What do you get when you mix three juvenile delinquents, an enterprising police captain, and a load of social commentary mixed into the confines of an hour-long police drama? Why, TV’s “The Mod Squad,” of course; or, for the purpose of this review, The Mod Squad – Season 2, Volume 1. Yes, aggravating as it is,
Are we to believe the hype? I hate to sound cliché, but yes and no. Yes, the show presents a unique perspective. It focuses on Julie (the lovely Peggy Lipton), Pete (Michael Cole), and Linc (Clarence Williams III), who are three kids recruited from the wrong side of the law by Captain Adam Greer (Tige Andrews), a policeman with a heart of gold (and obviously no concern for child endangerment). Their mission each week: to help the police by going undercover in places the long arm of the law can’t reach… places, as the jacket copy tells us, that “only kids know about.” The fact one of these places is a honky-tonk bar filled mostly with adults and a young Southern-tongued Tyne Daly is never acknowledged as the direct contrast it is. But that is, as they say, neither here nor there.
The show was timely and obviously touched a nerve with viewers, running a respectable five seasons, which in my estimation, is about right for hour-long dramas. They usually go sour after season five, and “The Mod Squad” was no exception, receding into the background until a 1979 TV movie reunited the original cast, and a 1999 revival feature fell flat on its backside at the box office.
Could this, the original series, have lasted longer than it did? Probably, but by season two, episode one, it was already pretty standard fare, with the focus on capers, murders, and other assorted crimes, and not the lives of the three young stars themselves. There are a few notable exceptions: “A Place to Run, A Heart to Hide In,” shows surprising depth as Pete looks to solve the mysterious death of a student at a college football fraternity, and “In This Corner – Sol Alpert” gives Williams a chance to shine as an African-American youth standing up for a kindly Jewish man victimized by mistaken identity.
It’s safe to say “The Mod Squad” are comfortably sawing logs in some kind of TV sleep capsule waiting for the next time a bright-eyed Hollywood exec gets the idea to resurrect them for the big or small screens. Until then, step back on the streets with Peggy, Michael, and Linc, for a series that, while in tune with the context of its time, is now little more than run-of-the-mill cop show, dated and forgettable.
You say timely, I say retro – one thing’s for sure, the score is ultra-seventies, and permeates every episode with just the right amount of glitz and kitsch. The lone track is an English Mono that sounds bold, though a little brassy at times. Dialog levels can be soft as well. You’ll get about the same if you happen to catch an episode on television, but it meets the needs of the programming.
Zero bonus materials, and only half a season, do not good TV-on-DVD make. Skip if you’re only purchasing to see what Peggy Lipton looks like these days. Absolutely no “where are they now?” or “making-of” pieces included. These could have made the release really fun… even with just 13 episodes.
The target audience at which this show was originally aimed probably now thinks of it as nostalgia if they think of it at all. The 1999 film did very little to re-energize this franchise for newer audiences, so all we’re left with is this. Is the show as remarkable and groundbreaking as many would have you believe? In a way, yes. But if you’re in the market for angst-ridden teen drama, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of more competent choices. After all, being first doesn’t always mean being best.