By Sam Graham
"This is the city--Los Angeles, California." "I carry a
badge." "My name's Friday." And who could forget "Just
the facts, ma'am"? These lines, delivered in classic deadpan style by
actor-director Jack Webb's Sgt. Joe Friday, are among the hallmarks of Dragnet,
one of television's earliest and most influential police dramas. And the appearance
on DVD of all 17 episodes from the show's first season (1967),
covering two discs (plus a third with a radio broadcast from 1954) and
running more than seven hours, is a treat.
Decades after the fact, when vivid, often graphically violent cop shows
like the C.S.I. and Law & Order franchises (all of them
clearly owing a debt to Webb's show) dominate the airwaves, Dragnet
seems tame, even quaint. Violence and gunplay are kept to a minimum.
Special effects are non-existent, and many scenes are talky and static;
"The Big Interrogation" takes place almost entirely in a single
room in the police station, and includes a four-minute speech by Friday
about the plight of a police officer ("You're a cop, a flatfoot, a
bull, a dick, John Law
they call you everything, but never a
policeman"). The stories are uncomplicated, the criminals are usually
dunderheads, and "square" barely begins to describe the overall
tone (witness "The Big LSD," a risible depiction of a
"hippie" on a psychedelic sojourn). Still, one gets the feeling
that we're laughing not at but with Webb, the writers, and the rest of the
cast (including Harry Morgan, later of M*A*S*H*,
as sidekick Bill Gannon). By about halfway through the season, with
episodes like "The Big Candy Story" and "The Big Fur
Burglary" (an almost whimsical tale wherein Gannon pretends to be an
expert furrier), it appears that Webb and company are enjoying themselves
just as much as the viewers are; at the same time, the characters'
personal lives are explored in a bit more detail, which adds some welcome
Sure, it's dated - everybody smokes, everyone's white, and character
descriptions like "strange-behaving juvenile" are more common
than not. But in the end, the Dragnet approach, stilted though it
may sometimes be, is a refreshing antidote to the oh-so-hip cop melodramas
that have come along since. Best, and simplest, of all, Dragnet 1967 -
Season 1 is downright entertaining.
When the original show ("Dragnet" (1951)) ended, Joe
Friday had been promoted to Lieutenant. However, Jack Webb decided to make
Friday a sergeant again for the new series because "few people
remember that Friday was promoted toward the end of our run. We think it's
better to have Joe a sergeant again. Few detective-lieutenants get out
into the field."
Jack Webb and Harry Morgan wore the same suits for the entire run of
the television series.
Through all 100 episodes of the series, Friday is only seen wearing
something other than his regular suit four times: three times for
undercover work and once for a scene in his apartment.
Episodes from this series were used as training tools by the real-life
When Jack Webb revived the show in 1966, it was in response to the
growing tide of teen-age drug use, especially LSD.
Jack Webb would pay $25 to any officer who submitted a story that was
used for an episode plot.
During the run of this version, the title would change to reflect the
year that it was broadcast in (Dragnet 1967, Dragnet 1968 and so on).
Friday's badge number (seen at the beginning and end of each episode)
is 714. Badge 714 belonged to Sgt. 'Dan Cooke' , the technical advisor.
The badge has been retired and displayed at the LAPD Academy's Museum.
The pair of hands seen hammering the Mark VII logo at the end of every
episode belong to Jack Webb.