This is the entertainment product, television shows on DVD. The marketplace has been flooded by media companies emptying their vaults. Variety reports that “Americans spent $2.8 billion buying TV shows on DVD in 2004, up from just $160 million in 2000, making TV product the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. video business.” That’s a lot of lettuce.
Every week, more DVD sets hit the stands, and like the water-carrying brooms from Fantasia, they show no signs of slowing. There’s shows you’ve never heard of, shows you have a vague memory of, and shows that were just on a few months ago. It can be overwhelming to the average stiff as all the smiling faces of television actors beam their pearly whites, hoping to tug the heartstrings for a trip home, like a puppy’s last chance at the pound. That’s where I come in; I write reviews.
It was Sunday, July 3rd. It was a cool evening as I sat down to file my report about Dragnet 1967. My name’s El Bicho. The series is about the work of Los Angeles policemen, Sgt Joe Friday and his partner Officer Bill Gannon. Friday is tough talking and no-nonsense. He doesn’t suffer fools or criminals. Gannon plays the nice cop; he’s a family man and churchgoer. They work well together and get results. All the crimes are solved within 30 minutes; too easy for my taste. Life ain’t so black and white on my street. Every episode ends informing the viewer “the story you have just seen is true. The names were changed to protect the innocent.” The episode concludes with the results of the trial. Neat and tidy.
Dragnet originally started as a radio show that aired from 1949 to 1957. The first television series ran from 1951 to 1959. Webb was asked to revive the show by NBC for a television movie, but it turned into a series that lasted 100 episodes from 1967 to 1970. Part of the reason given for Webb reviving the show was in response to the growing tide of teen-age drug use, so it’s no surprise that first episode was “The Big LSD, ” starting the tradition of all the shows having “Big” in the title, like “The Big Gun,” “The Big Fur Burglary,” and “The Big Masked Bandits”.
The writers and producers must not have experienced LSD because the things the kids do while they’re on it are unbelievable and ridiculous. One guy eats paint at a party and another runs around a park eating the bark off trees and sticks his head in the ground where he sees the blue flame in the middle of the Earth. They don’t even listen to good music. The stories of Dragnet come from the files of the LAPD, but the writers must take some creative license with details.
The dialogue is straight out of the crime novels of the ‘30s and ‘40s. It’s delivered short and clipped. In fact, Friday is told in one episode that he sounds like a “cheap, dime novel.” The editing was fast, too. It had to be to keep up with the rapid give-and-take. It’s a little awkward, but after a couple of episodes, you’ll catch on.
The shows in this set are oddly divided; one disc has 14 episodes, the other three. A third disc offers a radio show from 1954 with Friday and Officer Frank Smith, complete with commercials for show sponsor Chesterfield cigarettes. Most television series DVDs have been released without special features, so this extra was a pleasantly surprising treat and a fascinating journey back in time.
Fans of the show will be glad to get their hands on Dragnet 1967. Current audiences might find the show dated and unrealistic, but the show’s humor, both intentional and unintentional, is enjoyable. As someone who has lived in Southern California since 1975, it is great fun to see the city, Los Angles, CA, the way it appeared almost 40 years ago.