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TV Cop Shows

Ahh, police shows. The good, the bad and the ugly. For decades TV viewers have been drawn   to shows that take us inside the life of police officers and crime filled cities. Often the role of a police officer is glamorized while other times it’s shown as a depressing gritty job. 

One show paved the way for all others. In 1951 the radio series Dragnet first made its way to television and aired until 1959. In 1967, the series was revived. The Dragnet franchise was created by Jack Webb who also played the lead role of Los Angeles police Sgt. Joe Friday in the television series.  Many call Dragnet the most influential police procedural drama in media history.  For some they would say the influence was good while others would say the influence was bad. 

In 1954, Time magazine wrote, “Americans have “gained a new appreciation of the underpaid, long-suffering ordinary policeman” and their “first rudimentary understanding of real-life law enforcement.”

In a 2017 article from Timeline.com, author Jacqui Shine writes, “When we see a cop on TV, we’re seeing the legacy of Dragnet. Everything we think we know about crime and law enforcement — and everything we believe about the police — bears the imprint of the show. It did no less than fashion the idea of modern policing in our cultural imagination. And, as viewers were reminded each week, all of it was true. But what most of us don’t know is that Dragnet was also calculated propaganda: the Los Angeles Police Department did far more than provide technical assistance, essentially co-producing the show.”

After Dragnet, Police shows continued to become more and more popular. Just think of all the police shows on television today alone.  This episode of Trivia Rewind is purely entertainment and devoted to just 10 classic police shows from years past.   I’ll give you ten questions about some of television’s classic cop shows. 

In our fun facts segment, find out which two TV cops didn’t get along in real life causing one to leave the show. Find out which TV cop tried to sabotage his job and even set his underwear on fire in an attention getting movie. Plus find out which TV cop thought his cop car looked ridiculous, like a tomato.  Those are just a few of the fun facts that await you on this episode of Trivia Rewind.

Stick around to the end of the episode to find out where you can learn more about what’s been going on over the past year to try and make police shows more accurate in their portrayal of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. 

Here are the links mentioned in the podcast.

  1. Hear both versions of the CHiPs theme song. Version 1 and Version 2
  2. Listen to the Hill Street Blues theme song
  3. Watch Johnny Depp talk about his experience in television
  4. The report from USC’s Norman Lear Center titled, Normalizing Injustice – The Dangerous Misrepresentations that Define Television’s Scripted Crime Genre: A Comprehensive Study of How Television’s Most Popular Genre Excludes Writers of Color, Miseducates People about the Criminal Justice System and Makes Racial Injustice Acceptable.

Below, you will find the transcript for this episode. You can listen to Trivia Rewind on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Trivia Rewind Episode 44 TV Cops

[00:00:00] Recording: [00:00:00] Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

[00:00:28] Debi Jenkins: [00:00:28] Ah, police shows. The good, the bad and the ugly. Welcome to this episode of Trivia Rewind. I’m Debi Jenkins, the host of the show. For decades, TV viewers have been drawn to shows that take us inside the life of police officers and crime filled cities. Often the role of a police officer is glamorized while other times it’s shown as a depressing gritty job.

[00:00:55] One show paved the way for all others. In [00:01:00] 1951, the radio series Dragnet first made its way to television and aired until 1959. In 1967, the series was revived. The Dragnet franchise was created by Jack Webb, who also played the lead role of Los Angeles police Sergeant Joe Friday in the television series. Many call Dragnet the most influential police procedural drama in media history. For some, they would say the influence was good while others would say the influence was bad.

[00:01:35] In 1954, Time Magazine wrote, “Americans have gained a new appreciation of the underpaid, long suffering, ordinary policeman and their first rudimentary understanding of real-life law enforcement.” In a 2017 article from Timeline.com, author Jacqui Shine writes, “When we see a cop [00:02:00] on TV, we’re seeing the legacy of Dragnet. Everything we think we know about crime and law enforcement and everything we believe about the police bears the imprint of the show. It did no less than fashion the idea of modern policing in our cultural imagination. And as viewers we’re reminded each week, all of it was true. But what most of us don’t know is that Dragnet was also calculated propaganda: the Los Angeles Police Department did far more than provide technical assistance, essentially co-producing the show.”

[00:02:38] Well after Dragnet, police shows continued to become more and more popular. This episode of Trivia Rewind is purely entertainment and devoted to just 10 classic police shows from years past. Here’s how this episode will work. I will give you 10 questions about some of television’s classic police shows. [00:03:00] After the trivia questions, I’ll go back and give you the answers and some fun facts. In our fun facts segment, find out which two TV cops didn’t get along in real life, causing one to leave the show. Find out which TV cop tried to sabotage his job and hated being a teen idol. Plus find out which TV cop thought his cop car looked ridiculous.

[00:03:25] Those are just a few of the fun facts that await you on this episode of Trivia Rewind. Stick around to the end of the episode to find out where you can learn more about what’s been going on over the past year to try and make police shows more accurate in their portrayal of law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

[00:03:45] Now onto the trivia. Here’s question one. In the 1977 series CHiPs, what was the last name of Ponch’s partner John?

[00:03:58] Question [00:04:00] two. In which police procedural drama that first aired in 1982, did two women play New York City police detectives, one of which was a married working mother?

[00:04:14] Question three. On the 1980s police show Hill Street Blues, what was the catch phrase often said by Sergeant Phil Esterhaus?

[00:04:26] Question four. On NYPD Blue, a police series that debuted in 1993, who was the only regular cast member that appeared in every single episode of the show? If you don’t remember the actor’s name, what was the character’s name?

[00:04:45] Question five. On what 1980s police drama did actress Heather Locklear play officer Stacy Sheridan?

[00:04:55] Question six. On what police series that first aired in [00:05:00] 1987 did Johnny Depp play officer Tom Hanson?

[00:05:06] Question seven. What is the name of the police show from the seventies that focused on two detectives that had a bright red Ford Gran Torino with two white vector stripes on the sides?

[00:05:21] Question eight. What is the name of the police series that first aired in 1984 and had a huge influence on men’s fashion, such as making wearing a t-shirt under pastel sports coats fashionable?

[00:05:37] Question nine. What is the name of the short-lived police series that debuted in 1987 and starred actor Pat Morita?

[00:05:48] And question 10.  This crime drama first aired in 1971 and the homicide detective’s catchphrase was “Just one more thing.” What was [00:06:00] the name of the show?

[00:06:02] Those were our 10 questions. Let’s go back and get the answers and fun facts. Question one. In the 1977 series CHiPs, what was the last name of Ponch’s partner John? John’s last name was Baker.

[00:06:19] Actor Erik Estrada had the role of officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello and actor Larry Wilcox had the role of officer John Baker. These two motorcycle officers were part of the California Highway Patrol. According to Internet Movie Database, “The word “Chippie” is slang for California Highway Patrol officers and dates back to the 1950s or earlier, but was rarely used until popularized by this show. The word CHiP was coined by the producers after the network balked at the name “Chippies.” In real life, Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox did not get [00:07:00] along. The grudgefest lasted for years. In 1980, People Magazine did a story on Larry Wilcox’s second marriage, where Wilcox revealed that he didn’t invite Erik Estrada to the wedding.

[00:07:13] He said, “I gave it a lot of thought and decided not to invite him. There’s no point going around telling people Erik is my best chum” he confides “because he’s not, and never will be. After all,” Larry continues, “Erik didn’t invite me to his wedding four months ago, nor to his recent birthday party. I wanted to show more class and invite him anyhow, but it went against my grain.” In the article, it says, “Wilcox admits CHiP’s appeal is due primarily to Estrada’s latin-lover looks.”

[00:07:47] Larry Wilcox was the first of the two to be hired for CHiPs and felt that Estrada was hired just for being photogenic. In the article, he says, “You had two competitive [00:08:00] actors needing to say, Hey, my talent’s bigger than yours. It was an ego problem. That first year we talked our problems over sober and drunk. We’d get things squared away for a week or two then the whole thing would start over.” I’m sure the producers got tired of the feud because for the last season of CHiPs, Larry Wilcox was no longer part of the show. In 2019 Antenna TV interviewed Larry Wilcox and from the sound of it, he and Erik Estrada have gotten past their differences. He said they’re older now and they don’t care.

[00:08:36] If anything memorable lives on from the series, it’s the iconic seventies theme song. The theme was written by John Parker and there were two different versions of the song. Not everyone liked the song though. In an article with AVClub.com, actor Colin Hanks, son of Tom Hanks said,

[00:08:56] quote, “I cannot get it out of my head. [00:09:00] To be quite honest, this has gone beyond a hatesong. I’ve gone through so many different emotions dealing with it that for better or worse, it’s just part of me now.” Want to get the song stuck in your mind? Visit triviarewind.com for a link where you can hear both versions and decide which version you like better, or if you hate it.

[00:09:24] Question two. In which police procedural drama that first aired in 1982 did two women play New York City police detectives, one of which was a married working mother? That show was Cagney & Lacey. Some have called it a quintessential show for working women. Cagney & Lacey aired for seven seasons.

[00:09:47] We probably all remember actress Tyne Daly as Mary Beth Lacey and Sharon Gless as detective Christine Cagney. Both women won multiple awards for their roles on the series. But did you know [00:10:00] that Sharon Gless didn’t always play detective Cagney? In 1981 when the TV movie pilot aired, the role of detective Christine Cagney was played by actress Loretta Switt.

[00:10:12] At the time she was starring in M*A*S*H and due to contractual obligations, couldn’t continue on with a role in Cagney & Lacey. In season one, actress Meg Foster played detective Cagney and from seasons two through seven, actress Sharon Gless took over the role. If you haven’t watched the show since the eighties, you may have forgotten that Martin Kove of Karate Kid and Cobra Kai fame had a role in Cagney & Lacey where he played the character Victor Isbecki in 113 episodes.

[00:10:46] Cagney & Lacey was almost canceled twice. The first time the series was about to be canceled, viewer protests stopped it from happening. The second time, a letter writing campaign saved the [00:11:00] show. It was finally canceled after its seventh season.

[00:11:05] Question three. On the 1980s police show Hill Street Blues, what was the catch phrase often said by Sergeant Phil Esterhaus? That phrase was “Let’s be careful out there.” Actor Michael Conrad had the role of veteran cop Sergeant Phil Esterhaus. For his role in the series he won two Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Emmy Awards. Hill Street Blues received critical acclaim and in its first season won eight Emmy Awards.

[00:11:38] When the show first aired, it wasn’t recorded with the typical studio TV cameras that most television series used. It was shot with handheld cameras, something viewers had to get used to. In an NPR article it says, “Hill Street Blues sounds like almost every excellent drama series that’s on our must-watch list [00:12:00] today. But back then it broke new ground, although it took a year and a batch of Emmy Awards before it caught on. Before that, the show had a much tougher time getting viewers accustomed to its unusual narrative style.”

[00:12:16] Not only was the series popular, the theme song was too. If you were an eighties kid that took piano lessons, I bet that somewhere you once had the sheet music for this very theme song. I know I did. It was definitely the thing back then. In November of 1981, the song made its way onto the US Billboard Hot 100 Chart climbing up to number 10. Mike Post, the composer of the hit theme song has quite a few memorable theme songs on his resume. He has composed the theme songs for Law and Order SVU, The A-Team, NYPD Blue, Renegade, The Rockford Files, LA Law, [00:13:00] Quantum Leap, and Magnum PI to name a few. Post even won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition for his Hill Street Blues theme song. Visit triviarewind.com where I will post a link to the theme song.

[00:13:16] In 1993 Hill Street Blues was named the All Time Best Cop Show by TV guide in its issue that celebrated 40 years of television. In 2013 when TV Guide came out with their list of The 60 Greatest Drama Shows of All Time, Hill Street Blues came in at number one.

[00:13:37] Question four. On NYPD Blue, a police series that debuted in 1993, who was the only regular cast member that appeared in every single episode of the show? And if you can’t remember the actor’s name, what was the character’s name? Well, the actor is Dennis Franz and he played [00:14:00] detective Sergeant Andy Sipowicz. When the show creators came to Dennis Franz to see if he’d be interested in their new police drama, he was hesitant at first because he had already played 27 cops.

[00:14:14] Did you know that he was in 44 episodes of Hill Street Blues playing Lieutenant Norman Buntz? A New York Post article interview Dennis Franz in 2015 and asked him if he was comfortable with his legacy as Sipowicz. His reply was, “I’m completely flattered when anyone says hello and remembers me from anything and that’s Sipowicz nine times out of 10. I was always flattered and honored to have the opportunity to explore that character and find whatever success I found. Personally, I’m good with that for the rest of my days. A lot of people don’t even know my name, they only know me as Sipowicz and I’m flattered.” For his role on NYPD Blue, Franz won a Golden Globe [00:15:00] Award, three screen Actors Guild Awards, and four Primetime Emmy Awards.

[00:15:05] The series definitely made headlines and created quite the stir when it first aired. 57 ABC affiliates refused to show the series premiere due to nudity and cursing. Things didn’t get any tamer. A 2003 episode of NYPD Blue got ABC in hot water with the FCC and they were fined $1.2 million for showing a naked rear end. In 2011, a New York appeals court overturned a Federal Communications Commission ruling against ABC.

[00:15:40] Question five. On what 1980s police drama did Heather Locklear play officer Stacy Sheridan? That show was TJ Hooker. Heather Locklear appeared in seasons two through five of the show. She was quite busy at the time because not only was she starring in [00:16:00] TJ Hooker, she also had a role on the hit show Dynasty. Actor William Shatner had the lead role in the series and played Sergeant TJ Hooker. He was the only main character to appear in all seasons of the show.

[00:16:15] The series was created by Rick Husky and initially the intention of the show was to rework the seventies police series The Rookies and call the new version The Protectors. However, after William Shatner’s character TJ Hooker was decided on to be the main focus, they named the series TJ Hooker. TJ Hooker ran for five seasons. Four of those years, the show aired on ABC. Its last season aired on the CBS network.

[00:16:46] According to Metv.com Shatner didn’t set the best example when it came to wearing a seatbelt. They say, “In early seasons, Hooker sets a bad example for drivers and passengers. The [00:17:00] tough cop rarely wears a seatbelt. He buckles up a little towards the end of the third season and by the time the character was cruising on CBS he was far more safety conscious. It’s a curious detail that can help you date an episode.”

[00:17:16] Question six. On what police series that first aired in 1987 did Johnny Depp play officer Tom Hanson? That show was 21 Jump Street. According to the book Johnny Depp, A Biography, the show was originally called Jump Street Chapel. Depp turned down the role to play officer Tom Hanson so the role was given to another actor. After a few weeks of shooting, the show’s creator knew it was not going to work out and what they really needed was Johnny Depp. The show was renamed 21 Jump Street and Johnny Depp’s agents were able to get him to read for the part and Depp [00:18:00] decided to take the role.

[00:18:01] There were a couple of reasons why he had a change of heart. One was that his agents told him the series probably wouldn’t even last one season. The second and probably most luring part was the money. He would earn $45,000 per episode. One thing he probably regretted later was that he was required to sign a five-year contract. The series made him a teen idol and he was recognized everywhere. During the series run, he graced the cover of several magazines. His biography says that in the show’s second season, Depp was receiving over 10,000 pieces of fan mail a month. One source claims that it was 10,000 per week.

[00:18:44] Johnny Depp did not like being labeled as a teen idol. During the series, Depp made his way into tabloids. In one instance, he got into an altercation with a security guard, spit in his face and was arrested. [00:19:00] As the series went on, his bad attitude towards the show started showing. His biography says that it was rumored that one day on set when in a bad mood, he set his underwear on fire. He even trashed his trailer. Watch Johnny Depp talk for a few minutes about how he felt working in a television series and how he tried to get fired from the show. I’ll post the link on triviarewind.com.

[00:19:27] After four seasons, Depp was released from his contract. When it was all said and done, Depp had 57 episodes in the books and a negative reply about what it was like to work on a television series. He called it quote, “Assembly-line stuff that to me was borderline fascist.” After Johnny Depp left the series, 21 Jump Street aired for a fifth season.

[00:19:53] Question seven. What is the name of the police show from the seventies that focused on two [00:20:00] detectives that had a bright red Ford Gran Torino with two white vector stripes on the sides? The name of that series was Starsky & Hutch. Do you remember their call sign? It was Zebra Three. Actor Paul Michael Glaser had the role of Detective Dave Starsky. Actor David Soul played detective Kenneth “Hutch” Hutchinson.

[00:20:25] While the show may be known for that car, one of the actors admitted to hating the car. In an article on Telegram.com, Paul Michael Glaser said, “It was a particularly ugly car. It had terrible suspension, terrible acceleration. Excuse me for saying so, it was a Ford, and the idea of a detective driving around in a red car with a white stripe is kind of ridiculous.” In the article Glazer went on to say, “When Aaron Spelling walked us out onto the parking lot and showed us this car, [00:21:00] I said, “What is this?”

[00:21:02] He said, “That’s your car.” And I said, “It looks like a striped tomato and I turned to David and said, I’m going to destroy that thing,” Glazer recalled. “It was good to have something on the set that you could take your frustrations out on.” Well, do you want to know what happened to that car? In a GQ Magazine article, it says the Gran Torino continued rolling out of Ford’s factory gates until 1976 though its chassis was used on other Fords, including the Thunderbird, until the end of the decade. In its final year, Ford produced  1000 Starsky & Hutch replica cars. All of them were two door coupes, but could be had with any of the available (at this point all V8) engines. The red used on the TV car had been discontinued but was brought back for the special edition, though Ford painted each car white [00:22:00] first before masking the iconic stripe off and spraying the rest in its distinctive crimson. It was a color scheme as iconic as any in TV history.” In 2014, a 1976 Ford Gran Torino that was claimed to have been one of the original cars used in the filming of the show, sold at an auction for $40,000. In Street Muscle Magazine’s list of The Top 50 TV Cars of All Time, the car from Starsky & Hutch came in fourth place.

[00:22:34] Question eight. What is the name of the police series that first aired in 1984 and had a huge influence on men’s fashion, such as making wearing a t-shirt under a pastel sports coat fashionable? Well, that show was Miami Vice. Miami Vice centered around the Miami Dade Police Department’s main characters, Sonny Crockett played by actor Don Johnson and [00:23:00] Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs played by actor Philip Michael Thomas. This was one of the most expensive shows to produce at the time. Before getting the Miami Vice title, the show was once going to be called Gold Coast.

[00:23:15] We all know that fashion was a huge part of this show. An article in Time says, “On a typical episode, Crockett and Tubbs wear from five to eight different outfits, always in shades of pink, blue, green, peach, fuchsia and the shows other approved colors from such chic designers as Vittorio Ricci, Gianni Versace, and Hugo Boss. The concept of the show is to be on top of all the latest fashion trends in Europe says costume designer, Bambi Breakstone who had just left for a trip to Milan, Paris and London to pick outfits for the coming season.”

[00:23:56] Thanks to the show, the sales of Ray-Ban shades skyrocketed [00:24:00] when fans saw Don Johnson wearing them. The company After Six Formal Wear even created a line of what they named Miami Vice dinner jackets. And all of the sudden it was fashionable for men not to wear socks with their shoes. Some didn’t think the show went that deep and focused more on the flashy. In the Time article it says, “Not everyone is so enthusiastic about the direction Miami Vice is taking TV. Miami Vice is a cop show. Very well done and stylish, but still a cop show, says Bruce Paltrow, the executive producer of St. Elsewhere. It’s hip and glib but not very deep.” For a minute I forgot we were even talking about cop shows.

[00:24:49] Question nine. What is the name of the short-lived police series that debuted in 1987 and starred actor Pat Morita? [00:25:00] That show was Ohara. Pat Morita had the role of Lieutenant Ohara. Ohara was one of the first television series to have a Japanese-American actor in the leading role. Pat Morita was actually one of the creators of this series that only ran for two seasons. Just three years prior to this, fans everywhere grew to love Pat Morita in his Mr. Miyagi role in the Karate Kid movie. He won an Oscar for that role. According to Internet Movie Database, in Brazil, the series was titled Karate Kid Ohara, taking advantage of the success of Pat Morita in the 1984 movie. Due to declining ratings, Ohara was canceled after its second season.

[00:25:46] And question 10. This crime drama first aired in 1971 and the homicide detective’s catchphrase was “Just one more thing.” What was the name of the show? [00:26:00] That show was Columbo. Actor Peter Falk had the role of Lieutenant Columbo a role for which he won four Emmy Awards. His character was known for his khaki colored raincoat and his cigar smoking. Remember he never had a match and was always asking for a light for his cigar? A New York Times article comments on his look saying, “In his portrayal, Mr. Falk has created a true everyman character in the sense that every man is a bit of a schlump — an antihero who is also anti chic, even if he went to a lot of trouble to look as if he didn’t care about his appearance.” The Times article even did some digging to find out whose idea it was for that coat. They say, “According to a spokeswoman for the show, the famous raincoat was purchased in Manhattan by Mr. Falk himself who misread the [00:27:00] original script which called for an overcoat. Mr. Falk also wore his own suits, ties and shoes in the early episodes, proving himself a highly cost-effective actor.”

[00:27:14] You may have noticed that actor Peter Falk looks like he’s squinting with one of his eyes. It’s one of his trademark looks. Well when he was three years old, his right eye was surgically removed due to Retinoblastoma. In a Cigar Aficionado Magazine interview, Falk shares one funny memory about his glass eye. He says, “I remember once in high school, the umpire called me out at third base when I was sure I was safe. I got so mad I took out my glass eye, handed it to him and said, try this. I got such a laugh you wouldn’t believe.” Prior to the first season, there were two pilot episodes of Columbo. On September 15th, 1971 [00:28:00] the first episode of season one debuted and it was directed by none other than Steven Spielberg. This episode titled Murder by the Book was ranked number 16 on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes Of All Time. The series ran for 10 seasons. In 2006, Peter Falk released his autobiography aptly titled Just One More Thing: Stories From My Life. Faulk died on June 23rd, 2011 at the age of 83.

[00:28:33] Today was a fun look back at 10 classic TV cop shows. There were so many other great cop shows over the years I’m sorry we couldn’t include them all today. Lately police brutality has been on the front page of major newspapers everywhere. Many feel that what is depicted in police shows do not reflect reality. According to a 2020 article in Variety, [00:29:00] “CBS Television Studios has signed an exclusive agreement with law enforcement and public safety advisory group 21CP Solutions to consult with the writing staffs of CBS crime procedurals and legal dramas, Variety has learned exclusively.

[00:29:17] The move comes in the wake of national protests against police brutality, and in Hollywood, discussions about entertainment’s role in how law enforcement is perceived by the public.” The article goes on to say “R. Scott Gemmill, showrunner and executive producer of NCIS: Los Angeles says he is very excited about the CBS 21CP Alliance. Having an audience of millions of viewers each week comes with a great deal of responsibility, he said. This new partnership will help us ensure that our storytelling continues to produce accurate portrayals of law enforcement and will hopefully allow us to play a small part in the ongoing reform [00:30:00] moving forward.”

[00:30:01] Well, do you feel that the cop shows of this day and age reflect reality? If you’d like to dig deeper into this matter, in 2020, the Norman Lear Center at USC released a report titled, The Dangerous Misrepresentations that Define Television’s Scripted Crime Genre: A Comprehensive Study of How Television’s Most Popular Genre Excludes Writers of Color, Miseducates People About the Criminal Justice System and makes Racial Injustice Acceptable. I will post a link to this report on triviarewind.com.

[00:30:37] Well, that’s it for this week’s episode. Thanks for taking the time to listen and support this podcast. Visit Trivia Rewind on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. All the links mentioned in this episode can be found at triviarewind.com. Have a great day and as Sergeant Phil Esterhaus would say, “Let’s be careful out there.” [00:31:00] And as Columbo would say, “Just one more thing,” come back for more Trivia Rewind. . .

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