For those who like police dramas, you can thank Jack Webb for helping set the bar for realism as he opened a window into the Los Angeles Police Department.
On June 3, 1949, the world of “Dragnet” was born as it premiered on radio. A television version started in 1952 and ran until 1959.
The opening words, “The story you are about to see is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent”, became an American catchphrase.
I give top marks to this version of the television show. It had a realistic, gritty feel to it. And Jack Webb’s Sgt. Joe Friday came off as real. Friday was a cop just trying to do his job.
The radio version also gets top marks for me. Both the radio and television shows were consistent with the top thing any drama needs – sustained dramatic tension.
Also, the “Dragnet” of the 1950s was filmed in black and white and I think that helped add to the gritty feel.
A second version of “Dragnet” ran in color from 1967 until 1970. Webb returned as Friday and his new partner, Bill Gannon, was portrayed by Harry Morgan, who later played Col. Potter on “MASH.”
Except for an episode here and there, the 1960s version fell way short. Webb is no longer just a cop. He comes off as a police department public relations poster child. There are episodes about internal police procedures and the police public affairs department. Yawn!
But there is one episode that if there was a top 10 list of best episodes of all police dramas combined, this would be on it. It’s called “The Interrogation” from the first season in 1967.
Friday and Gannon have to get to the bottom of what happened to a rookie undercover officer, played by Kent McCord right before he was on “Adam-12”, who is accused of robbing a liquor store.
This was an episode that there simply weren’t enough of during the second series’ tenure. There was actual acting in this one. Webb was actually Friday, Morgan was actually Gannon and McCord was actually the young officer trying to save his career and stay out of jail. The viewer got put right in that internal affairs interview room.
The episode is also know for one of Friday’s famous monologues. It’s considered his best by many. I would attach a link, but I don’t want to give it away.
Episodes from both versions of the series can be found on youtube.com and the radio episodes are at https://archive.org/details/Dragnet_OTR.
Until next time. . .

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