Dragnet (tv)

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Joe Friday

REVIEWED: 12-01-97

Although several comedy shows with continuing characters won over critics in the early days of TV, crime dramas like Martin Kane, Private Eye were dismissed as cheesy ripoffs of dime-store novels. If you wanted drama, you watched Studio One or another anthology. Dragnet overcame the anti-series bias in several ways. First, its regular characters were in a plausibly dramatic profession (part of TV's holy trinity of cops, lawyers, and doctors). The cases on the show were real, immunizing Dragnet from charges that it was contrived. Further, the lead characters did not undergo emotional crises week after week. Rather, they were so deadpan ("Just the facts, ma'am") that Dragnet became a gift for comic impressionists seeking easy laughs. Finally, each episode was completely independent from all the others; a Dragnet episode was just a good story with some familiar faces to help it along. It would take Hill Street Blues, nearly 30 years later, to crack the prohibition against continuing storylines on "serious" dramas.

Taken from The Boston Phoenix's "50 Years and Counting," a retrospective of the most influential programs from television's first half-century. Click here for the full article.

--Robert David Sullivan

Full Length Reviews
Dragnet (tv)

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