When Shaft was first released in theaters in 1971, Richard Roundtree’s performance as the blaxploitation antihero quickly made him a cultural icon. Then, when it was announced that the property would be coming to TV along with Roundtree, people must have absolutely flipped. Unfortunately, the show wound up as nothing more than a black eye on the Shaft legacy, and a huge miscalculation by CBS.
The biggest sin that the TV version of Shaft committed during its seven-episode run was to attempt to tone down one of the most iconic characters in the history of film. John Shaft was no longer a renegade private detective on the outskirts of the law; instead, he was one of the good guys working alongside the establishment.
That meant no more foul language; no real violence; and no more shots of the sleazy, strip club-ridden streets of '70s Manhattan. Sure, Roundtree was still Shaft, but it seemed like someone had stolen his edge and replaced it with cotton candy.