Music: "Dragnet" (also known as "Dragnet March and "Danger
Ahead"), by Walter Schumann
January 1952 - December 1955,
Thursday 9:00-9:30 on NBC
January 1956 - September
1958, Thursday 8:30-9:00 on NBC
September 1958 - June 1959,
Tuesday 7:30-8:00 on NBC
July 1959 - September 1959,
Sunday 8:30-9:00 on NBC
January 1967 - September
1970, Thursday 9:30-10:00 on NBC
Joe Friday..... Jack
Romero (1951)..... Barton
Ed Jacobs (1952).....
Frank Smith (1952)..... Herb
Frank Smith (1953-1959)..... Ben
Bill Gannon (1967-1970)..... Harry
was probably the most successful police series in the history of television. By
providing the prototype of the realistic action show, it marked a major turning
point for a medium that had, for its first few years, been dominated by comedy and vaudeville.
hallmark was its appearance of realism, from the documentary-style narration by
Joe Friday, to the cases drawn from the files of a real police department (Los
Angeles, which provided the locale), to its careful attention to
the details of police work (It was 3:55... We were working the day watch out of
were reminded of the unglamorous dead ends and the constant interruptions of their private
lives that plague real policemen, and this made the final shoot-out and
capture of the criminal all the more exciting. At the end of each episode, after
the criminal was apprehended, an announcer would describe what happened at
the subsequent trial and the severity of the sentence.
concept, as created by laconic actor-director Jack Webb, caught on immediately,
perhaps because it stood out so sharply against the police-private eye
caricatures then on the air. Dragnet
became an enormous hit. Its catchphrases and devices became national bywords and
were widely satirized. There was Webb's terse "My name's
Friday - I'm a cop," and "Just the facts, ma'am"; the jargon - the criminal's "M.O." "Book him on a 358"
- and, of
course, that arresting theme music, with possibly the most famous four-note introduction
since Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
was an important part of
success, even aside from the theme. It was laced throughout every episode, dark
and tension-filled, then erupting in a loud, sudden "stinger" after an
especially significant revelation or denouncement.
In fact, Dragnet
inspired two hit records in 1953: a recording of the theme music by Ray Anthony
and His Orchestra, and the hilarious "St. George and the Dragonet" by
Stan Freberg - probably the only parody of a current TV series ever to sell a
million copies and reach number-one on the hit parade. (The record's opening
intoned, "The legend you are about to hear is true; only the needle should be
changed to protect the record...").
Dragnet began on radio in 1949 and, after a special
TV preview on
Off Time in
December 1951, opened its official TV run on January 3, 1952. Friday's
partner in the preview was played by Barton Yarborough, of the radio series. He
died suddenly of a heart attack a few days after the telecast, and four actors
Friday's sidekick: Barney Phillips in the spring of 1952; Herb Ellis in
the fall; Ben Alexander for the remainder of the seven-and-a-half-year original run, and Harry
Morgan for the revival in 1967-1970.
most of its first 12 months on the air,
ran every other Thursday alternating with Gangbusters,
another transplanted radio police show. From January of 1953 until 1959, it was a weekly
series. In 1967, after a hiatus of more than seven years, it returned to the air
under the slightly modified title Dragnet
distinguish it from the reruns of the original series still being played on many stations.
were also known as
badge number). Jack
Webb returned to the role of Friday but with a new partner, Officer Bill
Gannon. The format was essentially the same as the original Dragnet but there was
somewhat stronger emphasis on
the non-crime aspects of police work, such as community involvement and helping
individuals in trouble.