Police Squad!

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Police Squad!
Police squad in colour.jpg
Format Police procedural spoof
Created by Jim Abrahams
David Zucker
Jerry Zucker
Starring Leslie Nielsen
Alan North
Peter Lupus
Ed Williams
William Duell
Narrated by Leslie Nielsen
Theme music composer Ira Newborn
Opening theme "Theme from Police Squad!"
Composer(s) Ira Newborn
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 6 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) David Zucker
Jim Abrahams
Jerry Zucker
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Paramount Television
Broadcast
Original channel ABC[1]
Original run March 4, 1982 – July 8, 1982[1]
Chronology
Followed by The Naked Gun film series

Police Squad! is a television comedy series first broadcast in 1982, created by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker, and starring Leslie Nielsen. A spoof of police procedurals, the series featured Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker's usual sight gags, wordplay and non sequiturs. While a parody of many television shows and movies, it bore a particular resemblance to the Lee Marvin cop show, M Squad (especially the opening credits) and the late 1960s series Felony Squad.[2] Although cancelled after only six episodes, the show spawned the successful Naked Gun film series. TV Guide ranked it #7 on their 2013 list of 60 shows that were "Cancelled Too Soon".[3]

Overview[edit]

Police Squad! was created by Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, who had all previously worked together on The Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane!. Despite critical acclaim, the show was cancelled by ABC after just six episodes.[4] The show gained a strong cult following through repeat broadcasts,[5] which led to The Naked Gun film series. Many gags from the show were recycled for all three films.

Alan North played the role of Captain Ed Hocken on the show; in the films, the role was played by George Kennedy. Peter Lupus co-starred as Officer Norberg, but in the films, O.J. Simpson appeared as the similarly named Officer Nordberg. Ed Williams, who played scientist Ted Olson on the show, reprised his role in the films, making him and Nielsen the only two actors from the series to appear in the movies. Robert Goulet, who appeared as one of the "special guest stars" who were invariably killed off at the beginning of their episodes, appeared as the villain Quentin Hapsburg in the second Naked Gun film. Dr. Joyce Brothers played herself in the first Naked Gun film. She also played herself in the fourth episode of the show.[6] Vanna White appeared in the third and final Naked Gun film.

Each episode featured end credits over a 1970s style freeze frame of the final scene, except that the frame was not frozen – the actors simply stood motionless in position while other activities (pouring coffee, convicts escaping, chimpanzees running amok) continued around them.

Episodes[edit]

Each episode had two different titles. The first title was shown on the screen, while an announcer reads the second one instead. The episode number often corresponds to the number of garbage cans that Frank's car crashes into.

Title Directed By Written By Air date Code
1 "A Substantial Gift (The Broken Promise)" David Zucker
Jim Abrahams
Jerry Zucker
David Zucker
Jim Abrahams
Jerry Zucker
4 March 1982 1PS01
Special guest star: Lorne Greene
Sally Decker (Kathryn Leigh Scott), a teller at a credit union, murders her boss, so she can steal money from the credit union and pay her orthodontist the money she owed. She kills a customer and frames him for the murder. The Police Squad department is called in to investigate the case; Frank is suspicious about the customer's guilt.
2 "Ring of Fear (A Dangerous Assignment)" Joe Dante Tino Insana
Robert Wuhl
11 March 1982 1PS02
Special guest star: Georg Stanford Brown
In order to expose corrupt boxing manager Mr. Martin (Rudy Solari), Frank goes undercover as manager Bob Kelly. Frank makes a deal with boxer Buddy Briggs, whom he trains for a title fight against the current champion "The Champ" (Grand L. Bush). However, Martin has kidnapped Briggs' girlfriend, and will only release her if Briggs deliberately loses the fight. In a race against the clock, Frank has to find Buddy's girlfriend before Buddy gets knocked out.
3 "The Butler Did It (A Bird in the Hand)" Georg Stanford Brown Pat Proft 18 March 1982 1PS05
Special guest stars: Robert Goulet, Cathy Murphy, Tommy Lasorda
Frank, Ed, and Norberg investigate the kidnapping of Terri Burton (Lilibet Stern), the daughter of a wealthy businessman, who has been kidnapped during her 18th birthday party. The kidnappers demand $1,000,000 ransom money. The only witness to the kidnapping is Burton's boyfriend Kingsley Addison (Ken Michelman), who had plans to marry Burton.
4 "Revenge and Remorse (The Guilty Alibi)" Paul Krasny Nancy Steen 25 March 1982 1PS04
Special guest star: William Shatner
The Police Squad department is sent to investigate a bombing at the courthouse. The main suspect is Eddie Casales (Spencer Milligan), a bomber who was sent to jail by the victims killed in the explosion. Following the attack on the courthouse, the assistant DA who prosecuted Casales is killed with a bomb hidden in his car. All evidence points to Casales, but Frank thinks it is a setup.
5 "Rendezvous at Big Gulch (Terror in the Neighborhood)" Reza Badiyi Nancy Steen
Neil Thompson
1 July 1982 1PS03
Special guest star: Florence Henderson
After a small group of mobsters blackmail various store-owners, Frank and Norberg go undercover and set up a key-making and locksmith store. The mobsters offer Frank "protection" in exchange for money, but Frank declines. While they attack the store with guns, Frank and Norberg's Locksmith store remains, enraging the mobsters' boss.
6 "Testimony of Evil (Dead Men Don't Laugh)" Joe Dante Tino Insana
Robert Wuhl
8 July 1982 1PS06
Special guest star: William Conrad
Frank investigates a body of a struggling comedian found at the bottom of a cliff in a car crash. Although the comedian's death appears to be a suicide, Frank soon learns that this comedian was an informant on a drug ring he infiltrated at his nightclub. In order to catch the person responsible, Frank takes the place of the deceased at the nightclub he worked.

Cast[edit]

Drebin, Norberg and Hocken, the main characters of Police Squad!

Leslie Nielsen portrayed Sergeant Frank Drebin, Detective Lieutenant Police Squad. Jerry Zucker explained that the name Drebin was picked blindly from the phone book.[7] Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker had met Nielsen when working on Airplane! (1980) and felt their kind of humor matched.[7] The team felt Nielsen would be perfect as Drebin as the character lampooned the roles Nielsen had played in television dramas such as The Bold Ones: The Protectors and S.W.A.T..[8] Ed Williams co-starred as lab technician Ted Olson; Williams had been a science teacher for many years and had done a little acting. Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker were amazed by his performance.[7]

Of the main cast, Nielsen, Taylor & Wiliams were the only ones who returned and portrayed their original characters in The Naked Gun film series. Captain Ed Hocken was portrayed by George Kennedy in the film series, while O. J. Simpson played Officer Nordberg.

Production[edit]

Opening sequence[edit]

Lorne Greene was a special guest star in the first episode.

The show's opening sequence was a satire on traditional opening sequences of crime dramas at that time, and of the 1950s, particularly Quinn Martin shows such as M Squad and The Fugitive.[9] Hank Simms, who had worked as an announcer for some of Quinn Martin's programs, announced the title of each episode,[9] though the spoken title never matched the title caption.[10][11] The sequence introduces Nielsen and North as their characters during a shoot out,[12] as well as Abraham Lincoln impersonator Rex Hamilton, who dramatically returns gunfire to John Wilkes Booth. Hamilton never appeared in the show though.[13]

Another recurring gag used in the opening sequence was the introduction of a "special guest star", a celebrity who was introduced but immediately murdered during the credits.[14] Lorne Greene, Georg Stanford Brown, Robert Goulet, William Shatner, Florence Henderson and William Conrad appeared as special guest stars during the show's run.[14][15][16][17] A scene with John Belushi, tied to blocks of concrete under water,[18] was filmed but replaced with footage of Henderson, due to Belushi's subsequent death before the episode was broadcast.[9] Belushi's death came as a shock to Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, as they had joked about it after he almost choked during the filming of the scene.[9] A list of possible celebrity death shots was included on the show's DVD release in 2006.[19]

Writing[edit]

The show was set to mock cop procedurals the same way Airplane! mocked disaster movies.[17] Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker wrote the pilot episode,[7] in which most straight lines were directly copied from an M Squad episode.[20] Pat Proft, who had worked with Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker on Airplane! and The Kentucky Fried Movie,[21] wrote the third episode.[22] Robert Wuhl was invited to join the writing staff after he had auditioned for the lead role in Airplane!. He co-wrote the show's second and sixth episodes with Tino Insana.[10][22][23] Both episodes contained cultural references to old movies such as On the Waterfront and The French Connection.[10] In the audio commentary Wuhl recorded for the DVD release, he mentioned that it was a nice opportunity, but that he did not really feel a connection with the show, especially because of its short run.[10]

Music[edit]

The famous theme, composed by Ira Newborn.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The opening and closing music was penned by composer Ira Newborn. The jumping big band/blues theme (a parody of the M Squad theme composed and performed by Count Basie) was retained for the Naked Gun movies, along with the opening police-light visual of the Police Squad! series. It has been covered by some swing-style dance bands on CD, and has even been scored in marching-band style by arranger Paul Jennings.

The animated TV series Family Guy used the theme in the opening of its "PTV" episode, complete with character Stewie Griffin's tricycle replacing the visual of the Police Squad car.[24]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Emmy Awards[25]
Year Category Nominee Result
1982 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Leslie Nielsen Nominated
1982 Outstanding Writing In A Comedy Series David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker
for the episode: A Substantial Gift (The Broken Promise)
Nominated
Other awards[26]
Year Category Nominee Result
2006 Satellite Award for Best DVD Release of a TV Show "The Complete Series" Nominated

Cancellation[edit]

ABC announced the cancellation of Police Squad! after four of its six episodes had aired in March 1982. The final two episodes were aired that summer. According to the DVD Commentary of "A Substantial Gift" (episode 1), then-ABC entertainment president Tony Thomopoulos said "Police Squad! was cancelled because the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it." What Thomopoulos meant was that the viewer had to actually pay close attention to the show in order to get much of the humor, while most other TV shows did not demand as much effort from the viewer. In its annual "Cheers and Jeers" issue, TV Guide magazine called the explanation for the cancellation "the most stupid reason a network ever gave for ending a series."[citation needed]

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, has said, "If Police Squad! had been made twenty years later, it would have been a smash. It was before its time. In 1982 your average viewer was unable to cope with its pace, its quick-fire jokes. But these days they'd have no problems keeping up, I think we've proved that."[27]

Home video releases[edit]

In 1985, Paramount Home Video first released all six episodes of the show on VHS, Betamax, and LaserDisc; Paramount released the show on two separate volumes: Police Squad!: Help Wanted! and More! Police Squad!, each volume containing three episodes.[28][29] On the release of the show, Washington Post critic Tom Shales commented "People can rent them and laugh, and then cry that ABC was so cruel."[30]

Paramount and CBS DVD first released the series on DVD in 2006 in a keepcase, on one disc.[31] The DVD contained various extras, including actual production notes from network executives, a "freeze-frame" that was filmed but never used, bloopers, casting tests, and an interview with Nielsen.[32] Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, producer Robert K. Weiss and writer Robert Wuhl recorded audio commentary for the first, third and sixth episodes.[33] Critics universally praised how the show was still funny more than 20 years after its cancellation.[34][35][36] The DVD set was nominated for a Satellite Award for Best DVD Release of a TV Show, though it lost to the DVD set of the eighth season of Fox's The Simpsons.[37] While the Police Squad VHS and Beta videocassette releases had audio only playable in mono sound, the 2006 CBS/Paramount DVD release had its audio remastered and all 6 episodes are available in Dolby Digital 5.1.

Spin-offs[edit]

The Naked Gun films[edit]

Main article: The Naked Gun

Six years after the cancellation of Police Squad!, the first Naked Gun film was released called The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. It performed well at the box office grossing around $78,756,177.[38] The hit comedy became so popular that two sequels The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994) were released, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear was considered the most successful of the three, grossing around $86,930,411,[39] while Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult grossed $51,132,598.[40] Roger Ebert rated the first movie 3½ out of four stars, and gave 3 stars to the two following films.[41]

Red Rock Cider commercials[edit]

A series of British advertisements for Red Rock Cider were made in the same style, with the opening titles changed to other names such as "Fraud Squad" or "Fried Squid", featured Leslie Nielsen. In one of these ads, Nielsen shouts, "Hey! You, over there, in the shadows!" The man steps forward and reveals himself to be Hank Marvin,[42] guitarist with sixties pop group, the Shadows. The catchphrase was "Red Rock Cider—it's not red, and there's no rocks in it." The opening titles were re-used for the commercials (see above), they included:

  • There Go My Trousers (Terror in the Night)
  • Operation Undercover (The Secret Assignment)[43]
  • My Wife Ate A Walrus (The Amy Johnson Story)[44]
  • Albert Einstein Form Guide (Voiceover David Healey, Available For Bar Mitzvahs)[45]

Some of the jokes that were used in the commercials were originally taken from Police Squad! such as when Frank says "Cover me!" he gets covered with a blanket, which was one of the gags taken from "The Butler Did It (A Bird in the Hand)".

The advertisements were shown in British cinemas as well as on television.

Other spin-offs[edit]

After the show's cancellation (and well before production on the Naked Gun movies), the producers considered turning the show into a movie by linking several episodes together with new scenes. A few of these scenes were actually filmed (including an elaborate "freeze frame" gag involving a burning courtroom) before the project was abandoned. This footage can be viewed on the DVD release.

The Police Squad! characters were resurrected during the WWE's Summerslam 1994 PPV. In this guise, they were looking for The Undertaker, who in storylines had previously vanished.[46]

See also[edit]

  • A Touch of Cloth, a 2012 UK mini-series that spoofs crime shows in similar fashion.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The TVIV". Police Squad!. Retrieved January 3, 2008. 
  2. ^ The creators stated this in a featurette for The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear.
  3. ^ Roush, Matt (June 3, 2013). "Cancelled Too Soon". TV Guide. pp. 20 and 21
  4. ^ "Barnes and Noble". Police Squad! DVD Release. Retrieved January 19, 2008. 
  5. ^ "Police Squad! at TV Guide". Premise. Retrieved January 3, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Dr. Joyce Brothers at Tv.com". appearances. Retrieved January 3, 2008. 
  7. ^ a b c d Zucker, Jerry; Abrahams, Jim; Zucker, David; Weiss, Robert K.. Police Squad: The Complete Series: Audio Commentary for "A Substantial Gift (A Bird in the hand)" (DVD). CBS Paramount. 
  8. ^ Werts, Diane (November 10, 2006). "Badge of Humor - Short-Lived 1982 Series that Spoofed Cop Shows Comes with some Great Extras". Lexington Herald-Leader. p. 11. 
  9. ^ a b c d Zucker, Jerry; Abrahams, Jim; Zucker, David; Weiss, Robert K.. Police Squad: The Complete Series: Audio Commentary for "The Butler Did It (A Bird in the Hand)" (DVD). CBS Paramount. 
  10. ^ a b c d Wuhl, Robert. Police Squad: The Complete Series: Audio Commentary for "Testimony of Evil (Dead Man Don't Laugh)" (DVD). CBS Paramount. 
  11. ^ McKerrew, Steve (July 24, 1991). "Quirky ' Police Squad !' returns". The Baltimore Sun. p. C10. 
  12. ^ Abrotsky, Justin L. (November 29, 2010). "In Memory of Leslie Nielsen: The hilarious intro and ending to Police Squad!". Sun Sentinel. 
  13. ^ Berhman, John (March 9, 1985). "Escondido teacher Rex Hamilton is dead at 60". The San Diego Union. p. II-1. 
  14. ^ a b Bark, Ed (July 13, 1997). "Tired of TV? Try...UBN No hits, No hype. Just one critic's idea of the perfect prime-time week". The Dallas Morning News. p. 1C. 
  15. ^ "Police Squad introduced clueless Frank Drebin -90210 makes debut on DVD". The Washington Times. November 9, 2006. p. C1. 
  16. ^ Shales, Tom (July 1, 1982). "Okay, Hands Up! ' Police Squad !': Back And Copping Laughs". The Washington Post. p. M20. 
  17. ^ a b Terrance, Vincent (1985). Encyclopedia of Television Series, Pilots and Specials: 1974-1984. VNR AG. p. 329. ISBN 978-0-918432-61-2. 
  18. ^ Bark, Ed (December 29, 1985). "The Best of '85 (and a few duds, too!)". Dallas Morning News. p. 1C. 
  19. ^ Police Squad: List of Celebrity Death Shots (DVD). CBS Paramount. 
  20. ^ Carr, Jay (December 12, 1988). "Exposing a trio of film makers who take spoofs quite seriously". Boston Globe. p. 5C. 
  21. ^ Baenen, Jeff (November 27, 2003). "Screenwriter just loves laughs". Deseret News. p. C4. 
  22. ^ a b Reinhart, Mark S. (2009). Abraham Lincoln on screen: fictional and documentary portrayals on film and television. MacFarland. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-7864-3536-4. 
  23. ^ Westbrook, Bruce (November 7, 2006). "Police Squad has arresting humor - Cult TV series only had six episodes". Houston Chronicle. 
  24. ^ "PTV". Family Guy. Season 4. Episode 14. 2005-11-06.
  25. ^ Advanced Primetime Awards Search from the Emmy Awards website
  26. ^ "Police Squad! at the Internet Movie Database". Awards. Retrieved January 3, 2008. 
  27. ^ http://www.tv.com/4-tv-shows-that-should-have-lasted-longer/webnews/139186.html
  28. ^ Burr, Ty (December 20, 1991). "Trigger-Happy". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 15, 2009. 
  29. ^ Bark, Ed (December 29, 1985). "The Best of '85 (and a few duds, too !) - Videos:". The Dallas Morning News. p. 1C. 
  30. ^ Shales, Tom (July 24, 1985). "TV Could Take Lessons from Coke Executives". The Washington Post. p. 16. 
  31. ^ Hicks, Chris (December 29, 2006). "The best of 2006: DVDs". Deseret News. p. W1. 
  32. ^ Russo, Tom (December 31, 2006). "Extras - from commentaries to featurettes to complete alternative versions - make these discs extraordinary". The Boston Globe. p. 20N. 
  33. ^ Westbrook, Bruce (November 7, 2006). "New on DVD: Police Squad has arresting humor - Cult TV series only had six episodes". Houston Chronicle. p. 2. 
  34. ^ Owen, Rob (November 19, 2006). "Popular Discs - TV Shows on DVD are Gifts with Something Extra". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. GG8. 
  35. ^ Werts, Diane (November 10, 2006). "Badge of Humor - Short-Lived 1982 Series that Spoofed Cop Shows Comes with some Great Extras". Lexington Herald-Leader. p. 11. 
  36. ^ Barnhart, Aaron (December 6, 2006). "Police Squad: Big laughs from a little DVD set". Kansas City Star. 
  37. ^ "2006 11th Annual Satellite Awards". International Press Academy. Retrieved November 15, 2009. 
  38. ^ "BoxofficeMojo". The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. Retrieved January 11, 2008. 
  39. ^ "BoxofficeMojo". The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear. Retrieved January 11, 2008. 
  40. ^ "BoxofficeMojo". The Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult. Retrieved January 11, 2008. 
  41. ^ "RogerEbert.com". The Naked Gun movies. Retrieved Sep 22, 2009. 
  42. ^ "Red Rock Cider commercials on Youtube". Retrieved January 11, 2008. 
  43. ^ "Red Rock Cider commercials on Youtube". Retrieved January 11, 2008. 
  44. ^ "red rock cider advert, 1990's". Retrieved November 29, 2010. 
  45. ^ "Classic Ads: Red Rock Cider: Fraud Squad Albert Einstein's Form Guide". Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  46. ^ Baer, Randy; R.D. Reynolds (2003). Wrestlecrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 168. ISBN 1-55022-584-7. 

External links[edit]