Joe Friday, Jack Webb-two names which are virtually indistinguishable, one from another. The first name is Fictional, made-up. He is the product of human imagination, more of a symbol of Law & Order than a character in a story.
Even though the young Mr. Webb had the desire to become a Comedian and having his own Radio Show, much like his boyhood idol, Jack Benny, things don't always work out the way we envision them. (And the World can and may well be better off for it!) For it was his success with DRAGNET"Radio Show, which soon morphed into "DRAGNET" TV Series (1951-1959), that gave a great share of immortality to Jack in our American Pop Culture.
As time moved along, Mr. Webb became a creative force to several other Law Enforcement themed series. We saw his Production Company's Trademark of a strong, sinewy, sweaty, grimy hands pounding a flat lettering chisel-stamp, with the Hammer Striking and leaving the words: "A Mark VII, Ltd. Production", on quite a few series. Following the trail blazing accomplishments of "DRAGNET", we received several of these for our approval, as Rod Serling used to say.
So Mr. Webb brought us "O'HARE, U.S. TREASURY"(1971) with David Jansen, the longevity prone "EMERGENCY!(1972-79), and the equally long running, second most recognized as "a Jack Webb production "ADAM 12"(1968-75).
In "ADAM 12", Jack pushed the Envelope forward as far as the celluloid portrayal of Big City Cops goes. Using all the experience from his for incarnations of "DRAGNET", he let loose a sure winner with the TV Audience, as well as a continuing favourite with the Criticsizers (o.k., okay! It's 'Critics', I knew it all along!) In looking back to those years of the Late 1960's to the Early 1970's, we as a Nation (the U.S. A., that is, Schultz!)were all caught up in what was probably the High Water Mark of the 'Counter-Culture' Hippy/Yippie/Flippy Anti-Authority,Anti-Establishment, Anti-Cop media tirades of that period. This was the Era of Assassination, with John F. Kennedy (1963), Martin Luther King (1968) and Robert Kennedy (also '68), all dying at the hands of murderers with Political motivations. And there were other incidents such as the attempted Murder of Former Alabama Governor George Wallace in May of 1972.
In addition, we had subversive groups infiltrating Movements of War Protest, the Greatest example being the Rioting in the Streets of Chicago ("
My kind of Town!") during that Week-Long Democratic National Convention in August 1968. Next would likely be their highly return in the following year of 1969 for their Self-Proclaimed "Days of Rage", October 5-11.
The same Left Wing Organizations also used their influence to turn Urban Rioting following events like the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to a sort of Urban Sedition. Aided by certain sensational headlines driven manipulators in the News Media, all blame seemed to be put on the Uniformed Police charged with doing something about it.
And always being a guy sympathetic to the thankless plight of the Cops, Mr.Webb set out to give us a dramatized version of just what it was like to be on the other end of that on- going struggle.
Essentially, Jack Webb rendered a series which could to be said is a "Dragnet of, by and for the Uniformed Police. In spite of some criticisms, such as being a little preachy in its story lines and stilted in the language employed, it certainly deserves to be rated as a top series of its time. And it certainly was a step up in the Cop Show Evolutionary Chain leading to some of the finest of Present Day Police Dramas. Next stage is represented by Joe Wambaugh's "POLICE STORY"( 1973-77).