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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

"Dragnet": Just the Facts

       The TV series "Dragnet" starring Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday of the Los Angeles Police Department was aired from 1951 to 1959, then came back in 1967 and ran until 1970. The stories, based on actual police files, portrayed the bureaucracy, boredom, frustrations and drudgery--punctuated by bursts of danger--of real life detective work.

     The crimes featured on "Dragnet" ranged from murder, armed robbery, missing persons, arson, check fraud, embezzlement and even shoplifting. The stories unfolded in a straightforward fashion, helped along by Jack Webb's voice-over narration that informed the viewer of the time, date and place of every scene. The acting was direct and unpretentious (stilted if you're a fan of the angst-ridden I'm-going-for-an-acting-award style) and didn't overshadow the terse, crisp, clear-eyed exposition and dialog. The script writing was a blend of Ernest Hemingway and first-rate news reporting. 

     Each "Dragnet" episode had a beginning, middle and end followed by a wrap-up where you learned the criminal was tried and convicted in "Department 187 of the Superior Court of California, in and for the city and county of Los Angeles." First-degree murderers were "executed in the manner prescribed by law at the state penitentiary, San Quentin, California." Case closed.

     Jack Webb produced the series with James E. Moser as his chief writer. Moser peppered the scripts with police terminology such as M. O. and APB (all points bulletin) and realistically portrayed how criminal cases are solved by detectives who logically follow one investigative lead to the next. Detective Joe Friday didn't have feelings in his "gut" or lay awake at night in angst over the mental and emotional strains of being a cop. He simply performed his duty in a workman like fashion. 


  1. Talk about a walk down memory lane! I use to watch Dragnet with my Dad when it was in syndication when I was a little kid. I also watched Adam 12 and Emergency (at least I think that was the names). I used to love those shows. Does anyone else remember these shows? Of course, my children roll their eyes at any mention of television shows from my childhood. According to them we had prehistoric TV since we had only three channels and had to walk across the room to change channels. Even more horrific, we didn't even have video games.

    1. 10-4!! Of course I remember! I guess I'm a bit older because I remember those shows first-run. I even had a bit of a crush on those Adam-12 guys! That was some good TV!