Dragnet: Leading the Way For a Generation of Crime Drama

Dragnet-Friday and Gannon

” Harry Morgan and Jack Webb”

Dragnet was the original  police drama and led the way for a generation of television.

Written by and starring Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday the show  offered a look into the workings of the LAPD in a realistic manner, something that had never really been done before.  (It became the model for some of the later police dramas. )

When the announcer said at the beginning of each show that you were about to see a real story and only the names had been changed to protect the innocent my ears would perk up since it really grabbed my interest.  The radio show wasn’t too well received when it began in 1949, but later picked up a solid fan base which carried over to the TV show.

In their no nonsense way Joe and his partners were always looking for just the facts to solve their cases.  Their show had a LAPD officer as an advisor and the story lines depicted the LAPD in a no nonsense, professional way .  Jack Webb (Friday) insisted the show be accurate and authentic in depicting the work of the police.  Cases on Dragnet ran from shop lifting to murder and included everything in between.  Stories dealt with the mundane part of police work as well as the more exciting events.  At the end of each show you saw the defendants in Court and heard that the cases were tried in a Department of the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Los Angeles.  You also were told the sentence for the defendant as well as where he would serve his time.  At the time I believed all the stories were true.

Dragnet 60 Second Promo

When I was young my Dad and I would listen to the radio shows while I did homework.  The voices of the actors and the announcers on the show were wonderful.  The plots really held your interest.  Raymond Burr played the detective in charge on the radio.  He later came to star in his own TV show Ironsides. (Another of my favorite shows)

In 1951  Dragnet came to the TV screen.  The show played off and on for years.  Joe and his partner usually wore  pretty much the same cloths each week. Nothing fancy, just what a real policeman might be able to afford and wear.  Friday’s dry acting  style worked just a well on TV as it had on radio.  Joe Friday had several partners over the years.  His partners offered a little humor against Friday’s deadpan approach to things.  My favorite partner for Joe Friday was Officer Bill Gannon played by Harry Morgan from 1967 – 1970.  Once in a while a lady was mentioned for Joe, but I don’t think he ever really had a girlfriend on any of the shows.  Many of the radio scripts were used for the later TV shows.  Since I prefer to listen and not watch a TV show this made Dragnet just perfect for me.

After Jack Webb’s death two revivals were attempted.  But, without Jack Webb the shows just were not the same.  Jack Webb’s Dragnet gave many evenings of pleasure during the years it was on the air both on radio and TV.