87th Precinct

NBC (ended 1962)





87th Precinct Fan Reviews (1)

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  • Decent early 60's police drama

    87th Precinct, which was based on Ed McBain's long-running series of police procedural novels, was a series which aired on NBC during the 1961-62 season. It starred Robert Lansing, Norman Fell, Ron Harper, and Gregory Walcott as detectives operating out of the 87th Precinct in the fictional city of Isola (which strongly resembled New York). Gena Rowlands also put in an occasional appearance as the deaf-mute wife of Lansing's character.

    After watching a few episodes of the series I've come to the conclusion that while it fell a little short of other classic crime dramas of the period like Dragnet or The Untouchables it wasn't bad drama. The scripts were generally good especially the ones based McBain's actual 87th Precinct novels. The cast was another story. Rowlands was excellent but she only appeared in four episodes. She should have been used more. It's as simple as that. Same with Norman Fell who was easily the best actor of the foursome of detectives. Sadly, Fell was too often wasted in comedy relief.

    As for the other actors it was a decidedly mixed bag. Robert Lansing played the role of lead protagonist Steve Carella and while he had a strong on-screen presence he didn't have much depth or range to his acting. Gregory Walcott was up and down as Roger Havilland. Sometimes he was very good while other times he seemed to mail it in. Ron Harper was miscast as Detective Bert Kling. He was easily the worst actor of the bunch. With an inconsistent group of leads the show often had to lean on its guest stars to carry the load and quite often they did it rather well as witnessed by Ross Martin in Occupation: Citizen and Charles McGraw in King's Ransom.

    Write 87th Precinct down as an interesting experiment. It foreshadowed a lot of the later police dramas in which the private lives of the officers shared the stage with their cases. Such as Hill Street Blues which premiered 20 years later and was almost a direct swipe. Perhaps 87th Precinct should have lasted longer. Maybe the show would have hit its stride with a second season and been more consistent. But alas, we'll never know for sure. NBC pulled the plug after one year on the air so we'll never know what kind of show it might have become. We have to settle for what we've got which wasn't bad TV but could perhaps have been better.