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Dragnet (NBC 1951-1970, Jack Webb)

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Police drama Dragnet began on radio in 1949, was a long-running television series from 1952 to 1959 and was revived in January 1967 for four more years. Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday was a constant throughout all the Dragnet incarnations, as was the famous Dragnet theme song composed by Walter Schumann.

Joe Friday and his partner Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) are determined to do the right thing. For Jack Webb, the show’s creator and star, good often took the form of straight-laced squares in gray suits, while evil generally appeared as a flamboyantly attired hippie.

Along with a strict moral code (particularly in ’60s episodes), a distinguishing characteristic of Dragnet was the documentary-style employed in its portrayal of police procedure in Los Angeles.

Each episode was based on actual cases drawn from LAPD files. In addition, Webb conceived an original dramatic and visual style. The no-frills art direction, deadpan acting (actors were encouraged to read their lines off cue cards rather than memorize them) and austere camera work perfectly reflected Webb’s stark view of the conflict between good and evil in contemporary society.

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Barton Yarborough only appeared in three episodes before dying suddenly of a heart attack. Friday was then teamed with Sergeant Ed Jacobs and then Frank Smith.

In 2004 there was a revival of the series with Ed O’Neill as Friday which never really took off. Mid way through it’s run there was a title switch to L.A. Dragnet and Eva Longoria joined the cast as a new partner for Joe. There was also a lacklustre big screen comedy outing with Dan Ackroyd as Friday and Tom Hanks as his partner Pep Streebeck.

classic quotes
“The story you are about to see is real; the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

“I sometimes get a notebook full of notes and a crime lab full of evidence but nothing to tie them together. I’ve got the pieces; I’ve just got to put them together.”

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“Just the facts, ma’am”

production details
USA / NBC – MCA – Mark VII – Universal / 361×30 minute episodes / 1951-58 (263 episodes black and white) 1967-70 (98 episodes colour)

Creators: Jack Webb, Richard L. Breen / Executive Producer: Jack Webb / Music: Walter Schumann

cast
Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday

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1951-1958 cast
Barton Yarborough as Officer Ben Romero
Barney Phillips as Sgt Ed Jacobs
Herb Ellis as Officer Frank Smith
Ben Alexander as Officer Frank Smith

1967-1970 cast
Harry Morgan as Officer Bill Gannon
Randy Stuart as Ellen Gannon; Bill’s wife
Art Ballinger as Captain Brown
Clark Howat as Captain Nelson
Byron Morrow as Captain Nelson; later
Clark Howat as Cap. Al Trembly
Clark Howat as Captain Brooks
Ed Deemer as Sgt. Andy Blekeley
William Boyett as Sgt. Bill Pailing
William Boyett as Sgt. Dick Reed
Marc Hannibal as Officer Earl McNevin
John McCook as Officer Keefer
Charles Brewer as Officer Lathrop


Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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