Skip to comments.'Dragnet': Why Conservatives Should Still Love Joe Friday
Posted on 07/21/2012 5:41:05 PM PDT by djone
This is the city: Los Angeles, California."
With those words, an episode of the 1960s version of "Dragnet" would start. Perhaps the most accessible version of the classic cop concept .
Just how good was it? Consider this: Its cancellation in 1970 was not because the network didnt feel it was pulling in ratings, but because show creator/star Jack Webb was focusing on other shows, like "Adam-12" and "Emergency!" (which was this author's favorite as a kid). The 1950s "Dragnet" was cancelled for the same reason Webb wanted to pursue other projects.
"Dragnet" has aged well. Around his death, Webb was planning a third incarnation with Joe Friday, starring alongside Kent McCord (Joe Friday and James Reed as partners). After he died, two re-boots were attempted, but each lasted only two seasons.
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The first, in the late '80s, didnt have Joe Friday, and star Ed ONeills take was too far removed from the original concept. Why does the model from the 1950s and 1960s still work so well, six decades after the "Dragnet" template first began on radio?
The best response is to answer one question: What do you get with "Dragnet?" For one thing, it is not like even the early episodes of "Law & Order" in that it is very rare to see the bad guys get away. It was also clear that the bad guys were bad guys and Friday is not above ranting about the atmosphere of the 1960s.
In The Big Prophet episode, Friday and Bill Gannon debate a proponent of the use of drugs who is an obvious stand-in for Timothy Leary. That is just one of the things conservatives would appreciate.
One of the other things that conservatives would like is the fact that the series promoted the rule of law. Perhaps the best example of this was in The Shooting Board. In this episode, Friday is involved in a shoot out with a man breaking into a laundromat. When it is difficult to prove Fridays version of events, a supervisor, Captain Hugh Brown, explains why the shooting board process was necessary.
You want this cleared up with facts, not opinions, and thats the way its gonna be, he tells Friday. In the end, of course, investigating officers eventually find the slug from the suspects gun, and Friday is cleared and receives a carton of cigarettes from his fellow officers.
If there is a political agenda in "Dragnet," it's not overt. Yes, the counter-culture and bad guys are the target, but politics are left out of the show. The closest you can get to it is a speech in The Big Kids when a senior officer says, What it boils down to is the New Morality: A whole new sense of values. The kids see it on television, in magazines, even hear it from the pulpit. God is dead, drug addiction is mind-expanding, promiscuity is glamorous, even homosexuality is praiseworthy.
The notion that a good guy would say that today on a prime-time drama is almost unthinkable but 45 years ago, it was done!
Friday even tells a group of kids, When you live in a society, you either live by the rules, or by the democratic process, you change them. You dont break `em!
Most everyone regardless of political affiliation, would agree with that as well.
Friday is equal-opportunity crackdown in at least one episode, he was tracking down a militia group that was involved in illegal weapons including a M1A1 submachine gun. But for the law-abiding citizens, they are often seen as good people, no matter what race they are, and ideology never comes into it.
This has not been the case with more recent cop dramas. Even early "Law & Order" episodes were willing to paint pro-lifers as extremists. "CSI" has been more apolitical, and the "CSI: NY" part of the franchise holds ups well. Perhaps the closest to "Dragnets" lack of politics has been "Blue Bloods," which features Tom Selleck.
Ultimately, "Dragnet" is a classic. I still enjoy watching it today
Dragnet was a good show and I think Webb was conservative in some ways but I am almost sure he pushed for gun control at one time.
I can remember one episode or maybe it was a very early movie version but man they violated all kinds of laws to get a bad guy. It was actually funny to me how much attitudes have changed since the 50s.
I did think the comedy movie was very funny. The scene of them wearing their goat leggings, and dancing in front of the chief was hilarious.
I just sat down to watch an episode on “Antenna TV.”
I gree with you - the movie was hilarious (including the scene that you mentioned).
The early radio programs (1949 and early 50s), pre-Miranda, are interesting. Friday intentionally skirts the rules on warrants and lawyers, pressuring suspects to answer questions or conducting searches without a warrant if he doesn’t think there will be an objection. It’s very different from today’s reality or TV.
Just the facts ma’am...
Don’t forget the virgin Connie Swayle.....until the very end!
“but man they violated all kinds of laws to get a bad guy”
Before the 1960s, there were fewer laws regarding the arrest, conviction, and imprisonment of criminals. For example, there was a time when the police didn’t have to inform a suspect of their rights. That changed with the Miranda decision in 1966. The Supreme Court did immense damage to the country in those days with its rather willful decisions that expanded a criminal’s rights to the point where law and order cannot be maintained.
Found a YT clip for the Connie Swail line:
Speaking of the movie:
One was a wave of purse snatchings that turned out to be a guy who trained his dog to grab the purse then run to the car where they'd speed off.
Another was where Friday was on a panel in front of a crowd of "community activists" and hippies. So hilarious hearing Webb defend the LAPD from charges of racism and comin' down on young people.
And yes, Webb did support gun control.
There are a lot of images from that show which are seared in my mind.
The theme song. Badge number 714. The hammer coming down on the whatever it was at the end of the show.
Joe Friday lecturing some unfortunate guy.
While I agree with you generally, 5th amendment rights have existed long before Miranda.
Miranda simply stated the police had to advise people of them.
I have the first 4 seasons of Adam-12 on my work computer. I let a couple of episodes run in the background and listen to them on my headphones. I’ve already seen them, so I can picture what’s going on while I work. It reminds me of a simpler time in my life.
This thread got me to thinking of some early, (and very good) cops and robbers shows. I am 65 but I can barely remember “Gangbusters” “Highway Patrol with the fat supervisor, Matthews” and of course “Dragnet.
I watched Dragnet and Adam-12 in syndication as a kid. Man, I really enjoyed those shows. I also watched SWAT and Emergency!
“Just the facts, please.”
Any one ever notice the similarly of Dragnet's Joe Friday and Star Trek's Mr Spock?...
They were both inspired by the same man LAPD Chief Parker
In the 60's it was the day of Chief Parker's LAPD.
Chief Parker was a hard core and fair conservative of integrity that even liberals respected...
Star Trek's create Gene Roddenberry was ex LAPD and while a liberal he was an admirer of Chief Parker....
Star Trek's Mr.Spock, when first written was in fact base on Gene Roddenberry view of Chief Parker... a man of high principals and integrity if somewhat coldly logical to emotionless....
Dragnet's Joe Friday is also a refection of the same Chief Parker personality
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