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CBS TV's answer to NBC's DRAGNET also Precursor to BULLIT, DIRTY HARRY and STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO.
As in most all other sorts of businesses, in Hollywood,imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Observing that which has worked well for your competitors and trying to emulate whatever 'it' is, is a natural behaviour and part of our analytical process. Only when taken to extreme would it be considered improper.
We can only imagine a top level conference held at the HQ's of the CBS Television Network, some time in 1952 or'53. The CEO would be presiding over the meeting, which would include Department Heads, associated Producers from Series already airing. There would be various types of Gofers and Hangers-on. Lastly, we would also have a full number of what we now call 'the Suits' (the Lawyers) and the Bean Counters (Accountants).
The subject of this meeting would beg the question, Why can't we at the Columbia Broadcasting System have a Cop show to be as good and popular as NBC's DRAGNET with Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday? The project is eventually given to Producer Jaimie Del Valle, who has had some experience in producing shows, going back to his pre video days to the "Old Time Radio" dramas.
Mr. Del Valle hits the ball right out of the park by coming up with what we could probably call 'CBS's Dragnet'. It is a series that would prove to be similar, but not a copy. It would have a realistic style, but one that was its own.
The Del Valle produced series is of course, THE LINEUP. It was shown originally on Friday evenings, not going toe to toe with DRAGNET, which dominated NBC'S Thursday nights.* The series did a lot of location shooting right there in San Francsco. There were a lot of sets used for interiors mainly, like their office in San Francisco Police Headquarters. Their desk sat directly in front on of the circular, almost port hole like windows that looked like a gunners' turret on a B 29.
The cast for this San Francisco Police show was staffed with a roll call of experienced character/supporting actors. These guys would insure a most acceptable final product. Warner Anderson was the lead as Lt. Guthrie. Tom Tully portrayed the partner, Inspector Grebb.** Marshall Read was a regular as Inspector Asher. Bill Kennedy portrayed their boss, the Captain. (There were some others, just can't think of 'em now!) The music was very good and both the incidental music and the theme were recorded for this city and not just canned musical ques and moods from some music service outfit. The Theme in particular was very fine and most memorable, being a variation of a theme from "THE PLANETS" by Gustav Holst, definitely a Classical derivative.*** The formula required that all the above be skillfully blended together with some good, believable scripts-based on cases and incidents culled from real life files of the San Francisco Police Department.
Each episode would start with a snippet of the story, a little appetizer, if you will. This set the stage for what is to come later.****Next, the scene would dissolve into the trademark opening scene of the Downtown of San Frasncisco, with the Detectives' Black, 1950, Ford 4 door slowly climbing up the street to the summit (top) of the hill, only to turn left and start down the other side of the huge mound, then down again.
During the opening of THE LINEUP, the voice over Announcer***** would,in addition to giving verbal accompaniment to the graphic titles, tell the sponsors name. This was still the age of strong sponsor identification. I recall that two alternating sponsors one season were Viceroy Cigarettes and O'Cedar Sponge Mops.
Just about every weekly episode (but oddly not one that's my favourite) would involve the scene at the big Lineup at Police HQ's, with the victim's brought in to view basically all the arrestees for any offense of a serious nature. Usually Inspector Grebb (Tom Tully) did the report reading, describing to the victim/complainants just what were the circumstances of each arrest.
Once again, THE LINEUP managed to give CBS and the televiewing public a cop show with a certain realistic look and sound to it. But unlike DRAGNET's rapid fire, staccato dialog, THE LINEUP slowed it down, which worked quite well for the pair of Police Detectives, who reminded one of, if not one's Father,at least a couple of our dear Uncles.
Me thinks that both CBS and the viewing public were much better off than before. After all, there were now two top cop shows on the air. Mr.Del Valle, the production crew and cast most definitely succeeded in doing what they set out to do.
UPDATE: November 1, 2007. Like rival program, "DRAGNET", "THE LINEUP" had also gotten its start on Radio!
* DRAGNET was a staple on Thursday evening, where along with YOU BET YOUR LIFE with Groucho Marx, it gave NBC one up on 1st Place in the Nielsen Ratings. In fact, being so identified with that day of the week was the Jack Webb revived DRAGNET in 1967, NBC used the catch phrase of "Friday is coming to Thursday!", as a promo.
** Messrs. Anderson and Tully brought with them many years experience in supporting and character roles. They worked very well together, perhaps from working on several motion pictures together, like DESTINATION TOKYO and THE CAINE MUTINY.
*** The opening theme was given a slight variation, sans voice over in the syndicated re-runs, which were distributed and shown under the title SAN FRANCISCO BEAT.
**** This is the same kind of opening that has been so well used by Producer Dick Wolf in his long running Cop Show, LAW & ORDER over the NBC TV Network.
***** Announcer, that would be Art Gilmore, who, in addition to this announcer gig, did so many movie trailers. He also, coincidentally did some announcing (along with George Fenimen) and acting on DRAGNET.
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