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Ex-LA police officer Joseph Wambaugh was definitely one hot selling
author in the early 1970's (and he still is today !). Many of
Wambaugh's sharply written, incisive and confronting novels about the
lives of Los Angeles police officers were made into first rate
telemovies or major theatrical releases ( "The Onion Field", "The Choir
Boys", "The New Centurions", "The Blue Knight" etc ).
"Police Story" was also created by Wambaugh and is arguably one of the finest police drama series ever made for television. It really was the first TV series to develop intense stories about previously untouched issues confronting police officers such as job related stress, marriage break ups, alcoholism, retirement, partner conflicts etc. So many other police drama series in later years such as "Hill St Blues", "Cagney & Lacey", & "NYPD Blue" owe their roots to the ground breaking plots and solid scripts that were the backbone of "Police Story".
Many dynamic actors appeared in this wonderful TV series over its 5 year run including Darren McGavin, Tony Lo Bianco, John Forsythe, Ralph Meeker, Mike Conners & Ricardo Montalban. For those of us who so fondly remember the series, we just have one question.....just when is it coming out on DVD ?? A multi DVD box set covering all five seasons would be warmly welcomed by many TV fans who crave to re-visit this unique and captivating TV series.
This is one of the great lost treasures in television history. This was one of the few shows of that era that dealt with day to day lives of the average policeman and didn't portray them as super heroes. Much of this had to do with the fact that the man who was responsible for much of the stories was acclaimed novelist Joseph Wambaugh (himself a former Los Angeles police officer). Unfortunately, after this show debuted, it was overshadowed by the likes of "Starsky and Hutch", "The Rookies" and "S.W.A.T". These shows, and others, gave you a very inaccurate portrayal of police life, whereas this one showed police officers as ordinary human beings with the same faults and failings as ordinary people. Too bad this show is not shown in reruns anymore, but luckily we now have shows like "NYPD Blue", "Boomtown" and, of course, the "Law and Order" franchise to carry on the legacy of this lost classic.
Real cops depicted as real people and a great mix of humor, drama and reality. The show attracted the cream of Hollywood for their episodes and several stars depicted several different characters. You just wanted to hang out with detectives Bert and Tony (Don Meredith and Tony LoBianco), applaud the grit of David Birney in "Captain Hook" and the true love displayed by Kim Darby in the same episode. You laugh at Monster Manor as cops enjoy pre-AIDS America and salute Claude Akins as a veteran cop with a practical touch. You feel "Wolf's" pain and follow the new deputy chief through his promotion process. I teach cops and police cadets and I would pay a lot for this great series, especially a DVD boxed set with some commentaries. After all, if they can do a boxed set of "Sledge Hammer" and "Reno 911" they ought to be able to do this landmark show. Super cool theme music, too.
I remember this series well. I tried to make sure that I watched it every
week. Of course, my social life came first. What I liked most about this
show, in contrast to its daughter Police Woman and so many others, it did
not have a recurring main cast that you knew would always return the next
week, thus there was really no cause for alarm when the main cast came in
jeopardy. Most of the regulars were background players such as Profaci on
Law and Order is now.
Instead, Police Story was an ensemble series more akin to later shows such as St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues that deliberately sometimes knocked off likeable leads and there were so many recurring leads that one did not get sick of them every week. The show was unpredictable, not Mission Impossible or other gimmick shows such as McGyver where you always knew the good guys would win.
The most similar current shows are Deep Space Nine and Law and Order, which are not afraid to knock off a major character for the sake of the story.
There were so many Police Stories, and I have forgotten most of them; if they ever were rerun, I did not see them again. Two of the most memorable ones were, one where the hero was undercover and went to Tijuana to track down a drug shipment but the buy went wrong.
The other memorable one starred Claude Akins, a well-known character player, as a detective, who with his partner, was tracking down violent felons and bail jumpers.
Of all the thousands of movies and TV shows I've seen since the late 1940s, it takes a real powerful one to stick in my mind as those episodes did. The whole series was full of powerful episodes of equal impact. I just don't have room here for all them.
A fine example of both the strengths and the pitfalls of the anthology
series, Police Story was among the highest-rated series of its time. At
worst, the series was as formulaic as most of commercial TV. At its best,
it blew a breath of fresh air through mid-70's TV.
Created as a vehicle for writer-turned-producer (and former L.A. cop) Joseph Wambaugh, the best episodes grittily portrayed the life of the street cop--good and bad. Each episode opened and closed with crackling radio calls (Female dispatcher: "John Frank William, 8-9-9). Guest stars ranged from Don Meredith (at the height of his Monday Night Football popularity) to David Birney (as amputee cop "Captain Hook") to a surprising turn by ultra-liberal Ed Asner (as an grinning old cop threatening to blow away one last perp before retiring in "Three Days to Thirty"). The series spawned the silly spin-off "Police Woman"; but it also dealt with cops who thought of their badge as a license to bully ("The Wyatt Earp Syndrome"--so titled because the Standards and Practices department refused to allow Wambaugh to call this episode by its original title--"The John Wayne Syndrome") and undercover cops who were difficult to distinguish from the criminals they pursued ("The Player" with James Farentino).
Wambaugh reportedly tired of the regular infighting such a weekly series required, and semi-retired to a "consultant" status mid-way through the series run; the early episodes are clearly the best. But all are worth watching if only as the precursor which made later shows like St. Elsewhere, L.A. Law, and Homicide possible.
Hollywood didn't get it (they seldom do) and I guess the general public didn't either or these great shows would still be on re-runs or even DVD. My experiences from the 60's & 70's as a street cop were never so dramatic or intense as those shown on "POLICE STORY" but the stress and emotion they portrayed hit a level of realism that has never been repeated. Jack Webb's "DRAGNET" and "ADAM-12" presented cops as never-bend-the-rules moralists while "Dirty Harry" could still get work in "NYPD BLUE". Both were entertaining but I suspect that many viewers came to believe that the cops always catch the bad guys and/or that most cops think that it is OK to beat confessions from suspects or otherwise violate the Constitution they swore to defend. Most of the other cop shows were (and are) just silly. I'm sorry that every police cadet does not have the opportunity to see the "POLICE STORY" series......in particular: "STIGMA", which was probably the best show of them all. It is also probably Mike Connors best performance ever, and Martin Milner is excellent as well. Some of the "POLICE STORY" series made it to commercial VHS but only in PAL (British) format. Too bad.
Excellent and more realistic cop show, way ahead of it's time.Although I liked Hill Street Blues a lot, perhaps it went too far into the character's personal problems.Whereas Police story was more objective but still had the bite. Why is Police Story not available on DVD ? Some others shows that are available on DVD are not worth the 50 cent DVD disc they are put on !The theme music is also part of the attraction but the plots are more in keeping with real life. Most often, you did not get the Hollywood type ending. Because there were different actors in each episode, viewers would not get tired of the same faces. While I am at it, I would also like to see Robert Taylor's The Detectives released.
If you read any Wambaugh novels, both fiction and nonfiction, you can
really appreciate the skill, care and intelligence put into this rather
short lived TV series.
The stories had a feel of reality that probably reflected Wambaugh's experience; but, also shows his knack for capturing the real nature of police work. And to put celebrities in the leading roles of law enforcement had to be one the best, funniest, more sophisticated inside jokes that ever got on the little screen.
If you ever have a chance to see any of these shows on the re-run channels, take a few minutes to enjoy them. You will be entertained and satisfied, really!
Police Story was a bold and innovative concept for television police drama. It was perhaps the first police drama to portray cops as real humans with human frailties. There was not a smooth script with the sense that everything was under control. There was always an edge that something might go wrong and be irreparable by the end of the show. Its strengths were the revolving collection of actors from week to week. It often took well known type casted actors such as Martin Milnor as Pete Malloy,Adam 12 Hugh O'Brien as Wyatte Earp, and others and played them against type as the so clean appearing cops they were used to playing. That casting against type could make even a lack luster episode interesting.
The first season of Police Story is FINALLY out on DVD! You can order it at amazon.com or at shoutfactory.com. More than likely, the DVD will also be sold at some of the major retail outlets, but I don't know that for sure. Anyway, I ordered my DVD from amazon.com and I should be receiving it today or tomorrow. The first season DVD includes the pilot episode, titled, "Slow Boy", along with a Joseph Wambaugh interview segment. I can't wait for the second season to come out! In fact, I would be willing to buy all of the seasons now if Shout Factory were to release them all at once, which is unlikely, but hope springs eternal.:-)
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