Dragnet is called the Granddaddy of all cop shows, and it's still the best, and the most realistic. It was entertainment, but not pure escapism. As in the color version of the late 60s, the viewer was guided through each episode by Jack Webb's in-character narration as Detective Sgt. Joe Friday. Friday had various partners before settling on Ben Alexander as Frank Smith. Smith helped provide some comic relief to counter Webb's stoic demeanor, as did Harry Morgan as Bill Gannon in the 60s version. The viewer saw only what the detectives saw, and didn't see any action taking place where the detectives were not present. Some more recent police dramas like "Law And Order" have a similar documentary style, but without the commanding presence of Joe Friday, one of the most famous cops in the history of police fiction, rivaling Sherlock Holmes (a case can be made for Dirty Harry too). Dragnet was not controversial like some of today's cop shows, including "Law And Order", but it didn't shy away from hard topics, like child molestation, something that wasn't discussed on TV until a generation had passed. In spite of this, and the fact that it's based closely on real cases, it's often panned by modern sophists, in part because the bad guys really were bad, not misunderstood victims of society. The emphasis was on the victims of crime. Dragnet began on NBC radio in 1949, and like on TV, Webb did the narration, especially useful on radio, and with various partners before Smith. It's opening theme, called "Danger Ahead", is one of the most recognizable tunes ever, and commonly represents an ominous development. More than six decades later, Dragnet still sets the standard.
The original Dragnet, which ran from 1951 to 1959, was the grandaddy of all TV cop shows. Without Dragnet the police drama as we know it today would have never been born. Star, producer, director, and writer Jack Webb took what was originally a radio drama and gave us a glimpse into the lives of ordinary policemen and their routine which was often boring but filled with drama and tension on occasion.
Dragnet took its scripts from real life police files. As the narration said, "The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent." The show seemed real at times and the LAPD frequently reported instances of people showing up at police stations and asking to see Sgt. Joe Friday (Webb's character). Their stock answer was, "Sorry, it's his day off."
Dragnet had a second incarnation under Webb's guidance and would have two more after his death. One in the late 80's and the other in 2002 starring Ed O'Neill. None had the impact or garnered the ratings of the original though. Perhaps Dragnet was a product of its times--the easy going era of the 1950's. Trying to update it made for interesting television at times but you couldn't duplicate the success or the impact of the original.
Even for a show that ended more that 50 years ago, this show was a real watcher like the Green Hornet and the other old time action shows. Even the new CSI shows have competition here with this old timer, which I must say sure did just fine with the plots, acting and dialog.
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