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"The story you are about to see is true", "Just the facts, ma'am", "We were working the day watch" - phrases which became so popular as to inspire much parody - set the realistic tone of this early police drama. The show emphasized careful police work and the interweaving of policemen's professional and personal lives.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
The origin of police dramas. Remembering the one and only "Dragnet" on its 65th anniversary
As we commemorate the 65th anniversary of one of the greatest police dramas of all time it is no doubt that "Dragnet" is one of the most famous and influential police procedural dramas in television history. "Dragnet" broke ground as innovative and original and from the show's first episode it became a huge hit with a cult following that still is prevalent to this day. This was a series that gave audience members a realistic portrayal of the police officers and detectives who put their lives on the line everyday for the safety of the public. Actor-producer- director Jack Webb in full collaboration of the Los Angeles Police Department gave the show the stamp of authenticity where most the episodes of "Dragnet" were based on actual cases-real cases and the full cooperation of how modern police departments work.
The program opened each week with these words of Jack Webb's character Detective Sergeant Joe Friday: "This is the city. Los Angeles, California. I work here. I carry a badge." The most successful cop drama in television history where it became one of the biggest hits at NBC, Dragnet's hallmark was its appearance of realism,from the straight documentary style of narration by Joe Friday to the cases drawn from the files of the Los Angeles Police Department to it's accuracy and attention and the details of police work("It was 4:30..We were working the day watch out of homicide. The boss is Captain Murphy. My partner is Frank Smith. My name's Friday."). Viewers were reminded of the unglamorous dead ends and the constant interruptions of their private lives that plague real policemen,and this made the final shoot-out and capture of the criminal more exciting. At the end of each episode and before the final commercial break(On March 10th, trial was held in Department 182 Superior Court of the state of California,in and for the county of Los Angeles. In a moment the results of that trial)after the criminal was apprehended,an announcer would describe what happened at the subsequent trial and the severity of the sentences he or she received.
The origins of "Dragnet" started on radio for NBC that aired on June 3,1949 and lasted for 314 episodes until July 26,1957(the radio program was still on the air when the television version was just starting out)and on December 16,1951 made the transition to television where it lasted eight seasons and 276 black-and-white episodes until August 23,1959 when it's creator-actor-producer Jack Webb abruptly pulled the plug on this series when it still getting high ratings. Then after a eight year hiatus, NBC revived it under the new title "Dragnet:1967" with Jack Webb at the helm as Sgt. Joe Friday that lasted four seasons and 98 episodes in color that aired from January 12,1967 until April 16,1970. NBC was set to renew the series for a fifth season when Jack Webb again abruptly pull the plug on this series due to other factors. It was revived again in syndication under the title "The New Dragnet" that lasted two seasons and 52 color episodes from October 24,1989 until January 21,1991. This was followed by a short-lived revival in 2003 when creator-producer Dick Wolf(of "Law And Order")launched "L.A. Dragnet" for ABC with Ed O'Neill in the role of Sgt. Joe Friday that lasted 22 episodes airing from May 11, 2003 until May 5, 2004.
"Dragnet" was so successful that in 1954 a full length theatrical feature was based on the television show in color(Starring Jack Webb as Sergeant Friday and Ben Alexander as Detective Frank Smith)that became the first ever television series to ever be made into a motion picture. The film was a monster box-office hit becoming one of the highest grossing pictures of that year. Another theatrical feature based on "Dragnet" came out in 1987 with Dan Ackroyd and Tom Hanks also surfaced(with an appearance by Harry Morgan as Bill Gannon,who worked with Jack Webb in the 1967-1970 series as Captain Bill Gannon).
"Dragnet" was the launching pad for future actors like Lee Marvin, Robert Vaughn, Leonard Nimoy, Carolyn Jones, Martin Milner, Dennis Weaver, Henry Corden, Francis Bavier, Ellen Corby, Charles Bronson, Parley Baer, Claude Akins, James Dobson, Lee Meriwether, Michael Ansara, Strother Martin, Kenneth Tobey, Fess Parker, Robert Bray, Glenn Corbitt, along with Raymond Burr, Hans Conried, Kevin Hagen, Alvy Moore, Yvonne Lime, Warren Oates, Richard Boone, and James Coburn just to name a few of the guest stars and actors who got their start on this series that would go on to bigger careers. "Dragnet" also had the intentions of using the same recurring actors in many of the episodes among them were Virginia Gregg and John Stephenson which were known as Jack Webb's regular players.
"Dragnet" also set the standard as well as the architecture for future police dramas to follow. And even after 65 years it still sets the standard for one of the great television programs that began on radio, made the transition to television during the 1950's and beyond. So here's to the anniversary of "Dragnet"..Happy 65th!!!
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