Retro Recommendations: Dragnet (1967-70)

Written Refusing to Remain Silent by Bridger Cunningham

A police procedural inside a 30-minute time block?  Dragnet was indeed one of America's first of the genre, running self-contained episodes in black and white, both by physical appearance and tone.  Come 1967, the game changed.  Not only was television starting to become colorized, but the law left much grey in its line between right and wrong.  And the ratings represented this lopsided factor, as the first two seasons flaunted top-30 standards, then fleeted into obscurity.  Ether way, 98 episodes managed to explore the tumultuous nature of Vietnam-War era Los Angeles.

Having a successful 1951-59 run exploring black and white crimes on NBC, star/producer Jack Webb decided to resurrect the same magic as Sargent Joe Friday he created with costar Harry S. Morgan as his bartner, Bill Gannon.  Up arose Dragnet 1967, a colorized continuation of the 50's sensation with a two-actor marquee.  NBC reserved the revival for mid-season, managing to capitalize on one of America's most notorious years of the 20th century as a war, racial tensions and a drug endemic swept a culture divided.  Each episode again featured the conflict instigated by a dispatched call, with majority of the episodes ending with a perpetrator showcased in a lineup with their punishment brandished to the public.

Unlike the original, however, the antagonists were not outright criminals.  They were the youthful attempting to reach an altered perspective via drug use, or the desperate forced into precarious situations often via poverty.  Even a harmless couple who accidentally drowned their infant as they were too stoned to remember the child was in the tub.  The episodes often held a melancholy tone, though often deviated with an innocent/incarceration free conclusion, such as the Christmas miracle when an innocent child took baby Jesus for a ride in his wagon while police and adults projected theft.  The fascinating compilation gives current viewers a glimpse into the social issues during the late 1960's and can entertain current viewers with mild humor due to culture clash.

Take a look at this series' pilot, centering on a drug dealer dubbed "Blue Boy."  This iconic episode became a cultural sensation and cemented Dragnet's place in NBC's lineup.  Repeats pop up over various outlets over the series' 51-year history, most recently on Antenna TV.

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