dog Day Sisco,” because it never aired on ABC. KAREN SISCO was cancelled after only seven episodes, but ten were already in the can. “Dog Day Sisco” and the other two remaining episodes made their debut on the USA cable network, more than four months after the series’ final ABC broadcast. All ten episodes have also aired on the Sleuth cable channel.