Dragnet 1967 (1967–1970)
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It is also fun to see someone portray a cop or good guy in one episode and then play a villian in another episode. Now, even though this doesn't have anything to deal directly with any episode of Dragnet, I think that it was really nice how Jack Webb hired his ex-wife's husband in a few episodes and later was the producer of "Emergency" with his ex-wife Julie London and her husband Bobby Troup. I doubt very seriously that many people in Hollywood would be so mature and do that today.
What makes this series rise above such criticism is the sincerity of all players, its dead-on realism in every situation and performance, and the fact that each story is TRUE. As with practically everything Jack Webb did, this show was ahead of its time in many ways. "Dragnet 1967-70" preached "just say no" twenty years before it became fashionable. Friday's assertions about the addictive nature of drugs, and that marijuana users tend to move on to harder stuff, is still borne out by statistics. The absence of gunplay and wild car chases underscore what a cop's day-to-day life REALLY is. Best of all, the chemistry between Webb and Harry Morgan is unbeatable.
Yes, a lot of the same actors are used over and over, but that was just as true in the 1950's version. Members of the LAPD, and other police departments, assert that "Dragnet" and "Adam-12" (also a Webb production) are still TV's most realistic cop shows. Forget what you've read before and give this version of "Dragnet" a try.
I read the autobiography of Thomas Redden (I am pretty sure that was his name), the L.A. Chief Of Police when Draget was on the air. He said that Jack Webb invited him to the set one day. Webb asked Redden to let him know if anything was amiss. Redden said that he was astounded at what he saw. The set he mentioned was the set where Friday and Gannon sat at the tables, discussing cases, going over evidence, etc. Redden said that the set was 100% accurate, down to the location of the ash trays on the tables.
Jack Webb was a stickler for accuracy. That shines through in the shows. From what I've heard, the procedures shown in Dragnet are still pretty accurate, and were very accurate for those days. Dragnet hold up well, even though it's been almost 40 years since Jack Webb last appeared as Joe Friday.
Unlike the earlier incarnation of the TV show that Jack Webb produced and starred in from the 1950s, this version is less violent and more subdued--showing a lot of the more mundane aspects of police work. And, the show was meant to be more entertainment AND public service work to build support for our cops. The earlier show was more important just for entertainment. Plus, in this series, Detective Smith has been replaced by Detective Gannon (played by Harry Morgan).
So why did I like it so much? Well, aside from its realism, I think that Jack Webb's interpretation of Joe Friday was probably the coolest square guy I have ever seen. Yes, he was rigid and by-the-book, but he had the absolute best lines in TV history. For every scumbag he had the greatest snappy comebacks--sometimes making the entire episode worth while.
While not every episode clicked (some were too preachy or dull), there were so many great episodes. For example, the several episodes starring Burt Mustin, the Blue Boy episode, the white supremacist (with perhaps the greatest Friday one-liner), the guy who stole superhero memorabilia and thought HE was a superhero, etc. are all wonderful examples of fantastic TV. If you see one episode and it doesn't win you over, try a few more--I can guarantee if you give it a fair try you'll be hooked.
By the way, the best of the four seasons is the first. Part-way through season 2 and continuing into the series the shows often were more desk-bound and often concerned more mundane things like public relations and the like. While not bad, these later episodes were a bit claustrophobic and lacked the zip of the earlier ones.
PS--while the style is VERY different, try to find a copy of the DRAGNET movie Jack Webb made in the 1950s. It's one of the best Film Noir movies and is a very tough and gritty film--and VERY different from DRAGNET 1967.
The series must have been dear to Jack Webb's heart. It's too consistent to be anything else. Webb and the show were one and the same. The stories were based on real cases from the LAPD. I understand that. But the presentation was all Webb's. And I thrilled whenever Webb said the words "Los Angeles" and used a "hard" g, as in the original Spanish name for the city.
The design of the program -- the sets, the people we meet -- there was hardly any variation. Every setting seems to be middle class, even the hotel for poor old people. the set design was sparse, the carpets apricot. Sometimes a perp may look weird. He may have painted his face half blue and half yellow if he took LSD, or he may be dressed as Captain Crusader, but everyone else is well groomed and neatly dressed. In Webb's L.A. there is no such thing as a slum or a dangerous neighborhood. All the neighborhoods look alike and Webb, as the narrator, has to tell us we're looking at a run-down house.
It's politically correct, and this has to be part of its appeal. There is the occasional homosexual -- in one episode a hair dresser who gushes that he "could do wonders" with Joe Friday's hair. He isn't ridiculed but the character is played for mild laughs. Blacks are sometimes present but they are always victims of racist comments by bad guys, and Joe Friday straightens the racists out quickly because it's not the American way. And the bad guys who insult them aren't ordinary people but Nazi freaks.
The values embodied in the program are straight down the line -- ordinary middle class, patriotic, law-abiding, respect for elders and authority figures, and thoroughly Republican in the old-fashioned sense of cautious about change and careful about responsibility. Dope is bad, and so is anything else that deviates much from the norm. The anthropologist Ralph Linton drew a distinction between "ideal" culture and "real culture." This program definitely leans towards the ideal, a world in which cops always leap forward to help anyone in distress. (See "Serpico" for a glimpse of the "real".)
Nobody gets away with anything. If you break the law, you pay for it. In a moment the results of that trial.
The format itself gives us a spurious sense of accuracy and attention to the verities. "It was 8:45 PM. It was hot and dry in Los Angeles. We were working the night watch out of Littering." How is it possible to doubt that this is what actually happened?
Acting. Jack Webb is good, and so is Henry (Harry) Morgan, although I wish the latter would make up his mind about his name. Maybe it's Harry (Henry) Morgan, come to think of it. That brief loss of contact with reality seems to have fused a couple of synapses. Anyway, Webb and H. (H.) Morgan had their roles down pat -- from the dramatic to the comic. For the most part, the rest of the acting was robotic. That didn't necessarily detract from the show's value, inasmuch as non-actors don't get in the way of the text. As far as that goes I'm not sure the performers can be blamed. The greatest actors in the world would have a tough time overcoming the stilted scripts. "Hah, Fuzz, you can't say that to me because I'm not under arrest." Webb: "You forgot one thing, mister." "Huh? What's that?" Webb: "Now you are."
I particularly enjoyed the episodes that were built around a dialog between Jack Webb and H. (H.) Morgan, on the one hand, and some rebellious spirit on the other. A Timothy Leary clone appears in one and the repartee is gripping. Leary himself, as I understand it, is now circling the earth in outer space, or at least a portion of his ashes are. The orbit will decay with time as, lamentably, did his attempt to transform the world into a virtual reality without the intervention of machinery. (PS: Kids, Timothy Leary was this ex-Harvard professor who took LSD and advised everyone to "tune in, turn on, and drop out," and -- well, never mind.) Curiously enough, there was a similar talky argument with a producer of pornographic films in another episode. In historical reality, baser human instincts have triumphed over the spiritual, as usual, and the internet is now awash with free videos that belong in an anatomy class, while no one remembers the meaning of the word "psychedelic."
It's enjoyable mostly because it's a trip backward in time. It's a Grandma Moses painting of reality. Webb is telling us what's what. It's like being Twilight Zoned back into a period before the center could not hold and things fell apart. The lines were clear and if you crossed them, well you had Webb and Morgan (H. (H.)) to cope with -- and you didn't win.
By the way, I don't mean to seriously suggest that during the illness I experienced after this marathon viewing, I was a danger to myself or others. The chief symptom was an inability to walk and swing my arms at the same time and an irresistible impulse to wear the same gun-metal gray sports jacket and dark slacks no matter what I was doing. I developed a tendency to nod emphatically too, but my shrink told me to stop it. If any nodding was done around here, he'd do it.
Producer Jack Webb was known as an extremely economical TV producer: His Mark VII productions routinely used minimal sets, even more minimal wardrobes (Friday and Gannon seem to wear the same suits over entire seasons, which minimized continuity issues) and maintained a relatively tight-knit stock company that consisted of scale-paid regulars who routinely appeared as irate crime victims, policewomen, miscreants and clueless parents of misguided youth. Which is pretty evident if you follow the show consistently. In fact I find it comical, in an annoying way, that some actors clearly play good characters in some episodes and criminals in other episodes.
In real life Jack Webb was a hard worker that had a great sense of humor, loved to drink, and smoke cigarettes. That being said, "Dragnet" is over-rated. PLEASE let me explain: Webb's decision to have actors read off cue cards and read their lines monotone isn't my idea of a method in making a TV show more realistic; which was Webb's reasoning behind this production decision. Also, the whole idea of these stories being real life depictions of actual events is somewhat misleading. These stories were BASED on real cases. Liberties were clearly taken in the writing department in an effort to make the stories more palatable to Webb's goals and the main TV viewing audience.
So, don't' get me wrong; I like watching Dragnet. Webb's introductory history lessons about Los Angeles are really quite enjoyable at the beginning of each episode. It's also great to see the location shots filmed in the Los Angeles area at that time in the late 60s: It's classic America before LA turned into the sess-pit it is now. Putting it into perspective, "Dragnet" has some endearing qualities, but Jack Webb's cue card production style gets an F from me.
Television viewing at its very finest.
On January 12,1967,Jack Webb introduced audiences to a new format of the show called,"Dragnet:1967"(which was basically the precessdor to the Dragnet show of the 1950's revised after Jack Webb yanked it off the air after a eight year hiatus),but this time around was in color)which originally ran on NBC's Thursday night schedule in Prime Time for three seasons and 98 Technicolor episodes airing from January 12,1967 to the final episode of the series on April 16,1970(when creator-producer- director and actor Jack Webb voluntarily pull the plug on this series after it received good ratings). "Dragnet" was produced under Jack Webb's production company Mark VII Limited and Universal Television.
Here is something audiences never suspected which was totally new at the time...a vision of Los Angeles that has never been seen before and gives an exquistite detail of some of cities most famous places as well as its gorgeous scenery shots photographed. It also gave audiences a realistic view of Los Angeles in the mid-to-late 1960's and early-1970's where in most episodes dealt with the social injustices that occur and the crime epidemic that was out of control as well.
Here,Jack Webb is still Officer Joe Friday always going by the facts and always preaches what he goes by and also on this new venture is his new partner Bill Gannon(played by Harry Morgan,who also was Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H)who was his backup on police patrol when they were in some sticky situations,but always come out of them in some of the episodes.
This older version maybe campy today,but back in 1967 it packed an emotional wallop that left viewers on the edge of their seats and it was very controversial in handling some of the subject matter.
Some of the episodes I managed to find or keep,but these episodes were some of the best from the first two seasons with some of them dealing with the subject of race relations,police corruption,armed robbery and kidnapping,teen runaways,juvenile delinquency,civil rights,and the deadly effects of kids using LSD and drugs.
The most harrowing episode was the one were the parents were high on marijuana and LSD and they left a little girl drowning in the bathtub as of the result. The other was one where Friday and Gannon stumbled upon a young man near a park chewing the bark off a tree high on LSD and pills. The sad part is that his parents didn't know that their son was high and it was up to Friday to find the supplier before it was too late who gave him lethal drugs. The other,from the first season was the one where Gannon and Friday stumbled upon a man bent on destruction of destroying the city where they find not only a ton of ammo and weapons,but papers on bomb building,Nazism,and other racist propaganda. Gripping drama at its very best.
The third season wasn't that good since most of the episodes focus on a comedy routine involving Friday(which sucked badly)that was the scene at the home of Bill Gannon,his partner. But that was one episodes,but the following episodes stuck mainly to the script which mostly police procedures and rules that were strictly by the book,and Jack Webb's character was that way. When the series was abruptly canceled after more than three seasons and 98 episodes on April 16,1970, the powers that be over at NBC replaced "Dragnet" with the short-lived situation comedy series "Nancy" on September 17,1970 where it was placed in its original time slot.
Originally written on September 28, 2002 and was revised on November 10,2016.
Outside of the lack of stark realism, probably another reason why this version of "Dragnet" is considered inferior to the original version is that Joe Friday, though older and wiser, seems to be a sort of parody of himself in the original version. He's physically stiffer than he ever was and his lectures are twice as long. In addition, the acting from the character actors is generally much less believable and more cartoonish. That said, the show still has plenty of fine moments and can still leave you as far on the edge of your seat as the original did.
Sure some may say otherwise but if you enjoy police shows and classic television then you will wants to check out Dragnet.
The series give you a look into the real work into being a police officer and Detective
Jack Webb reprises his role as Joe Friday with Harry Morgan playing the new partner of Joe Friday, Bill Gannon.
Most of the series episodes centers on stories that were a issue for the 1960s such as Drugs and teens who fall into the wrong crowds.
There have been episodes where the two Detectives look into kidnapping and murders.
The writing in these episodes give you what it means to be a real police Detective and with Jack doing behind the scene work with real police officers helps it.
The theme when you hear it you know it's time for Dragnet.
So all together if you want classic police TV Dragnet is the show for you
With a few more wrinkles on his face Jack Webb returned to the police beat as the no nonsense staccato speaking Sergeant Joe Friday LAPD's roving detective. Every week Friday and his new partner were assigned to a different squad be it robbery, bunco, homicide, juvenile, narcotics. In that way Dragnet 1967 could have several different kinds of stories showing the efficiency of the LAPD in all departments.
Webb's partner from the first Dragnet in the Fifties Ben Alexander was in another TV series at the time, Felony Squad. So Harry Morgan became his new partner Bill Gannon who occasionally said some funny things.
In both shows I always liked the scenes of alone time in the squad car with Friday and Gannon. Morgan was always talking about his wife and family and various domestic concerns he had. Webb was a good listener but in two incarnations of Dragnet we never got a clue about Joe Friday's personal life.
Fans who liked the show in the Fifties still liked the Sixties versions. But as one wise philosopher of the times put it "the times they are a changing". Patented nostrums of the Eisenhower era just did not fly well in a lot of the episodes.
Still it was the Dragnet that the fans knew and loved.
That's what made this show so entertaining. you could see the private social lives of the main characters but most of the episodes were focused on fighting crime. I agree with one reviewer that the most harrowing episode was the one where the little girl drowned in the bathtub. still pretty strong stuff. One of my all time favorites was one when Friday and Gannon visit a cult whose leader was pro-LSD. There was no action in this episode like the typical ones which include few gun shots or a chase. It just consisted of a staccato type dialogue between the cult leader and gannon and Friday (mostly Friday) regarding the pros and cons of using illegal drugs. It was an unbelievable thing to watch ! This stuff will live on for generations. The acting is interesting, the stories always captivating. It is a classic formula that has been tried again but never exactly duplicated by any cop show since.