11 October 2001 | yarborough
The best police show of all time.
"Dragnet" is the best police show ever. "Dragnet" was directly responsible for the maturation and realness of police television shows, but it didn't dive into soggy drama stories surrounding the police officers the way soap opera police shows like "Hill Street Blues" did. "Dragnet" instead focused on the actual police stories and the apprehension of the crooks. On radio, the death of actor Barton Yarborough (no relation to me) who played Friday's first partner, Sgt. Ben Romero, was brought into the story, and in a 1953 TV episode Friday shows regret after killing a man for the first time, but that was as far as the drama went. For the most part, "Dragnet" was engaging nuts-and-bolts police work that was directed plausibly by Webb (who was a film-noir veteran by 1950, having appeared in 1948's "He Walked By Night," on which the show was based, and other film-noir classics like "Sunset Boulevard" and "The Men," both filmed in 1949). Many episodes of "Dragnet" have a film noir-like quality to them, often making for nail-bitting, high quality television.
In correction of Mr. Richmond's comment, in the fall of 1952 Herb Ellis took over as Friday's partner after the departure of Barney Phillips. Ellis was the first Frank Smith, and he served as a temporary replacement until someone who matched Yarborough's wholesome humor could be found. And Ben Alexander was chosen. But Alexander's humor was more outwardly silly, whereas Yarborough brought out more unexpected humor. In the first episode, for instance, when Friday and Romero are told about a man carrying a bomb, Romero voluntarily decides to help Friday stop the man because, as he says "Can't go home. My wife wants me to paint the bathroom today." As stiff as Friday's partners often were, they all had their own unique traits: Romero was the unintentionally silly Southerner; Jacobs was the stone cold, ice-eyed quiet one; Herb Ellis's Frank Smith was quiet but easy going; Ben Alexander's Frank Smith was simply goofy.
Jack Webb voluntarily pulled "Dragnet" off the air in 1959, but it returned to the air in new episodes in 1967, going for three and a half years (again in correction of Mr. Richmond's comment). These color episodes were rather different than the original black-and-white ones, but were still of very high quality.