Bring Gangbusters Home!

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 Gangbusters Vol. 1

 Gangbusters, Vol. 2

 Gangbusters, Vol. 1 & 2


Show Type: Police Anthology

First Telecast: March 20, 1952

Last Telecast: December 25, 1952

Creator/Writer: Phillips H. Lord

Broadcast History:

March 1952-December 1952, Thursdays 9:00-9:30 on NBC


Phillips H. Lord


Gangbusters was one of the all-time classics of radio, running for some 21 years (1936-1957) on various networks. However, its history on television was short, for unusual reasons.

The format was the same as in the radio version. Action-packed stories on the apprehension of major criminals, taken from "actual police and FBI files," were presented in semi-documentary style. There was no continuing cast, but Phillips H. Lord, creator and writer of the show, appeared each week as narrator. At the end of each telecast, a photo of one of the nation's most-wanted criminals was shown, and anyone having knowledge of his whereabouts was asked to phone the local police, the FBI, or Gangbusters direct. (Over the years, the "most-wanted" feature of the radio Gangbusters resulted in the apprehension of several hundred criminals.)

Gangbusters premiered on TV in March 1952, alternating on Thursday nights with Dragnet. Both shows were phenomenally successful, completely overwhelming their competition. (In fact, the other three networks virtually gave up trying to compete, and scheduled political-discussion programs opposite them). During the fall of 1952, Gangbusters averaged a 42 rating, garnering virtually all of the audience available in its time slot and ranking number eight among all programs on TV. Nevertheless, it left the air in December - making it probably the highest-rated program ever to be cancelled in the history of television.

The reason for the cancellation appears to be that Gangbusters was never intended to be a full-time TV show, but merely a stopgap provided by the sponsor to fill in the weeks when Dragnet wasn't on. Jack Webb even appeared at the end of each telecast to plug the next week's Dragnet episode. Webb could not at first provide a new Dragnet film every week, but when he could, Dragnet (which was even more popular than Gangbusters) went weekly and Gangbusters had to make way.