Southland first aired on the NBC television network in its first season and had already been cleared for a second season on NBC, but suddenly was caught up in the Jay Leno/Conan O’Brien debacle when Leno moved to 10PM. NBC explained it away by claiming the show was too “dark” for 9PM – so, NBC promptly canceled several of their 10pm dramas and Southland became a casualty of circumstance. Fortunately, TNT Network picked up the series and it aired for an additional four seasons. Southland borrows many elements of success that were used on ADAM-12 and even Dragnet with a subtle homage to Jack Webb by opening each episode with a similar type narration vaguely describing the episode, but from an anonymous voice.
As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has stated: Southland was the new ADAM-12 with a much bigger dose of realism. Unlike ADAM-12, SouthLAnd was working under an extremely tight budget and they could not license the usage of the city seal and slogan, however, they did an awesome job replicating the city seal with a minor adjustment and altered the slogan from “to protect and to serve” to “to serve and protect.” Replica LAPD badges were used since the LAPD no longer allows the use of their real badge since there are many replica badges now available that resemble the real LAPD badge.
Keep in mind, when Jack Webb put ADAM-12 on the air in 1968, the LAPD allowed him the use of the authentic seal, slogan, fonts and badges without having to pay a licensing fee. Southland was not granted that privilege, but it was filmed with more authenticity for the actors as all the extras were real LAPD officers, they used actual sirens on location (not dubbed in later) and a private (then public) radio channel for radio calls so the actors and audience heard the call over the actual radio.
When they moved to a public radio channel (due to budgetary reasons) for radio calls, the division number was no longer mentioned and some official radio jargon was slightly altered in case the public or media was monitoring the calls and they did not want it mistaken for a real incident. The producers chose to continue this process even when using a public radio channel for the sake of authenticity and reaction from the actors. They could have reverted to the ADAM-12 method and dubbed in a dispatcher’s voice in post production using the division number, but they chose to stay with the original format for the sake of realism. However, as with any production, certain scenes are sweetened in post production with background radio calls and background sirens. Also, the numbers on the trunk of the patrol cars and shop numbers do not match because the show was not studio based and majority of filming was done on location so producers were careful to avoid confusion with police Airships or media agencies. Check out the SOUTHLAND page.
ADAM-12 aired for 7 seasons on the NBC Network. The shows concept came from R.A. Cinader and developed by Jack Webb. The main characters were carefully written and designed. The real LAPD badges, equipment, replicated interior design of the real Rampart Police Station and parking area in sound stage 42 at Universal Studios gave it an even more authentic feeling and there was always an LAPD Technical Adviser present to give them proper instruction on procedure.
After devoting two years in researching the background of the show and speaking to former producers, directors, wardrobe people, script supervisors, relatives of executives that have passed away, I learned that ADAM-12′s success was based on all of the professionals involved. After all, some technical aspects were so correct that police academies around the world used segments of the show as training films and it’s amazing how many people think Malloy and Reed were real people. I can assure you, they are not. Martin Milner and Kent McCord are excellent actors, but nothing like their carefully written characters…and, no… they did not know what it was like to be a real police officer. Not their fault… they were just acting and with directors yelling “cut” every few seconds, cameras, lights and an entire crew surrounding them, the situation made it truly impossible to feel like a real cop. ADAM-12 was filmed in very short segments and then edited together with stock footage of the radio, stock footage of the car (not Marty driving), stock footage of a hand (not Marty’s) activating the lights/siren, stock footage of a hand (not Kent’s) grabbing or replacing the microphone, dispatcher and siren dubbed in later in post production. The truth is the stories were loosely based on true stories and not only the names were changed but most of the story had been changed for television.
When I was 8 years old, ADAM-12 filmed near my parents house, so all the kids in the neighborhood went to watch Reno West (Jed Allen) getting pulled over. Nothing like watching it filmed to taint the illusion, it took all day to film what amounted to 30 seconds on the air. They filmed very short segments, then reset the camera angle and do it over again. The actors were pampered, the make-up was on thick and that’s when I realized… these guys aren’t real cops. Still fun to watch and an awesome show that was extremely well produced. Visit the ADAM-12 sections and the Galleries section for even more pictures and locations where they filmed in the city.
Joseph Wambaugh’s POLICE STORY began it’s 5 year run in 1973 on the NBC TV Network. Wambaugh is a former LAPD Sergeant and author of best selling books about his experiences as a cop. POLICE STORY had a unique format with different stories each week, different actors and settings within the LAPD. Sporadically, the same characters would return for an episode or an arc. NBC initially intended to use the show as a testing ground for other potential shows and spin them into a successful series, which POLICE STORY was able to accomplish with Police Woman and The Return Of Joe Forrester, however, the show itself did so well in the ratings that NBC tried to hold on to their unexpected hit series.
The show did not pay the same attention to detail as ADAM-12 and did not use accurate police cars or real LAPD badges. But for the most part, they did a nice job incorporating the proper gear, LAPD jargon and dealing with more realistic situations. Compelling story-lines were attention grabbing with a little more grit and not so homogenized as ADAM-12 was beginning to appear. In comparison to ADAM-12, POLICE STORY was killing the former champion in the ratings on the same network.
The Producers chose to end the show after a successful solid 5 year run (against NBC’s wishes) because it became very difficult to write a different story with different actors each week. Not an easy show to produce, much like ‘Love American Style’, if you remember that show. The Producers and writers went on to create other famous cop shows (not about LAPD) for the NBC Television Network. POLICE STORY is often overlooked and sometimes forgotten, but it was popular in it’s day and had a major influence on how cop shows were later structured.
DRAGNET is where it all began. The police procedural was born on the radio and became such an immediate success with it’s fresh new approach and its staccato speaking star, Jack Webb as tough, but fair cop Joe Friday. The show became so popular that the LAPD embraced the star and the show. Jack worked closely with the LAPD and always incorporated their recommendations for both Dragnet and Adam-12. Dragnet and the “Webb-style” cut and dry format soon aired on both NBC radio and television as its popularity soared.
The show seemed so realistic with it’s official approach, that listeners and viewers would ask for Sgt. Joe Friday when calling the police. The public felt as if they knew Joe Friday and he was the cop to call if you wanted a fair shake from the police. Dragnet’s popularity eventually began to fade rapidly in the late 1960′s and Joe Friday’s style became less effective and more so campy and silly to the audience. Webb had two shows on the air and neither one was succeeding in the ratings, so Webb was given the option to cancel one of his shows, either Dragnet or Adam-12. He chose to end Dragnet so he could concentrate on creating new shows for his company. Oddly enough, Webb wasn’t much into the stories, he liked the hardware – the toys: police radio, guns, lights etc. It was R.A. Cinader who carefully researched and created Webb’s two most successful television shows; ADAM-12 and EMERGENCY! But in order to gain success for each of the shows, Cinader pulled away from the passe Jack Webb-style.
Webb produced his other TV projects using his old style and format with failing results; his company eventually closed since he had no more television shows on the air. Jack Webb was a private man who’s first love was Jazz music more than police work and he owned one of the most expensive, elaborate sound systems of the time. He spent little time with his wives or his children and more time at the bar when he wasn’t working. He suffered a massive heart attack while attempting a TV comeback, however, he had aged very badly and appeared older than his 62 years and frankly, by 1983 it would have seemed odd to see an old Sgt. Joe Friday doing the same job. Dragnet’s return was not to be and maybe it was a good thing. I believe most viewers enjoy remembering Webb at the top of his game and still appreciate watching DRAGNET with that good old Webb-style. Visit the DRAGNET section for more information about the series and some great pictures.