NBC (ended 1959)





Dragnet Fan Reviews (3)

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  • Cutting edge, ahead of its time.

    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.