Car 54, Where Are You?

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Car 54, Where Are You?
Opening title sequence
Also known asCar 54
police comedy
Created byNat Hiken
Directed byAl De Caprio
Nat Hiken
Stanley Prager
StarringJoe E. Ross
Fred Gwynne
Theme music composerNat Hiken
John Strauss
Opening theme"Car 54, Where Are You?"
ComposerJohn Strauss
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes60 (list of episodes)
ProducersNat Hiken
Billy Friedberg
CinematographyJ. Burgi Contner
George Stoetzel
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time30 minutes
Production companyEupolis Productions
Original networkNBC
Picture formatBlack-and-white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 17, 1961 (1961-09-17) –
April 14, 1963 (1963-04-14)

Car 54, Where Are You? is an American sitcom that aired on NBC from September 1961 to April 1963. Filmed in black and white, the series starred Joe E. Ross as Gunther Toody and Fred Gwynne as Francis Muldoon, two mismatched New York City police officers who patrol the fictional 53rd precinct in The Bronx. Car 54 was their patrol car.

The series had a rotating group of directors, including Al De Caprio, Stanley Prager, and series creator Nat Hiken. Filming was done both on location[1] and at Biograph Studios in the Bronx.[2]


The series follows the adventures of New York City Police Department officers Gunther Toody (badge #1432) (Joe E. Ross) and Francis Muldoon (badge #723 and #1987 in early episodes) (Fred Gwynne), assigned to Patrol Car 54. Toody is short, stocky, nosy, and not very bright, and he lives with his loud, domineering wife Lucille (Beatrice Pons). College-educated Muldoon is very tall, quiet, and more intellectual. A shy bachelor, he lives with his mother and two younger sisters. He is reluctant to get married.

Much of the series is set in the station house, with commanding officer Captain Block (Paul Reed) ordering his men to answer neighborhood police calls or investigate baffling cases that have stymied the force at large. Toody and Muldoon often blunder into these cases, encountering the criminals accidentally and proceeding on a wrong assumption. By sheer perseverance, inadvertence, and luck, Toody and Muldoon bring each case to a successful conclusion.


Episode list[edit]

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
130September 17, 1961 (1961-09-17)April 22, 1962 (1962-04-22)
230September 16, 1962 (1962-09-16)April 14, 1963 (1963-04-14)


Many of the scripts were written by Nat Hiken, who won an "Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy" Emmy Award for his work on the series.

Hiken had previously produced The Phil Silvers Show in New York; it was a military comedy with Silvers (as Sgt. Bilko) and his gang of comical soldiers. Hiken recruited many of the Bilko alumni for this new series. Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne had featured roles on the Bilko show, and Beatrice Pons was hired to reprise her old role of Ross's wife. Other veterans from the Bilko show were Paul Reed, Al Lewis, Charlotte Rae, Jimmy Little, Jack Healy, Frederick O'Neal, Martha Greenhouse, Bob Hastings, Billy Sands, and Gerald Hiken.

Some supporting players on Car 54 were so well received that they were brought back for additional episodes. Molly Picon played Mrs. Bronson, an enterprising matron who made life miserable for city authorities but always adhered strictly to the law, forcing her whims to be accommodated. Larry Storch played Charlie, the town drunk, whose constant scrapes with the police compelled Toody and Muldoon to rehabilitate him. Gene Baylos was the hapless Benny the Bookie, whose attempts at swearing off gambling always involved Toody and Muldoon. Carl Ballantine appeared as Al, Toody's imperious brother-in-law, who commanded instant obedience from his wife, Rose (Martha Greenhouse).


So that they would not be mistaken for actual police cars during location filming, the cars used for the series were painted red and white, which appeared as the proper shade of gray on black-and-white film to replicate NYPD cars of that era, which were black and green, with a white roof and trunk.

Three cars were used as the title vehicle during the series: a 1961 Plymouth Belvedere during most of the first season, followed by a 1962, and later a 1963, Plymouth Savoy.[citation needed]

Theme song[edit]

The theme song's lyrics were written by series creator, writer, and occasional director, Nat Hiken, with music by John Strauss.[3]

There's a holdup in the Bronx,
Brooklyn's broken out in fights;
There's a traffic jam in Harlem
That's backed up to Jackson Heights;
There's a Scout troop short a child,
Khrushchev's due at Idlewild;
Car 54, Where Are You?

The line "Khrushchev's due at Idlewild" refers to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. In September 1960, a year before the series began, Khrushchev flew to New York's Idlewild Airport (now John F. Kennedy International Airport) to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

Broadcast history[edit]

Car 54, Where Are You? originally aired Sunday evenings, 8:30–9:00 p.m. on NBC, following Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color and preceding Bonanza. The network run of Car 54 was sponsored by Procter & Gamble.

Guest stars[edit]

Molly Picon as a guest star (1962)

Several New York-based celebrities, including Hugh Downs, Mitch Miller, Jan Murray, and Sugar Ray Robinson, appeared as themselves. Among others cast in various episodes are:

Primetime Emmy Awards[edit]

Car 54, Where Are You? was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards, earning one.

1961–1962 (presented May 22, 1962)
  • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy: Nat Hiken – Won
  • Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Humor – Nominated (Winner: The Bob Newhart Show)
  • Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy: Nat Hiken, Tony Webster, Terry Ryan – Nominated (Winner: Carl Reiner for The Dick Van Dyke Show)
1962–1963 (presented May 26, 1963)
  • Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy: Nat Hiken – Nominated (Winner: Carl Reiner for The Dick Van Dyke Show)


Car 54, Where Are You? first entered into syndication in January 1964. It began airing on the cable channel Nick at Nite in 1987 and ran on the network until 1990. It was seen for less than one year on the short-lived Ha! Channel in 1990–91 and also aired on another Viacom-owned cable channel, Comedy Central, in the early 1990s. In 2016, the show aired early Sunday mornings on MeTV,[4] and currently airs Monday through Friday on its sister network Decades.

1994 film[edit]

Car 54, Where Are You? was made into a 1994 film, shot mainly in Toronto, starring John C. McGinley as Muldoon, David Johansen as Toody, and Rosie O'Donnell as Toody's wife Lucille. Though made in 1990, it was not released until 1994 due to the bankruptcy of Orion Pictures.[5] Original cast members Al Lewis and Nipsey Russell appeared in the film, which underperformed both critically and commercially upon release.

Home media[edit]

In the early 1990s, Republic Pictures Home Video released some episodes on VHS.[citation needed] Shanachie Entertainment announced in late 2010 it was releasing season one on DVD Region 1 on February 22, 2011.[6] The second and final season was released on April 24, 2012.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

The show's theme song is parodied as “Mario, Where Are You?” in an Atari commercial for Mario Bros.[8]

In the 1966 film Munster, Go Home! Herman Munster (also played by Fred Gwynne) starts calling for police agencies, eventually yelling, “Car 54, where are you?”

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Coletta, Charles (2002). "St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture: Car 54, Where Are You?". St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture. Archived from the original on August 19, 2005.
  2. ^ Bennett, Bruce (April 12, 2011). "Fifty Years Later, Car 54 Shows Up". The Wall Street Journal. News Corporation. Archived from the original on May 15, 2011. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  3. ^ "Amadeus music editor and composer John Strauss dies". BBC News. 2011-02-18. Retrieved 2011-02-24.
  4. ^ MeTV Staff (20 Apr 2016). "9 things you might not know about 'Car 54, Where Are You?'". MeTV. Retrieved 31 Dec 2019.
  5. ^ Glover, Kara (1991). "Financing may be hard to find for bankrupt Orion". Los Angeles Business Journal.
  6. ^ "Car 54 Where Are You? The Complete First Season" (Press release). Shanachie Entertainment. November 29, 2010. Archived from the original on October 17, 2012. Retrieved September 5, 2013 – via
  7. ^ Lambert, David (January 11, 2012). "Car 54, Where Are You? - 'The Complete 2nd Season DVD: Date, Cost, Package, Extras!". Archived from the original on March 19, 2012.
  8. ^ "Mario Bros. Atari 2600 & 5200 1983 Commercial". YouTube. February 7, 2012. Archived from the original on 2021-12-22. Retrieved October 10, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Car 54, Where Are You?, by Martin Grams, Jr. (2009). Albany: BearManor Media. ISBN 1-59393-340-1.

External links[edit]