Most people these days remember the Dragnet series from the Dan Ackroyd – Tom Hanks parody from 1987, but the original series is a thing of bizarre authoritarian beauty. Created by and starring Jack Webb as Joe Friday, Dragnet ran as a radio and a television series throughout the 1950s. The adherence to formula and jargon-larded scripts pretty much set the tone for police procedurals, and I’m willing to bet that the Law & Order and CSI franchises simply wouldn’t exist without Webb’s weird devotion to recreating the LAPD on television (Law & Order creator Dick Wolf attempted to resurrect Dragnet in 2003, with Ed O’Neill as Joe Friday. Did not last long).
But Dragnet truly came into its own with the 1967 relaunch of the series. Webb, disturbed the crazy hippies prowling the Los Angeles streets in drug-induced hazes – not to mention the youth, with their delinquency and drag racing – recreated Dragnet as an exposé of the LA drug scene. There’s something truly disturbing and hilarious about watching Dragnet from these years, as the detectives stand around like ghastly fascist mannequins and inform freaks and beatniks of their Miranda rights. In their identical grey suits and rigid postures, Jack Webb and Harry Morgan come to resemble columns from ancient ruins in a psychedelic urban wasteland.
The anti-LSD “Blue Boy” episode is late-period Dragnet at its very best, mixing mental-hygiene style drug PSA infodump with hysterical exaggeration of the actual effects and dangers of the drug. Watch the clip below. Around the 12 second mark things take a turn for the absurd and never quite find their way back. Highlights include the most literal interpretation of the phrase “head in the sand” and the world’s least specific protest march.
(Via Dangerous Minds)