Joe Friday is fairly accurate in quoting the dress code to Pep at the beginning of the film. Section 3/605, Paragraph .10 refers simply to the need for a neat and professional appearance. .20 through .26 deal specifically with appearance of one's hair. .50 provides an exception to wear normal civilian clothing if appropriate to the assignment. .70 refers to ornamentation, such as rings, and .80 refers to appropriate attire for court which is, interestingly, the only paragraph that mentions the specific items of clothing Friday quotes.
The make and model of the handgun that LAPD Detective Sergeant Joe Friday (Dan Aykroyd) regularly carried was a Smith & Wesson Model 10 HB .38 Special Revolver. The make and model of the handgun that LAPD Detective Pep Streebeck (Tom Hanks) regularly carried was a chrome Colt Python .357 Magnum with a 6 inch barrel.
Dan Aykroyd has said of this movie: "I believe that good comedy should have a base in realism. I think that's part of why the Dragnet show lends itself so well to a comedic interpretation. It also had a very recognizable style. So, we've got more here than simply my doing the character of Joe Friday".
In real life, Dan Aykroyd is a huge fan of Jack Webb, the original Joe Friday, and as a tribute to him, Aykroyd gives many of his characters the ability to spit out complex technical jargon the way Joe Friday recites laws and police procedures. Examples are in Ghostbusters (1984) (when Ray Stanz "orders" the demi-god Zuul to leave New York), The Blues Brothers (1980) (when Elwood describes the specifications of the "Bluesmobile"), and 1941 (1979) (when he explains the function of the anti-aircraft gun to Ned Beatty).
The TV watch Detective Streebeck is watching was a real TV watch invented by SEIKO in 1983. It did require a separate battery pack/tuner about the size of a Walkman and would only support monochrome images.
When Pep Streebeck (Tom Hanks) sees Connie Swail's house, he mockingly asks, "Can the Beaver come out and play?" However, in the movie "The Burbs" which came out two years later, this same structure was used as the home of Ray Peterson - who was played by Tom Hanks.
Of the Joe Friday character, actor Dan Aykroyd has said: "I've had a fascination with Joe Friday since I was a kid. Next to Clouseau, he's the most famous cop in the world. I've studied his speech inflections, his mannerisms, his walk. During filming, I'd listen to tapes of the old shows. I even started dreaming in character. If there was ever a character I'd always wanted to play, it was this . . . "m a huge fan of [Jack] Webb's. I basically just love everything he did. Dragnet was something I'd always wanted to do but I never thought the opportunity would come up because I didn't know who owned the rights to the idea. When Universal called and said they were interested in doing it, I think I made a deal to write the script the next week".
In another nod to the series, when Joe Friday first sits down at his desk, we see a pack of Chesterfield cigarettes on top of the news paper. Chesterfield was the sponsor of the Dragnet radio series and original Joe Friday, Jack Webb, used to participate in Chesterfield ads during the live radio broadcasts.
Dan Aykroyd's character talks about Los Angeles and how could things be permitted in the same city in which they recorded "We are the World". Aykroyd sang with the other performers on "We are the World".
The "police" aircraft used to force down the Reverend's jet and rescue Connie is a 1963 American supersonic Northrop/Thornton T-38A jet trainer, Construction Number 5518, tail number N638TC, owned (as of October 2010) by the Thornton Aircraft Corporation of San Marino, California. It was the world's first and most produced supersonic jet trainer. It remains in service as of 2010 in air forces throughout the world. It is one of the few T-38 jet aircraft in private ownership.
Near the end of the picture, when the Reverend Whirley is being taken away on the airport runway, Joe Friday sees his true love standing there beaming on the tarmac. For a brief moment an old, four piston engine aircraft is in the background behind the actress. This aircraft is a Lockheed Constellation, which is affectionately known as a "Connie", the same first name as the Virgin Connie Swail.
When Joe Friday is doing his opening narrations as he sits down at his desk, he says "My partner is Frank Smith..." Frank Smith was Friday's original partner on the 1950's Dragnet series and the radio show.
Dabney Coleman describes the accent he used in this movie as South-eastern ala "Tennessee Williams" which he also used in the movie Modern Problems. Dabney remarks for his character in Dragnet, he added a lisp.
This theatrical feature film is the fifth of seven film and television installments of "Dragnet" after its original appearance on NBC Radio in 1949. Previously, there had been two television series, one in the 1950s, Dragnet (1951) and one in the 1960s and 1970s, Dragnet 1967 (1967), and two features, one a 1950s cinema movie, Dragnet (1954), and the other a 1960s tele-movie, Dragnet 1966 (1969). After this 1987 cinema movie, Dragnet (1987), there have been two more TV series, one in the 1980s and 1990s, Dragnet (1989), and one in the 2000s, Dragnet (2003).
The famous "Dragnet" catch-phrase "Just the Facts" was used as a promotional blurb / tagline for the picture. So was the pun and more generalized expression, "Thank Gods It's Friday", itself having been the title of a Hollywood movie about nine year's earlier [See: Thank God It's Friday (1978)].
Links to the two classic TV series include a cameo by Harry Morgan, and a photo of Jack Webb is visible in one scene. Morgan was originally going to be in one scene only but asked for a bigger part, so he was made the Captain. As well as the closing credits theme of the original series played towards the end of the film.
The spot where Joe parks his blue Ford police car in the beginning of the movie is the 200 block of N Spring st. It is the West entrance to Los Angeles city hall. The exact spot where he parked is now a bus stop as of 2015. The street is one way south except for a north bound bus only lane.