Rerun Junkie: Adam-12

When Jack Webb decided to shine a spotlight on the beat cops of LA, he created Adam-12.

"Adam-12 continue patrol and handle this call..."
“Adam-12 continue patrol and handle this call…”

The show featured veteran officer Pete Malloy (Martin Milner) and his novice (and later fellow veteran) partner Jim Reed (Kent McCord) handling the every day street work of two uniformed officers under the direction of their supervisor Sgt. MacDonald (William Boyett) and sometimes with the help of fellow officers Wells (Gary Crosby) and Woods (Fred Stromsoe). They received calls from real-life LA dispatcher Shaaron Claridge (I love it when she denies them a dinner break; her word is law!).

Our brave boys in blue on patrol.
Our brave boys in blue on patrol.

Unlike Dragnet, viewers weren’t treated to one case seen all the way to completion. Instead they got what beat cops got: sent out on several calls during the episode with no follow-up later on. And though there were some high-action, dangerous episodes, there were a lot of episodes that featured the every day, mundane calls that every cop in uniform has handled: traffic stops, domestic disputes over the stupidest things, theft calls in which there was no theft, lonely old ladies needing someone to talk to, nosy ladies constantly ratting on their neighbors.

My favorite was the two ladies fighting over a bruised melon. One wanted the other one arrested for taking it out of the store without paying for it and the other one wanted the owner to get into trouble for selling crap fruit. Malloy had a look of pure “You have GOT to be kidding me” during the whole thing.

You also had the pleasure of watching Malloy and Reed’s relationship develop from student-mentor to true partners. The chemistry between the two was fantastic and the good-natured ribbing is real.  Married Reed could be quite dedicated to convincing bachelor Malloy to join the club sometimes.

They clean up nice, too.
They clean up nice, too.

Like Dragnet before it and Emergency! after it, the show did wonders to boost the public’s understanding of how those jobs paid for by the taxpayers, this one being uniformed officers, worked. It was as much instructional as it was entertaining and I believe episodes are still shown to police officers as examples of how to handle certain situations.

As this was a Jack Webb show, several of his regulars showed up, including: Virginia Gregg (of course!), Burt Mustin, and James McEachin. Marco Lopez, Tim Donnelly, Bobby Troup, Ron Pinkard, and Randolph Mantooth all appeared in episodes as non-Emergency! characters (Kevin Tighe, Julie London, and Robert Fuller made their appearances during the cross-over episode “Lost and Found”). For Emergency! fans, the episode “Log 88-Reason to Run” is a highlight because Randolph Mantooth, Marco Lopez, and Tim Donnelly are all in it, though none of them share a scene. Fun!

Other familiar faces that popped up during the seven season run include: Larry Linville; Maidie Norman; my favorite guest-star J. Pat O’Malley; Frank Sinatra Jr; June Lockhart; Rose Marie; Jean Allison; Butch Patrick; Ellen Corby (before she was Grandma Walton); Keye Luke; future teen idols Willie Aames, David Cassidy, and Barry Williams; baby versions of Ed Begley Jr, Tim Matheson, and A Martinez; Karen Black; Cloris Leachman as a real crap mother; Tony Dow; Angela Cartwright; Barbara Hale; Robert Conrad sans Ross Martin (unless he was in disguise somewhere); George Murdock;

*takes a deep breath*

Micky Dolenz not Monkee-ing around; Harry Dean Stanton (who never looked young); Lindsay Wagner before she was Bionic; Sharon Gless; Scatman Crothers; Vitto Scotti because he was in everything; Dabbs Greer; Dick Clark; Brucke Kirby; Jo Anne Worley playing another roller derby girl; Mark Harmon; Mark Harmon’s sister Kristin Nelson; and Kent McCord’s daughter Kristen.

It was a good guest-breeding ground.

This is one of those shows that I only had the opportunity to start watching recently. And I’m grateful for that. I’ve developed quite the soft spot for Jack Webb and company shows anyway, but as a cop’s kid, this is one I can really relate to.

It also gave me the greatest intoxication measure ever.


‘Cause that’s drunk.

These guys, though, they're drunk on justice.
These guys, though, they’re drunk on justice.

Rerun Junkie– Dragnet

Dragnet was one of those shows that I watched on Nick-At-Nite a hundred years ago when I was a kid. It shouldn’t have captured the attention of a hip, 80’s child, but as we all know, I’ve never been hip or normal.

"...I carry a badge."
“…I carry a badge.”

Dragnet features Detective Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and his partner Officer Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) working a variety of cases from juvenile to bunko to homicide to robbery. The show tackled current society issues like drugs, juvenile delinquency, student dissidence, and such. It was done in a documentary style, with narration at the beginning and ending of the show saying that the stories were seen were true and the names had been changed to protect the innocent (not a whole lotta innocent people on this show) as well as Friday’s running narrative during the episode. The end of the show featured what happened to the perps they caught. Several episodes featured a bad guy at the end that you never saw during the run of the show.

These gentlemen are going to interrogate you.
These gentlemen are going to interrogate you.

The show is remembered best for the rapid fire dialogue, heavy music, and the no-nonsense attitude of the cops.

It also had some pretty memorable episodes, including the famous “blue boy” episode which dealt with LSD, which was still legal. In addition to sending people on trips and encouraging some who were waiting for take-off to smoke marijuana (which I would think would make you too lazy to take the trip, but whatever), it caused one guy to paint himself like he was going to a college football game, half blue and half yellow. This kid also had the supportive “my son would never do anything wrong!” parents that led him to enterprise in LSD and then succumb to its effects when he attempted to go out as far as possible.

It’s an interesting episode as it depicts the frustration the police had while trying to deal with a drug that wasn’t illegal, but really kinda needed to be. You also got introduced to a lot of LSD lingo that pretty much disappeared by the time I was offered a hit in high school (I declined because it was finals week and I still had to take my Bio II final and the last thing I needed was the cat skeleton coming alive and trying to scratch my eyes out).

Though the show is remembered for its seriousness, it actually can be quite funny. There’s a great episode in which Gannon and Friday are trying to watch a football game at Gannon’s house and they’re constantly being interrupted by neighbors and their complaints. I laughed throughout most of that episode.

Not to mention that Mr. Morgan’s sense of humor was never discouraged. Bill Gannon’s personal life could be pretty entertaining at times.

Mr. Webb was pretty dedicated to accuracy when it came to the show. The procedures and lingo were all by the book. That rapid fire dialogue everyone remembers was a necessity. A lot needed to be said in one episode and they only had thirty minutes to do it. Much of the exposition was done in Friday’s voice overs, but that was mostly for scene changes. The dialogue was strictly business. They couldn’t stop to explain things. Kindly, strap in and keep up, thanks.

When it comes to guest stars, this is one of those shows in which you look for the repeaters, not the big names. People like: Virginia Gregg, Sam Edwards, Ralph Moody, Burt Mustin, Henry Corden (who Monkees fans will recognize as Mr. Babbitt), Leonard Stone, Buddy Lester, Ed Deemer, Stuart Nisbet, Virginia Vincent, Robert Brubaker, and Emergency! favorites Bobby Troup, Marco Lopez, Tim Donnelly, and Ron Pinkard. And of course Reed and Malloy (Kent McCord and Martin Milner) from Adam-12 made appearances.

If you’re looking for some names  you know, here are a few: Jan-Michael Vincent, Keye Luke, Scatman Crothers, Doodles Weaver, Barry Williams, Lorraine Gary, Howard Hesseman, and Veronica Cartwright.

Like I said in the beginning, there’s really no reason this show should have appealed to an 8 year old kid. Even today, people call it boring. I call it fascinating. That jam-packed dialogue (done with the aid of a teleprompter), the unexpected wit, the view of a different time. It’s nifty.

There’s a reason this show was used as a police instruction manual. It’s just that good.

They have all the facts, ma'am.
They have all the facts, ma’am.


Where I Watch It

Rerun Junkie– Emergency!

When Me-TV announced its fall line-up and announced they’d be showing Emergency! I was excited. A 70’s show that I had vague knowledge of, but had never seen! Yes!

Exclamation points!
Exclamation points!

Emergency focused on two paramedic fire fighters, John Gage (Randolph Mantooth) and Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe), in the fledgling paramedic program and the doctors and head nurse in the emergency department at Rampart General Hospital, Dr. Kelly “Kel” Brackett (Robert Fuller), Dr. Joe Early (Bobby Fuller), and Nurse Dixie McCall (Julie London). Gage and DeSoto were usually joined by their fellow firefighters at Station 51: Captain Henry “Hank” Stanley (Mike Norell), Chet Kelly (Tim Donnelly), Marco Lopez (Marco Lopez), and Mike Stoker (Mike Stoker). Many times they were joined at the scene by Officer Vince (Vince Howard). The emergency room staff were also aided by the capable, but sometimes harsh Dr. Joe Morton (Ron Pinkard).

Our heroes!
Our heroes!

The show was a real ensemble and the episodes did a good job with that concept, following pretty much the same formula. The opening established the story line for the show and was usually followed pretty quickly by the firefighters responding to their first call of the show. From there, between calls and patients at the hospitals (some more comical than others), the story line was worked out until a resolution at the end, usually following a big rescue of some kind. Some episodes focused more on the paramedics/firefighters and some focused more on the emergency room staff, but the overall show maintained a pretty good balance of both.

Being the 70’s, there was no shortage of familiar faces popping up on the show, including Adam West, Jo Anne Worley, Ruth Buzzi, Dick Van Patten, Grant Goodeve, Mark Harmon (as an animal control officer in a possible pilot), Jamie Farr, Robert Alda, Marion Ross, Sharon Gless, Tony Dow (Wally turned to crime in this ep), Larry Manetti, Joyce Jameson, Dabbs Greer, Melissa Gilbert, Nick Nolte, Ron Masak, John Travolta, Yvonne Craig (Batgirl, to you), Linda Gray, Linda Dano, and Jack DeLeon (Marty Morrison from Barney Miller).

Look, ma! Firefighters!
Look, ma! Firefighters!

One really cool thing about the show was the use of real firefighters in the cast. In the first season real LACoFD Captain Dick Hammer (as himself) headed Engine 51 (he was followed by John Smith as Captain Hammer before Mike Newell took over as Captain Stanley). LACoFD Mike Stoker was with the show for its run. And the oft-heard, rarely-seen dispatcher was LACoFD dispatcher Sam Lanier.

The inclusion of the real firefighters in the show lent to the realism of the whole shebang. I realize there are mistakes in the rescue, response, and ER scenes. But as someone who is not an authority on 1970’s paramedic/firefighter/doctor/nurse procedures, those scenes look legit (except for the lack of blood in some scenes; they are a bit clean on this show). I find some of the big rescues at the end of the episodes pretty spectacular to watch because they feel real. I don’t feel like I’m looking at multiple takes of something. I’m watching two paramedics jumping into the ocean to get a guy out of a sinking helicopter. I’m watching two doctors examine a guy with internal injuries. There’s nothing forced or staged-feeling about it (usually).

And if you’re viewing this like a bit of film from a time capsule (as I like to do with my reruns), it’s wild to basically watch the infancy of the paramedic program that we’ve all grown very used to today. It’s also pretty wicked to see the ginormous walkie talkies the firemen use and the box of phone (bio-phone) that the paramedics use to call Rampart Hospital.

When I first started watching the show, I admit that I found John Gage to be a little annoying and I had doubts that I was going to be able to put up with him. But after a few episodes, he grew on me and the interaction between him and Roy DeSoto is wonderful. There’s a great chemistry there. Also, Chet Kelly has one of the greatest mustaches ever to grace a fire department and he holds a special place in my heart now. Watching Nurse McCall keep Dr. Brackett and Dr. Early in line is great fun.

If you’re looking to be hips deep in personal drama like on Grey’s Anatomy or ER, look elsewhere. The characters do have their stories, but nothing soap opera-ish. Which I appreciate. There seem to be streaks of characters getting injured. Obviously, that’s part of the risk of being a firefighter, but I swear Gage got hurt three times in one week during the big rescue at the end. Of course, anyone injured is usually back the next episode feeling fine.

Some of the most believable calls/rescues/patients are the most ridiculous ones. The family that thinks their mother is dead but she’s only napping, the guy who thinks he’s been cursed, the guy who accidentally glues his hands to a model ship, but doesn’t want the ship destroyed to unglue his hands, the girl that gets her head stuck in a chair (okay, that wasn’t on the show; I really did that when I was a kid). You  have no idea how many calls first responders get that are really like this. The truth is stranger than fiction and this show definitely captures that with some of the absurd incidents. But, like I said, the way those scenes are done, you go right along with it.

It’s the big, dramatic incidents that I sometimes have trouble with. I’ll read the episode summaries and be like, “A plane crashes into an apartment building? Come on!” And then I’ll watch the episode and be like, “A plane crashed into an apartment building! Help! Help!” It’s all in the delivery, I suppose.

I could be easily impressed, too. Always a possibility.

Either way, this show became a quick favorite and I hope it sticks around on my TV for a long time. I need the opportunity to watch these episodes a few times.

Keep up the good work, Chet.
Keep up the good work, Chet.


Where I Watch It