The first thing you’ll notice about this collection is the crystal clarity of the transfer. It caught my eye in Captain Adam Greer’s (Tige Andrews) office when I could read the labels on his file cabinets and had I wanted to, I could have paused the picture and counted the hairs on his head. This DVD set is a perfect time machine, revealing an era when detectives actually had to think a puzzle through without the help of forensics or a bank of supercomputers.
The Mod Squad was so successful because the four main characters comprised a classic ensemble cast that became closer than family. Captain Adam Greer more often than not referred to the squad as his kids rather than officers, and protected them like a mother bear defends her cubs. Pete Cochran (Michael Cole), Lincoln Hayes (Clarence Williams III), and Julie Barnes (Peggy Lipton) started out as three strangers and had to grow to know each other quickly because their lives depended on it. This on-screen interaction allowed us to know and care about them too, which is why the show was such a winner.
In that era the young generation considered the police the “fuzz,” the “man,” the “establishment,” and everything that the hippie counterculture generation was rebelling against. Then Aaron Spelling, Danny Thomas, and Harve Bennett threw everyone a curve and presented a squad of cops that were the younger generation instead of gun-wielding storm troopers. An excellent idea that worked… at the time. When you look back at it today though, you realize it was merely Messrs. Spelling, Thomas, and Bennett’s idea of the young counterculture instead of the real thing.
The three main characters wore beautiful clothes in the latest styles, and they drove beautiful cars and lived in beautiful apartments. Pete, Linc, and Julie were what every average teen wanted to be; they had lots of friends, had rich society connections, lots of opportunities, and lots of support when they got into trouble. However their on-screen personas were supposed to be young and troubled teens from the tough streets of Los Angeles. Julie (Peggy Lipton) was a teenage runaway who’d been arrested for vagrancy. Linc (Clarence Williams III) was as uneasy and angry as the streets of Watts that he came from, racially charged streets that were nearly destroyed in the name of “Black Power.” Pete (Michael Cole) was the penniless son of a rich businessman who’d been disowned only to become a streetwise car thief. Yet surprisingly levelheaded Linc quoted Shakespeare and listened to classical music, Julie had a striking and large apartment, and Pete owned a brand new Dodge Challenger convertible on what he earned as a probationary cop.
At first I was going to comment on how much the role of female cops/agents has changed since the '60s and '70s, but then I remembered the characters of Emma Peel of The Avengers and Officer Eve Whitfield of Ironside. Emma and Eve brawled with villains, brandished guns, and were equal members of their teams. Julie Barnes, on the other hand, was always the damsel in distress who wilted to the floor or a couch and/or cried in a fight instead of defending herself alongside Pete and Linc. She also had a talent for being kidnapped or grabbed by the bad guys and was often in desperate need of rescue. I consider her character the only flaw in a beautiful diamond, and the comparisons lead to the conclusion that Peggy Lipton had been cast as mere eye candy instead of as an undercover police officer.
Despite the contradictions, the show was, and still is, one of the best character/story driven programs in TV history. This particular DVD collection holds some of the best episodes of the entire series; particularly the one entitled “Survival House” in which singer/dancer/rat pack member Sammy Davis Jr. gets to show off his incredible acting talents in a well-written story about a recovering drug addict given the chance to help others like him. This collection also features today’s famous actors back when they were getting their first breaks in show business, so watch the extras and minor co-stars for people like Richard Dreyfuss, Ivan Dixon, Ed Asner, and Gloria Foster (the Oracle from the Matrix movies).
This collection contains 13 episodes comprising the second half of the second season of the series from 1969 through 1970 spread over three discs. The only real complaint I have about this collection is that it only contains half of the season, which means you have to pay twice for season two, where many other series collections comprise a season in its entirety. Another item of note is that this TV series is from an era when an hour-long show only had 8-10 minutes total of commercials, unlike today when the average is more like 15-17 minutes or more. The technical quality of the show and the reproduction onto DVD is as flawless as I’ve ever seen and this collection is well worth the investment.