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"Dum-de-dum-dum!" Those four notes signaled the 2003 return of one of TV's all-time classic police dramas, "Dragnet." This time, Ed O'Neill (in a role worlds different from hapless family man Al Bundy of "Married ...With Children") played the hard-nosed Det. Joe Friday. He and partner Frank Smith investigated crimes in Los Angeles, usually homicides or other forms of corruption. As with the Jack Webb-produced predecesors, careful attention was paid to realism as Friday and Smith investigated and pieced the clues together before they made their arrests of the bad guys. Like the earlier shows, the fate of those charged in conenction with said crime was announced at the end of the show. Written by
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It may seem unimaginable that an iconic television series such as Jack Webb's Dragnet could be updated and still do justice to the original's charm and quality, but Dick Wolf and others behind the gripping Law & Order television series apply the strengths of their previous efforts into a superb updating of Webb's immortal series on the most famous working detective in the annuls of the LAPD.
Ed O'Neill is still most famous for his role of Al Bundy in Married.....With Children, but few remembered how he tackled the role of Popeye Doyle in the eponymous 1986 TV film sequel to The French Connection, and though not as gripping as Gene Hackman he nonetheless did a commendable job in a very difficult role. O'Neill really flexes dramatic muscle as Detective Joe Friday, in a much-faster-paced version of the classic series that at times reads like a real documentary, a goal Webb strove to achieve throughout the original run of Dragnet but which Dick Wolf and company have the resources to pull off.
While this new version of Dragnet is more keyed toward crime-solving and has a much greater intensity as a result, it nonetheless leaves some room for levity, such as in the recently-aired Bel Air kidnapping episode where the perp makes a deal with the LAPD to rat out his boss, but is arrested anyway because the FBI wants him. "We're local, they're federal," deadpans Ed O'Neill's Joe Friday, a line more fit for Ben Alexander's Frank Smith or Harry Morgan's Bill Gannon than Joe himself.
Ed O'Neill has thus succeeded in keeping an iconic character in TV history "alive and working," and TV land's LAPD knows that its most famous working detective is still on the job in the 21st century.
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