Jack Webb invented the modern television police procedural with the creation of Dragnet, first as a radio play and eventually as a successful television series. The series told the tale of a pair of L.A. detectives. There wasn’t any flair or action sequences. No car chases and no gun fights. When Jack Webb turned his attention to the patrol officer, he realized that some of that formula would have to change. But he wouldn’t tweak it very much. There was the occasional gunfire, but it was rare and was never the focus of any given story. Instead Webb concentrated on the actual procedures and duties of the everyday patrol officers, thus the invention of the procedural drama. It was no small step for television audiences and was likely very much responsible for the shape of the young medium and the shows that would follow up to this very day. Now the episodes might seem quite tame by today’s standards, and I don’t doubt that many of you might even get a chuckle at the no nonsense dialog that has become a Jack Webb trademark. Still, you won’t get a truer look behind the curtain than Adam 12. It was a show very much of its time.
Adam 12 debuted on NBC in 1968 and ran until May of 1975. The show never really changed at all for its 7 seasons. It starred Martin Milner as officer Pete Malloy and science fiction genre veteran Kent McCord as officer Jim Reed. They rolled in the black and white that bore the call letters Adam 12. They were headquarted at L.A.’s Rampart precinct, the same area as Jack Webb’s sister show about firefighters and paramedics, Emergency. The two shows shared a rather odd relationship. They did cross over and appeared to exist in the same universe; however, an episode of Emergency once featured a storyline where the paramedics where trying to watch a nail biter climax on Adam 12 only to be called away at the crucial moment. They spent the rest of the day trying to find out what happened. Yet they would meet the characters as real police officers in their own pilot. The firefighters would also appear on an episode of Adam 12. If that’s all rather a little confusing, blame the complicated world of Jack Webb.
If the Jack Webb universe might be a little confusing, there was nothing complicated about the show itself. The two officers would spend most of their day on patrol answering police calls that came in from dispatch. Most of the shows featured a formula that included one major case and a few time killers. Anything from getting a cat out of a tree to busting a drug dealer was fair game for the officers who lived by their motto of: To Protect And To Serve. The third season was no different. Cases included teenage purse snatchers, loan sharks, bomb threats, missing toddler, arson, and extortion rings. One episode in particular, Log 105 – Elegy For A Pig, gave us a look into Pete’s background as he remembers his partner who was killed in the line of duty. It’s a rare episode that involves a personal matter for the officers. Each half hour episode ended with an epilogue that revealed what happened to the various perps that the cops came across that day. It was a Jack Webb signature.
There are 26 episodes on this 4 disc collection.
Each episode of Adam 12 is presented in its full frame original broadcast format. Keep in mind this was a 1970’s television drama, and the less than perfect transfer will not disappoint too much. You should expect the considerable grain and overall dirty look to the prints. Colors are typically soft, common with the 1970’s broadcast quality. Black levels are neither deep nor detailed.
The Dolby Digital Mono track is pretty much on par with the video. The sound is neither dynamic nor clean. You’ll notice some high-end distortion, particularly on the blaring sirens. The musical cues are often harsh. Dialog is usually clear, but there are times that ambient sounds such as sirens and traffic noises cause you to miss a word here and there.
Sure, it’s a little corny by today’s standards. Okay, it’s a lot corny by today’s standards, but whoever your favorite television cop is you owe a huge debt to Adam 12 for paving their way. If you haven’t yet, you just gotta check this stuff out. It doesn’t matter what season you start with. All of the stories are pretty much self contained. Don’t be surprised if you find them more than a little addictive. Last night I put in a disc at about 10:00PM, and before I knew it there was a “two-eleven in progress”.