Now it’s no secret that I love bad TV. Real Housewives of Anywhere, The Kardashians, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, anything that parades people around like buffoons, yet they think it’s a good business decision (which it often ironically is). One of my favorite TV shows has come to be Dragnet. The series aired from 1951-1959 and followed Sergeant Joe Friday and Bill Gannon through the gritty, behind-the-scenes of police work in LA. Jack Webb played Friday, as well as wrote and directed a lot of the episodes. But oh boy, are they bad. Everything from the writing, to the stiff acting, the rushed, back-and-forth delivery of lines to the bizarre body language really makes Dragnet unlike anything you’ll find on TV, before or since. My Dad records old episodes and we’ll watch a bunch of them. “How did this ever air?” is a common utterance. For example:
If it’s one think Sgt. Friday loves, it’s statistics. This guy is like Rainman! He can spit them out at you off the top of his head. And he’s intimidating, apparently. A common theme is Tough Criminal Won’t Crack, (“You’ll never get anything out of me, see!”) and then Friday shoots some rapid fire statistics at him, and he instantly crumbles. Your sassy attitude is just no match for math, friend. Example:
Sergeant Friday gets very upset if you make fun of his job. And salary. Don’t mess with his $1.82/hour job, mkay?
Friday and Gannon seem to cover every kind of crime there is. Narcotics, child molesters, drugs, even traffic accidents. Here’s a great clip of Friday schooling some traffic cop on car accidents.
First the other traffic cop is all, “Yeah, I know about that Cornell University study, Friday, DUH.” But then Joe schools him with a play-by-play. He’s so disturbed (and perhaps blown away by awesomeness) that he just has to leave. They don’t show him in this video just jumping out of his seat and running away, but he does. Because that’s how any professional colleague in a business meeting would react. Sheesh, if he can’t handle some stats and photos of crushed cars, how does he handle seeing, like, real things that cops see?
Ahhhh, 1960s mainstream society’s view of drugs. Best summed up by Friday here:
Do you really spend “most of their time holding some sick kid’s head while he vomits and wretches sitting on a curbstone at 4 AM in the morning?” I thought most of your time was spent memorizing statistics?
Here’s my favorite interpretation of what happens to you when you do drugs.
Apparently you stick your entire head in in a pile of dirt or shredded bark or whatever that is. Then you talk all crazy, and apparently you become a football fan and paint your face with your team’s colors. Or something? Note how when he starts struggling with Friday and Gannon, he also puts his hands behind his back like they’re already cuffed. For easy-cuffing purposes, I suppose. How helpful!
So they make it to the drug house, or the drug party or whatever. People dancing and artists eating their own paint. Sodom and Gammorah! All because of marijuana, you evil, evil drug! Then poor Benji wanted to get further out, further out, further out. And he died. From LSD.
Now I don’t do drugs because a) frankly I find them boring and b) I’m kinda fucked up enough as it is and don’t really need to “see what’s in there” as I “expand my mind.” But if I did, Sgt. Friday wouldn’t be the one to stop me with this routine, that’s for goddamn sure.
Move over, Real Housewives. I love you, but you don’t stand up to Dragnet, the original so-bad-it’s-good TV show. I strongly recommending DVRing some of them on whatever channel they play them on. You just don’t get writing or delivery like that anymore. Unless it’s on Seinfeld.