Probably inspired by “Dragnet”, half-hour crime dramas were part of the landscape of television into the 1960s.
But in the ’70s, when cop shows became king, producers realized trying to show a believable investigation and case takes an hour, In a half hour, the investigation has to go perfect – which made those investigations seem too fake.
A good example was Naked City.
Like “Dragnet” and “The Untouchables”, “The Naked City” was narrated. I think it was what happened with this crime drama showed why cop shows are not a 30-minute experience.
Naked City was first broadcast during the 1958–59 season, as a half-hour series featuring James Franciscus and John McIntire playing Detective Jimmy Halloran and Lt. Dan Muldoon, respectively – the same characters as in the 1948 film – although in the film the duo was played by Don Taylor and Barry Fitzgerald.
Harry Bellaver played the older, mellow Sgt. Frank Arcaro, and the narrator for the first season was the producer, Herbert B. Leonard, identifying himself as “Bert Leonard”. While critically acclaimed, the series did not have good ratings. Midway through the season, McIntire quit the show. His character – believed to be the first title character killed off in a car crash with a criminal – because of his desire to leave New York and relocate back to his Montana ranch. He was replaced with Horace McMahon, who was then introduced in the same episode as Muldoon’s curmudgeonly replacement, Lieutenant Mike Parker.
The cast change did not help the show’s ratings; ABC canceled “Naked City” at the end of the 1958–59 season. One of the show’s sponsors, Brown & Williamson, along with production staff, successfully lobbied the network to revive the show as an hour-long series, which premiered in 1960.
The 1960 version featured Paul Burke as Detective Adam Flint, a sensitive and cerebral policeman in his early thirties. Horace McMahon returned as Lt. Parker as did Bellaver as Sgt. Arcaro. Nancy Malone appeared regularly, for about half the newly produced episodes, as Adam Flint’s aspiring actress girlfriend, Libby Kingston. The hour-long version of the show was broadcast by ABC in the 10 p.m. slot on Wednesday nights.
It was meant to be a gritty, real-life TV show, and it was. Shooting it in black and white – color would not come about until 1965 – added to the mood. It was produced in a semi-documentary format.
“Naked City”, produced by Screen Gems, was inspired by the 1948 motion picture “The Naked City”. Each episode concluded with a narrator intoning the iconic line: “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”
Filmed on location in New York City, the series concerned the detectives of NYPD’s 65th Precinct, although episode plots usually focused more on the criminals and victims portrayed by guest actors, characteristic of the “semi-anthology” narrative format common in early 1960s TV.
“The Naked City” episode “Four Sweet Corners” inspired the series “Route 66”, which was broadcast on CBS from 1960-64, and also followed the “semi-anthology” format of building the stories around the guest actors, rather than the regular cast. The episode “Sweet Prince of Delancey Street” in 1961 was in 1997 ranked #93 on TV Guide’s “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time”.
The exterior of the “65th Precinct” was the Midtown North 18th Precinct, at 306 West 54th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, in the second and the third season, and the current 9th Precinct, at 321 East 5th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues before it was renovated, in the first and in the fourth seasons.
This half-hour series ran from 1957 to 1960 on NBC, and focused on the adventures of the hard-hitting Lieutenant Frank Ballinger, a member of the Chicago Police Department’s M Squad, an elite crime-fighting unit, which assisted other units in battling organized crime, corruption and violent crimes citywide. Paul Newlan co-starred as his boss, Captain Grey. Although Marvin had been appearing in feature films since 1951, it was this series that made him a star, and he later went on to an even bigger film career afterward.
The opening scene when Marvin jumps out of a car, crouches down and fires his gun, is mimicked in “Police Squad”, the short-lived parody TV series that led to the successful “Naked Gun” movie franchise.
Nelson Case was the announcer. The popularity of M Squad was proven in the ratings wars by the NBC network choosing a Friday night time slot opposite Frank Sinatra’s ABC variety show in the fall of 1957 and Phil Silvers’ long running CBS comedy “Sgt. Bilko”, in 1958. Both series were eventually canceled.
It was produced by Lee Marvin’s Latimer Productions and Revue Studios. Its main sponsor was the Pall Mall cigarette brand. Lee Marvin, the program’s star, appeared in its commercials. Alternate sponsors were General Electric (GE), Hazel Bishop and Bulova watches.
For two TV seasons, 1958-60, Craig Stevens starred as Peter Gunn, a well-dressed private investigator whose hair is always in place and who loves cool jazz. Where other gumshoes might be coarse, Peter Gunn is a sophisticate with expensive tastes. A contemporary article in Life noted that writer Blake Edwards “deliberately tailored the part after the famous movie smoothie Cary Grant”. Gunn was observed by a female character named Rowena in “Murder on the Midway” as “wearing $30 shoes, a $200 suit and carrying a solid gold cigarette lighter”.
Gunn drives a lot of stylish cars during the series: a 1958 two-tone DeSoto two-door hardtop; a 1959 Plymouth Fury convertible with a white top and a car phone; a 1960 white Plymouth Fury convertible with a car phone, and a 1961 Plymouth Fury convertible.
Gunn operates in a gloomy waterfront city, the name and location of which is never revealed in the series. He can usually be found at Mother’s, a smoky wharfside jazz club that Gunn uses as his “office”, usually meeting new clients there. His standard fee is $1,000 but it can be more, less, or nothing, depending on the client or the circumstances. Gunn has a reputation for integrity and being among the best investigators; he has many reliable informants and is extremely well-connected. His reputation is so good, the police occasionally ask him for help or advice.
With all of that going on in a half-hour, how was Gunn going to investigate anything?
Peter Gunn is notable for being the first televised detective program whose character was created for television, instead of adapted from other media. The series is probably best remembered today for its music, including the iconic “Peter Gunn Theme”, which was nominated for an Emmy Award and two Grammys for Henry Mancini and subsequently has been performed and recorded by many jazz, rock, and blues musicians. The series was No. 17 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1958–1959 TV season.
Gunn’s girlfriend, Edie Hart, played by Lola Albright, is a sultry singer employed at Mother’s; she opens her own restaurant and nightclub.
Herschel Bernardi co-starred as Lieutenant Charles “Chuck” Jacoby, a police detective friend of Gunn who works at the 13th Precinct. Occasionally he refers people to Gunn as clients. In 1959, Bernardi received his only Emmy nomination for the role.
Hope Emerson appeared as “Mother”, who had been a singer and piano player in speakeasies during Prohibition. She received an Emmy nomination for the role. For the second season, “Mother” was played by Minerva Urecal, following the death of Emerson during the series’ run. Associate producer Byron Kane portrayed Barney, the bartender at Mother’s; Kane was never credited for playing this role. Bill Chadney appeared as Emmett, Mother’s piano player. Chadney and Albright were married in 1961.
Peter Gunn is on MeTV overnights on weekends.
“Highway Patrol” was produced by Ziv Television Programs, a major producer of 1950s and early 1960s first-run syndicated series, including “Bat Masterson”, “Sea Hunt”, and “Ripcord”. The series ran 156 episodes from 1955 to 1959.
“Highway Patrol” was created in response to the California Highway Patrol wanting to be featured in a TV series. However, to give the show a broader police scope, the generic show name was adopted.
At the beginning of each episode, state police agencies are mentioned – whether they be the “state police, state troopers, militia, the (Texas) Rangers, or the (California) Highway Patrol.”
Broderick Crawford stars as Dan Mathews, the gruff and dedicated head of a police force in an unidentified Western state. A signature shot of the series is fedora-wearing Mathews barking rapid-fire dialogue into a radio microphone as he leans against the door of his black and white patrol car. Mathews growls “21-50 to headquarters” and the invariable response is “Headquarters by” (as in, standing by).
Unlike the California Highway Patrol, the agency featured in the TV series was more concerned with chasing criminals than enforcing driving laws. Local and county police officers were seldom if ever in evidence, only the Highway Patrol. With such a limited budget, there were very few car chases, crashes, and other motor mayhem that is more common in modern police dramas. Scenes were often filmed on rural two-lane paved or dirt roads to save money and because Crawford’s own driver license was suspended for drunk driving. Excitement was mainly generated by Crawford’s rapid-fire staccato delivery of his lines, frequent shootouts, and numerous plot contrivances in which time was a critical factor, such as a hostage death threat, the escape of a violent criminal, a train derailment, or other imminent catastrophe.
In the first two seasons the series received technical assistance from the California Highway Patrol. The patrol cars in early episodes are actual CHP vehicles with the show’s car door emblem covering the CHP emblem. For instance, the 1955 Buick Century two-door patrol car seen in early episodes was built exclusively for CHP. Eventually the California Highway Patrol dropped its support, reportedly dissatisfied with how the show evolved. The show then had to create its own patrol cars using non-police models, but outfitted in CHP-style, distinctly subdued compared with many police agencies.
Officer uniforms are the CHP style of the day. In seasons one to three, the shoulder patch is essentially the CHP patch with “California” and “Eureka” (state motto) removed; the California bear and other California state seal elements are retained. In season four the show adopted a uniform patch that matches its patrol car emblem. Highway Patrol chief Dan Mathews usually wears a suit and fedora, but not to be undercover—he generally drives a black-and-white patrol car.
Art Gilmore’s narration gives “Highway Patrol” a documentary feel, but several details are never mentioned.
A key element of the show is two-way radio communication among patrol cars and headquarters, with heavy use of police code “10-4” (meaning “acknowledged”). While 10-4 adds a feeling of authenticity, real police use many radio codes for brevity and clarity.
Similar to the contemporary Ziv Television action/adventure series, “Sea Hunt”, each episode ended with a gratitude from Broderick Crawford himself for watching and an invitation to view again next week. “Highway Patrol’s” style was different, however; he would deliver an aphoristic comment on traffic safety, including these:
At the end of each episode, Crawford would thank viewers for watching, and provide comments on traffic safety, like: “Leave your blood at the Red Cross, or your community blood bank, not on the highway!”, and “It isn’t the car that kills, it’s the driver!”.
The only constant regular on “Highway Patrol” is Crawford, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1949 for “All the King’s Men”.
The series would feature guest stars who would later become successes, including Nick Barkley from “The Big Valley”, Peter Breck; Det. Adam Flint from “The Naked City” Paul Burke; James West from the TV “Wild Wild West” Robert Conrad; “Dirty Harry” Clint Eastwood; “I Dream of Jeannie” Barbara Eden; Ledbottom Capt. Binghamton from McHale’s Navy, Joe Flynn; Dr. Kelly Brackett from “Emergency” Robert Fuller; Mr. Spock from “Star Trek” Leonard Nimoy; Marshal Jim Crown from “Cimaron Strip, Stuart Whitman, and Professor John Robinson from “Lost in Space” and “Zorro”, Guy Williams.
Crawford makes a cameo in the 1977 episode “Hustle” of “CHiPs”, which is also about the California Highway Patrol. After chatting about “Highway Patrol”, Officer Jon Baker, played by Larry Wilcox says, tongue-in-cheek, “they don’t make TV shows like that anymore.”
Crawford comes back with, “No, they sure don’t.”
To mark the 75th anniversary of the CHP in 2004, the 10-4 Parade was created, which is now held every Oct. 4. Approximately 20 to 30 classic police cars from the CHP, LAPD, and many classic cop TV shows parade down Hollywood Boulevard stopping to pay tribute to Broderick Crawford’s movie Star on the Walk of Fame.
“Highway Patrol” is on MeTV at 5 a,m. weekdays on MeTV.
Also for two television seasons, 1967-69, this series again tried to portray the New York City Police Department. It was part of an evening lineup with two other cop shows, “Mod Squad” and “It Takes A Thief” on ABC.
N.Y.P.D. centers around three New York police detectives – Lt. Mike Haines, played by veteran actor Jack Warden; Detective Jeff Ward, portrayed by Robert Hooks, and Detective Johnny Corso, brought to life by Frank Converse. They fight a wide range of crimes and criminals in many real New York City locations, as well as episodes based on actual New York City police cases.
Despite its short, two-season run, the series made some great strides for its time.
The show was a production of Talent Associates, Ltd., a company founded by Alfred Levy and talk show host David Susskind. Talent Associates had produced 14 years of the anthology program “Armstrong Circle Theatre” and “The Kaiser Aluminum Hour”. Susskind created “N.Y.P.D.” with screenwriter Arnold Perl, of “Cotton Comes to Harlem” fame.
At the time of his death in 1971, Arnold Perl was working on a screenplay about assassinated black activist Malcolm X, which would later become the basis for Spike Lee’s 1992 film, “Malcolm X”.
Daniel Melnick, the show’s executive producer, was a partner with Susskind in Talent Associates and had brought Mel Brooks and Buck Henry together to create the TV comedy “Get Smart” in 1965. Producer Susskind and actor Harvey Keitel would work together again on Martin Scorsese’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”. Scripted by writers like Lonne Elder, who would later be the first African-American nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar, for 1972’s “Sounder”, the stories came with such titles as “Cruise to Oblivion,” “Which Side Are You On?,” “The Screaming Woman,” and “Deadly Circle of Violence.”
N.Y.P.D. Scripts featured both black and white cops, suspects and witnesses, a racial blend that would not otherwise be seen on U.S. network television until series like “Room 222” and the original “Hawaii Five-O”.
In 1967, N.Y.P.D. was the first television series in America to air an episode with a gay theme. In the episode entitled “Shakedown”, police track down a man blackmailing gay men, prompting several suicides.
Some of the guest stars were Al Pacino, Jill Clayburgh, Jane Elliot, Ralph Waite, Harvey Keitel, James Earl Jones, Charles Durning, Gretchen Corbett, and Roy Scheider. Pacino and Clayburgh appeared in the same episode as two people who met in a bar and were having fun in a park when Pacino is shot. It is later discovered he is a Southener who is a racist.
“Felony Squad” was “N.Y.P.D” in Los Angeles.
Although it preceded its sister series, “Felony Squad” may have inspired the other series.
The program starred Howard Duff as Sergeant Sam Stone and Dennis Cole as Detective Jim Briggs as investigators in a major crimes unit. The setting was an unidentified West Coast city, but background scenes obviously show it was Los Angeles, since L.A. City Hall is shown at dusk in the final scene of the opening credits.
Duff’s character was the veteran who was teaching his younger partner the nuances of life in this new facet of police work. Another main character was desk sergeant Dan Briggs, portrayed by Ben Alexander, the father of Cole’s character.
Originally titled “Men Against Evil”, the show was set to be a soap opera-type program about a police captain. However, when the concept proved to be unworkable, the project was changed to a standard police drama with three main characters. In addition, following a sponsor’s objection about being associated with the word “evil,” the show’s title was changed.
Some of the guest stars were Joe Don Baker, from the original “Walking Tall” movie, who had a whack at his own crime drama, “Eischied” in which be played the New York City Police chief of detectives; Brooke Bundy, one of my Unsung Heroes of TV, a face you know but a name you don’t, and Lana Wood, sister of the gorgeous Natalie Wood.
For the first two years of the series aired, it was broadcast on Monday nights, with 30 episodes comprising a season’s run. In the fall of 1968 it was switched to a Friday evening time slot, a move that proved itrs doom. The program was canceled at mid-season after just thirteen aired episodes. The final episode of the series was part of a crossover with the ABC legal drama “Judd, for the Defense”.
TRIVIA QUESTIONS THIS TIME
QUESTION: What other series did Herschel Bernardi star in?
Q. What other series was Paul Burke in the second casting of?
Q. Who starred in “Judd for the Defense”?
Q. At the beginning of the episodes of “Police Squad!” and the “Naked Gun” movies, a red light atop a police car is shown. What is that light being shown spoofing?
Q. What other television show did Ben Alexander star in?
Q. What famous producers were involved in the production of “Highway Patrol”?
Q. What stars of “Highway Patrol” were also stars of “Adam-12”?
TRIVIA FROM LAST TIME:
QUESTION: What other roles was Richard Long best known for?
ANSWER: Long played Jarrod Barkley, the attorney of the three Barkley brothers, on “The Big Valley” with Peter Breck, Nick Barkley, and Lee Majors, Heath Barkley. He was also Professor Everett for one season, 1970-71, on “Nanny and the Professor” with Juliet Mills.
Q. Who played the cop on “77 Sunset Strip”?
A. The firm’s most frequently-seen police contact was Lt. Roy Gilmore, played by the deep-voiced Byron Keith.
Q. Did Keith play a cop in other TV shows?
A. Yup, in the newer “Dragnet” , “Adam-12” and “Dan August”.
Q. What other role was Van Williams best known for?
A. Williams played newspaper tycoon Britt Reid, who by night was “The Green Hornet”.
Q. What other TV series did Andrew Duggan star in?
A. Andrew Duggan starred as the patriarch in “Lancer” from 1968-70, a western like “Bonanza”.
Q. Is there an actor or actress who appeared in more than one Hawaii-based TV series?
A. Yes. Doug Mossman played Moke, the chief uniformed security officer for Hawaiian Eye. He was also one of the detectives in the original “Hawaii 5-0” with Steve McGarrett, Det. Frank Kamana, and Police Officer Riley in “Magnum P.I.” He was also Kimo Halama in the new “Hawaii 5-0” in 2011.
Q. What member of the cast of “Hawaiian Eye” was also a cast member of “My Three Sons”?
A. Tina Cole was Katie Miller Douglas, wife of Robbie Douglas, played by Don Grady, for eight years on “My Three Sons” years after she was Sunny Day, a singer at the Shell Bar on “Hawaiian Eye”. The role was created after Connie Stevens temporarily left the series in the fourth season over a contract dispute.
Q. Tige Andrews, who played Det. Johnny Russo, went on to play a cop in what other series?
A. Andrews starred as Police Detective Captain Adam Greer in ABC’s “The Mod Squad”.
Q. Mark Goddard, who played Det. Chris Ballard, went on to star in another series. What was it?
A. It was the CBS sci-fi series “Lost In Space”.
Q. What other role was Lee Patterson known for?
A. From 1968 to 1986, Patterson played the role of Joe Riley, one of the husbands of newspaper heiress Victoria Lord – who was thought to be dead but wasn’t – on the ABC soap “One Life to Live”.