Created by Jack Webb, the concept of Dragnet was very simple. Two cops, Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan), investigate a crime. Much of the story is told in voice over narration by the main character, Joe Friday, who filled in details and explained the action.
In some respects, this was a realistic show detailing the leg work that goes into a police investigation. It depicted the mundane routine that make up most of a police officer's work.
The partners looked at evidence, questioned witnesses and suspects and consulted with experts. There was very little violence in the series (I'm not sure a shot was ever fired by either officer) and few chases and yet it managed to hold an audience's attention.
The show could be preachy and obvious at times, but overall, it remains one of the best police dramas ever to hit the airwaves.
Back in the days when TVLand ran Classic TV shows, I became a fan of this series. To me, it seemed what Adam 12 did for criminals, this show did for drug pushers and users. Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) were buddies and partners in the Los Angelos County Police Force, Detectives Division. A top show in the Sixties, this series educated many watchers on the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse and provided a top notch drama at the same time. There was a bit of wry humor between Friday and Gannon that made the series and the characters so likeable, but there was also a lesson in it's warnings on drugs and how the law worked. The formula was so successful that it worked equally well in Webb's creation and Dragnet spin-off, Adam 12, and again for Emergency. A true classic in TV history, this is a series that everyone needs to watch.
A great old police show about two detectives that solved a wide variety of crimes. Jack Webb stared as Sergeant Joe Friday and Harry Morgan played Officer Bill Gannon. The show would start with Jack Web telling us what division of crime the two were working. It was a fun cop show similar to Adam-12. They used real life crimes, dramatized them and of course ... changed the names to protect the innocent. At the end of the show they would show the criminals and how much time they got for their crimes. This show was a great TV watch.
The first police drama I ever watched and still, in my opinion, the best. Dragnet successfully made the transition from radio to television.
Joe Friday and his partner Bill Gannon worked in every department: Homicide, Robbery, Juvinelle, Bunco. Joe (played by show creator Jack Webb) was the straight arrow, by the book guy. Not that Harry Morgan's character was any less of a policeman, he had an obligation to his wife and children.
Some shows are lighthearted, like "The Christmas Story" where a small child has "stolen" the baby Jesus from the church's nativity to give him a ride in the red wagon he got for Christmas, to serious topics like child neglect in "The Big High".
Before the "ripped from the headlines" storylines came Dragnet's scripts. Each crime was based on real police files, but changed enough that even the criminal could not recognize it.
This makes you appreciate what police work was like before the C.S.I. era. Not that they didn't take fingerprints, but once you had them, you couldn't just load it into the computer and wait for a match, it was done manually.
I always loved when Sgt. Friday would give his lenghty speeches about crime and how something starts our small and suddenly is a full-blown epidemic.
Dragnet used a small pool of guest stars but always playing a different role.
The other part I find amusing, looking back, the show from the late '60s, when the younger generation was rebeling, there were several shows that dealt with drugs. The kids always told the police that when they grew up and became lawyers, they were going to legalize marijuana. Here we are, 40 years later, I'm sure those kids have grown up, but it is still illegal.
Jack Webb went on to make other shows, including the police drama Adam 12 and Emergency!, where he was entirely behind the camera.
In 2003 LA Dragnet came out starring Ed O'Neil as Sgt. Joe Friday, but it just wasn't the same.
I love Dragnet, every version ever produced. Jack Webb learned his producing skills for this show from the 1950's version he directed and starred in with Ben Alexander. The style was very similar, with the real notable exeption, that Sgt. Friday gets his long monotonous nonologue each episode.
Harry Morgan was also a gem in this show, just prior to his MASH career. His affable, humorous fall guy to Webb's straight man was outstanding and far and away the biggest and best difference between him and Alexander.
My favorite episode was the one with Friday on a panel discussing the pros and cons of drug use. (Friday obviously on the con side) The major proponent was an actor named Don Sturdy, who would go on to become WKRP's drug-addled morning man, Dr. Johnny Fever.... Mr. Howard Hesseman.
This was television that learned from it's prior incarnation, and exceeded the sum of it's parts.
This was one of the first police dramas on television. It was simple and straightforward, but very effective. The acting was on the terse side, as the lead stars portrayed no-nonsense cops who didn't really let us into their own lives-- they just solved the case. The scripts were like a procedural novel. They set forth the details of the case and then let the surprises come out of that. Everything here looks and sounds like it's straight out of "The Maltese Falcon." And that's a compliment. So when you want to see some gripping drama in which the officers of the law stand between the public and grave harm, this is what it was like--and this is how it should be done.
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