Cop shows are as much a part of television as college football and 60 Minutes. In the old days, the shows were pretty dopey, without any realistic view of life as a police office. Plenty of action, but about as realistic as a flying nun. "Adam 12" changed everything. Jack Webb started with "Dragnet" to bring knowledge of real police procedure into the mix, but "Adam 12" was a huge step, as we rode along through life in the car with typical (though excellent) cops. The show was consistently well-written, some of the stories could be kind of silly, and like anything Jack Webb touched it had a touch of preachiness, sometimes a very heavy touch. But for the most part the stories were compelling, and unlike "Dragnet" the show had a very relaxed sense of humor.
We get touches of real life--we meet "Jean," Reed's wife, and even get to enjoy the birth of his son. And we get a girlfriend or two for "The Strawberry There are minor characters, from other cops (most notably Sgt. McDonald) to street characters like the informant but for the most part the whole deal is just Pete and Jim, the black and white, and the people they encounter during their day whether helping victims or busting crooks.
The show was very cutting edge, had a unique view on how to cover police work. If you enjoy the "CSI" shows, the outstanding "Hill Steet Blues", "NYPD Blue" or any other really strong television based upon police work, you need badly to go back and find "Adam
The show can be a bit is, especially in the early episodes, a ridiculous view towards marijuana use and the political activism of the day. From a guy who wants to blow up a college and a group that's a take-off on the Black Panthers in an episode that J. Edgar Hoover would have loved to a long string of preposterous Hollywood fake "hippies," it's an unintentionally hilarious view of how "straights" viewed the counterculture of the day.
But there are also some really excellent story lines about drugs, from a young friend of Reed's who gets into a pill party with ugly results in Season 3 to the spectacular story line of the final 2 eps, it's extremely well done.
And perhaps the best part of the show is the simplest, not about police work but simply the relationship between two good friends whose positions mean trusting one another with their lives. You end up wishing you had a friend like that at your side when you faced your scariest moment.
Yeah, I can pick on get a hoot out of making fun of the phony hippies and Jack Webb's temperance lectures about how people who smoke grass on Tuesday will be shooting heroin by the weekend, it's not nearly as racially diverse as you'd like and some of the black characters are bad for being 1971 it's as good as TV gets.
And finally, it's a neat piece of cultural history, if you're a kid of the late 60s early 70s like me, and you're either from SoCal or interested in it, you'll love the show. Mentions of the Rams, a kid with a Dodgers cap, Travel Town and Griffith Park. It's not Hollywood, it's REAL the beauty and problems of it.
I watched these as a kid, and about once a year find myself meeting young Jim Reed as he encounters his first day with veteran Pete Malloy and start my run through the 7 seasons of "Adam 12" on Netflix all over again. I've seen them all a dozen times, and they never really get old. One of my favorites!