Joe Friday: Man Out of Time
am spectator ^ | 12/21/12 | d flynn
Posted on Friday, December 21, 2012 10:03:09 AM by bestintxas
Jack Webb, who died thirty years ago this weekend, arrived at the right time. “After the war, people were much more realistic,” notes Peggy Webber, star of more than 100 Dragnet episodes. “They wanted things to be as honest as possible. And he filled the bill.”
Dragnet, as the just-the-facts catchphrase it inspired indicates, depicted police work without the frills. Whereas other detective stories attracted listeners through the promise of a weekly shootout, Dragnet snagged them by keeping the weapons holstered. The iconic music, gimmicky teasers promising to reveal case results, and insistence that the show dramatized real-life events joined with the deadpan deliveries to provide the program an audience and authenticity.
My favorite radio episode involved a disturbed old man who for thrills made emergency phone calls for fake car accidents and the like. Typical broadcasts included bunco swindles of Korean War widows, juvenile delinquent rumbles, and small-time robberies of mom-and-pop outlets. Occasionally, the radio run tackled heroin, pornography, and other (im?)mature themes. The hustlers argued their innocence. They never, unlike their counterparts in the ’60s-era television version, argued the innocence of hustling. Crime hadn’t changed. Criminals had.
This became startlingly evident on the January 12, 1967 premiere episode of Dragnet 1967, which depicts a blue-faced teenager tripping on acid. Blue Boy memorably makes numerous non sequitur observations: “Brown, blue, yellow, green, green, orange, red. Red! Red! Red! I can hear them! I can hear them all!” Fifties, meet the sixties.
We remember this post-Miranda incarnation of Dragnet, despite it
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