What can you say about a series that ultimately helped prolong the acting career of O.J. Simpson?
Actually, that dubious distinction aside, Police Squad! the series was most noteworthy for launching the successful Naked Gun trilogy. Ironically, though the series was filled with the same sight gags and non sequiturs as the films, the show died after a six-episode run.
The police-drama spoof, like the movies, starred Leslie Nielsen as Det. Frank Drebin. Each episode began with a “special guest star” getting killed during the opening credits: Lorne Greene and William Conrad were knifed and thrown from cars, Florence Henderson was shot, Robert Goulet was shot by a firing squad and William Shatner drank a glass of poisoned wine.
Other trademarks: an opening voice-over that read a different show title from the one shown onscreen and Drebin’s straightfaced babbling. (“Is this some kind of bust?” a woman asked. “Yes, ma’am, it’s very impressive, but we need to ask you a few questions.”)
So many visual jokes peppered each episode–like the police photog who takes a picture of an officer mugging for the camera with a corpse–that you needed a VCR to record and rewind in order to catch them all. After its ABC run spawned the Naked Gun movie series, CBS gave the show another shot in a July-through-September rerun of all six episodes in 1991. And though the movies continued to do well at the box office, ratings for the series were some kind of bust.
USA / ABC – Paramount / 6×25 minute episodes / Broadcast 4 March – 4 September 1982
Creator and Executive Producers: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
LESLIE NIELSEN as Det Frank Drebin
ALAN NORTH as Capt Ed Hocken
ED WILLIAMS as Ted Olson
WILLIAM DUELL as Shoe-Shine Johnny the Snitch