|This article does not cite any references or sources. (July 2007)|
Jack Webb as Joe Friday in Dragnet
|Last appearance||Dragnet "2003"|
|Portrayed by||Jack Webb (1949-59, 1967-70)
Ed O'Neill (2003-04)
|Occupation||Los Angeles Police officer|
Detective III (2003)
The Joe Friday character was created and played by American actor, television producer, and writer Jack Webb (1920–1982) on Dragnet. The series ran on radio (1949–1956) and television (1951–1959 and 1967–1970), and there was also a theatrical film (1954) and a TV-movie (1969).
Over the earlier run of the series, Friday was partnered with Sgt. Ben Romero (played by Barton Yarborough), Sgt. Ed Jacobs (played by Barney Phillips), Officer Frank Smith (played first by Herbert Ellis and then by Ben Alexander), and finally his last partner Bill Gannon (played by Harry Morgan).
During the 1958–1959 season Friday was promoted to lieutenant. However, when the show returned in 1967 he was back to the sergeant rank without any on-screen explanation (Webb later explained that in reality the lieutenant rank was more of a supervisory position and involved less investigatory time in the field, which would change the structure of the show).
Friday made famous the line "My name is Friday—I'm a cop," (the latter part later changed to "I carry a badge") said in the introductory narration of every TV episode. Supposedly, he also made the line, "Just the facts, ma'am," famous. In fact, what Friday actually said in an early episode is "All we want are the facts." Friday, as portrayed by Webb, never actually said the oft-repeated phrase. Indeed, it was more Stan Freberg's parodies of the Dragnet series that popularized the phrase.
In the 1968 episode "The Shooting Board", Joe Friday states that in his entire career as a police officer he had only had to "drop the hammer on a man" twice, after an incident in which he had shot a suspect who had fired at him. This was apparently a reference to the original series episode "The Big Thief" (Season 3, episode 16) in which Friday had shot and killed an armed robbery suspect.
As a trivia note Joe Friday's date of birth was April 2, the same as Jack Webb's in real life. It was said by the character in the Dragnet 1969 episode "Community Relations" (DR-10) after the character Officer Bill Gannon asked it. However, this date is in conflict with that given in the radio episode "Big Shock", originally broadcast on August 14, 1954. In it, his partner attempts to give Joe a birthday present of fleece-lined slippers, when Friday informs him that his birthday is August 30, not March 30. He was also an Army veteran, as stated in a few episodes (Webb himself was an Army veteran).
Dragnet used Joe Friday's police badge, with the iconic numbers "714", as its title logo. It has been suggested that Jack Webb wanted badge 714 because he was a big fan of Babe Ruth, who slugged 714 home runs in his career; however, this is an urban legend. In My Name's Friday, the book-length history of Dragnet by TV commentator Micharl J. Hayde, it was asserted that Friday originally wanted the badge number to be "777," tripling the lucky number 7, but decided instead to add the last two digits together to get "14," thus making the badge number "714."
The 714 badge that Friday carried as a lieutenant during the final season of the 1951-59 series was ultimately used in real life by LAPD officer Dan Cooke (however the character of Joe Friday was never made a lieutenant though, preferring to remain in his sergeant's position). As a sergeant, Cooke had been assigned to be the LAPD's liaison with Webb during the production of the 1967-70 series. Just before filming started on the TV-movie that became the pilot for the revived series, Cooke found the badge that the LAPD had lent to Webb in 1958-59 season. However, Webb informed Cooke that he wanted Friday to be a sergeant in the revived series, and, consequently, would not need the lieutenant's badge from the original show. Cooke put the unused badge in a desk drawer and forgot about it. Years later, after being promoted to lieutenant himself, Cooke found the badge and asked for permission to use it.
When Webb died in 1982, LAPD Chief Darryl Gates officially retired shield number 714 (Webb was also buried with full police honours, a rarity for a non-policeman).
Dragnet and spinoff Adam-12 were the only television shows to use real LAPD badges.
In the show's heyday, people (either whimsically or seriously) would regularly visit the LAPD asking to speak to Sgt. Friday. The official response given by the front desk was, "Sorry, it's Joe's day off".
In 1987, actor Dan Aykroyd starred as Joe Friday, the original Joe Friday's nephew, in the comedy film Dragnet while Harry Morgan reprised his television role as Bill Gannon, now Captain, and Tom Hanks as Aykroyd's partner.
Ed O'Neill starred as Joe Friday in Wolf Films' 2003 revival of Dragnet. Since LAPD had discontinued the rank of Detective Sergeant, replacing it with the rank of Detective Three, or D-3, the rank banner on Friday's badge now said "Detective" instead of "Sergeant," and Friday was referred to as "Detective Friday" instead of "Sergeant Friday." During the first season of the series, Friday's partner was named "Frank Smith," but unlike the character played by Alexander and Ellis on the original series, this Frank Smith, as played by Ethan Embry, was not an experienced, veteran officer, but a young detective being mentored by Friday. On one episode of this show, Friday actually spoke the phrase, "Just the facts."
- The Star Ledger. December 11, 2006.