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March 19, 2007

Square, Man. Really Square.

Having just recently watched several episodes of the first season of Adam-12, it feels like I'm halfway to ready to draft an essay about Jack Webb as auteur. One obsessed by the differences between bachelorhood and domesticity, it turns out, at least as much as he is with crime and punishment, or freaks and squares.

Speaking of squares....Let me work out a set of Greimasian semiotic charts on this and the cultural-studies paper would just about write itself.

Posted by smclemee at March 19, 2007 11:05 AM


Is there a current obsession with old cop shows? Or are you watching this stuff for a piece you're working on?

Just wondering. It's rare to come across someone who has recently watched both Adam-12 and Dragnet.

Posted by: Ed at March 19, 2007 1:55 PM

Fair question, Ed, but for some reason hard for me to answer. I might try to write something eventually, but it wasn't a matter of putting the videos in the Netflix queue for research purposes exactly.

In part it's a matter of remembering that I really liked them as a kid. And it's not entirely coincidental that my interest in watching them revived while reading the manuscript of my friend Rick Perlstein's forthcoming book "Nixonland." Not that either show is in any overt way political. But they tapped into the wishes and fears of the fabled silent majority in ways that seem very interesting.

I'm also really taken with the format and texture of both shows -- the look and pace of them, which are quite unlike anything produced now.

Over the past year or so, I've been developing an increasing alertness to the "grain" (so to speak) of movies, recorded music, TV programs, etc. and a growing sense of their qualities as being historical, specific to the periods when they were made. Not that this is something deliberately cultivated, by any means. It just snuck up on me.

Posted by: Scott McLemee at March 19, 2007 2:22 PM

You might want to check out www.wamu.org. Every Sunday night there's a show called The Big Broadcast. They play old radio shows including, every week at 7:30 eastern an original Dragnet with Jack Webb.

I didn't watch a lot of the TV show so I don't know whether they incorporated his mother into the show there, but she's a recurring character - not too often, but she was on last week's episode. Joe still lives at home.

They archive the shows, so you could listen at any time.

Posted by: bdr at March 20, 2007 12:48 PM

Thanks for the tip. I have heard it on WAMU from time to time but not in a while.

I believe the Big Broadcast has also played Stan Freberg's great parody, "Dragon Net," in which St. George takes down a culprit charged with "devouring maidens out of season."

Posted by: Scott McLemee at March 20, 2007 6:00 PM