Dragnet [1987]

"This is the city--Los Angeles, California." "I carry a badge." "My name's Friday." And who could forget "Just the facts, ma'am"? These lines, delivered in classic deadpan style by actor-director Jack Webb's Sgt. Joe Friday, are among the hallmarks of Dragnet, one of television's earliest and most influential police dramas. And the appearance on DVD of all 17 episodes from the show's first season (1967), covering two discs (plus a third with a radio broadcast from 1954) and running more than seven hours, is a treat. Decades after the fact, when vivid, often graphically violent cop shows like the C.S.I. and Law & Order franchises (all of them clearly owing a debt to Webb's show) dominate the airwaves, Dragnet seems tame, even quaint. Violence and gunplay are kept to a minimum. Special effects are non-existent, and many scenes are talky and static; "The Big Interrogation" takes place almost entirely in a single room in the police station, and includes a four-minute speech by Friday about the plight of a police officer ("You're a cop, a flatfoot, a bull, a dick, John Law… they call you everything, but never a policeman"). The stories are uncomplicated, the criminals are usually dunderheads, and "square" barely begins to describe the overall tone (witness "The Big LSD," a risible depiction of a "hippie" on a psychedelic sojourn). Still, one gets the feeling that we're laughing not at but with Webb, the writers, and the rest of the cast (including Harry Morgan, later of M*A*S*H*, as sidekick Bill Gannon). By about halfway through the season, with episodes like "The Big Candy Story" and "The Big Fur Burglary" (an almost whimsical tale wherein Gannon pretends to be an expert furrier), it appears that Webb and company are enjoying themselves just as much as the viewers are; at the same time, the characters' personal lives are explored in a bit more detail, which adds some welcome texture. Sure, it's dated--everybody smokes, everyone's white, and character descriptions like "strange-behaving juvenile" are more common than not. But in the end, the Dragnet approach, stilted though it may sometimes be, is a refreshing antidote to the oh-so-hip cop melodramas that have come along since. Best, and simplest, of all, Dragnet 1967 - Season 1 is downright entertaining. --Sam Graham Dragnet Trivia • When the original show ("Dragnet" (1951)) ended, Joe Friday had been promoted to Lieutenant. However, Jack Webb decided to make Friday a sergeant again for the new series because "few people remember that Friday was promoted toward the end of our run. We think it's better to have Joe a sergeant again. Few detective-lieutenants get out into the field." • Jack Webb and Harry Morgan wore the same suits for the entire run of the television series. • Through all 100 episodes of the series, Friday is only seen wearing something other than his regular suit four times: three times for undercover work and once for a scene in his apartment. • Episodes from this series were used as training tools by the real-life LAPD. • When Jack Webb revived the show in 1966, it was in response to the growing tide of teen-age drug use, especially LSD. • Jack Webb would pay $25 to any officer who submitted a story that was used for an episode plot. • During the run of this version, the title would change to reflect the year that it was broadcast in (Dragnet 1967, Dragnet 1968 and so on). • Friday's badge number (seen at the beginning and end of each episode) is 714. Badge 714 belonged to Sgt. 'Dan Cooke' , the technical advisor. The badge has been retired and displayed at the LAPD Academy's Museum. • The pair of hands seen hammering the Mark VII logo at the end of every episode belong to Jack Webb.

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