I wasn’t yet born during the time that The Mod Squad was on. The show, which ran from 1968 to 1973, had pretty much been put into reruns at that point. Later on in life when I got around to seeing the series, I was at first turned off by the rather goofy opening credit sequence. I kept thinking to myself what the hell are these people doing running down dark alleys?
Looking past the odd opening sequence, I found myself pleasantly drawn to the show.
This set includes 13 episodes from the second season of the series. I don't feel it's a requirement to go back to the beginning. You can start anywhere with The Mod Squad and feel like you know pretty much what's going on.
The show’s premise was unique at the time. Three people (Clarence Williams III, Peggy Lipton, and Michael Cole) who’ve had constant run-ins with the law find themselves in trouble again. A police captain (Tige Andrews) decides to use the troublemakers as a special undercover force against crime. These three, Linc (Williams), Julie (Lipton), and Pete (Cole), would be different from other undercover cops due to the fact that they are much younger and hipper to the culture of the show’s time period.
The concept of the series works to a funny extent. All three characters are part of the culture of the times. Linc is the silent, strong, black male of the group who looks like he could fit in at a Black Panther meeting, Julie is the hot, free-spirited blonde of the group while Pete is somewhere between a very high Bob Dylan and the more revolutionary-minded John Lennon.
Some of the crimes they deal with are handed to them by police captain Adam Greer (Andrews) while others are more a matter of being at the right place at the wrong time. Some of these would appear only do-able on the level of the average B-movie, but the show has an interesting way of making them watchable.
A good example of this is the episode titled “A Town Called Sincere.”
A motorcycle gang holds a small town hostage in order to find a killer who whacked two of their own. Two of the squad members, Linc and Pete, find themselves forced to help the gang find the killer or risk getting themselves and the townsfolk killed. As typical with a cop show there are the usual scenes of violence and lots of distrust towards following a rule of law. Added along with that is a tinge of a casual Agatha Christie story with Linc being something of a detective and ultimately the one who saves the day simply by using his brain.
As dated as the look and politics of Lincoln Hayes may be, we don’t get enough black actors with the commanding presence of Clarence Williams or a script that celebrates a thinking black man these days.
Richard Dreyfuss does a guest appearance in this season in the episode “Mother Of Terror” as a psycho who lives with his mother and likes to take rather macabre photos of women. Sammy Davis, Jr. makes an appearance here too, although he had a look of “What the hell am I doing here?” in the same way Richard Pryor did when he guest-starred on The Partridge Family.
“The Deadly Sin” strikes me as probably one of the oddest of the bunch. Odd in that a nun, who happens to witness her gangster father murder someone, totally looks like she’s in space for most of the episode. Eventually everything is patched up as it should, but she still left an impression on me.
“A Time For Remembering” is more of a clip show episode. Usually these episodes are rather disposable and aren’t necessarily the best scripts ever written. This one, for some reason, made me care about Linc, Pete, and Julie, Linc more so as he was nearly put to hell after a man they put in jail decided to have his revenge on the squad.
A rather heartbreaking episode for me was “The Exile,” a story that has Julie falling in love with a Middle Eastern student at a college she attends. Unknown to her the student she is dating is a prince in his country and is wanted by government agents from there as well. I would give away the ending, but I believe it’s good enough for me not to spoil it for you.
It’s interesting that no special features come with this set. CBS seems to have a habit of giving some shows a complete bare bones release– no interviews, no special features, no nothing. Either the corporation has a habit of being cheap, or the people involved in the shows don’t feel they are getting paid enough.
Either way, a cultural cult hit such as The Mod Squad should have at least a special feature discussing the importance of the show in television history. I’d even go for Clarence Williams III giving an audio commentary on how he perfected his steely-eyed characterization of Linc. Hell, I would go for an explanation as to what went into making that goofy title sequence.
In any case, I recommend everyone go out and give this set of The Mod Squad a Netflix rental. Sure the series has a goofy opening sequence, but it’s cool in a groovy, solid sort of way. I also recommend getting this if not to wonder whether the car they drove in some episodes was what inspired the car in Starsky and Hutch.