M Squad

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M Squad
Lee Marvin 1959.JPG
Lee Marvin as Lt. Frank Ballinger, from NBC's M-Squad in 1959.
Genre Crime drama
Starring Lee Marvin
Paul Newlan
Composer(s) Main theme by
Count Basie
Stanley Wilson
Incidental music and arrangements by
Sonny Burke
Pete Carpenter
Benny Carter
John T. Williams
Orchestra conducted by
Stanley Wilson
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 117 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) John Larkin
Richard Lewis
Producer(s) Robert Bassler
Maxwell Shane
Editor(s) Lee Huntington
John B. Moss
Stanley Rabjohn
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Latimer Productions
Revue Studios
Distributor Universal Television
NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original network NBC
Original release September 20, 1957 – June 21, 1960

M Squad is an American crime drama television series that ran from 1957 to 1960 on NBC. It was produced by Lee Marvin's Latimer Productions and Revue Studios. Its main sponsor was the Pall Mall cigarette brand; Lee Marvin, the program's star, appeared in its commercials during many episodes.[1][2] Alternate sponsors were General Electric (GE), Hazel Bishop and Bulova watches.


Season Episodes First aired Last aired
1 38 September 20, 1957 (1957-09-20) June 13, 1958 (1958-06-13)
2 40 September 19, 1958 (1958-09-19) July 3, 1959 (1959-07-03)
3 39 September 18, 1959 (1959-09-18) June 21, 1960 (1960-06-21)

Set in Chicago, Illinois, it starred Marvin as Detective Lieutenant Frank Ballinger, a member of "M Squad", a special unit of the Chicago Police, assisting other units in battling organized crime, corruption and violent crimes citywide. Paul Newlan co-starred as his boss, Captain Grey. Although Marvin had been appearing in feature films since 1951, it was this series that made him a star, and he later went on to an even bigger film career afterward. Nelson Case was the announcer.[3] The popularity of M Squad was proven in the ratings wars by the NBC network choosing a Thursday night time slot opposite Frank Sinatra's ABC variety show in the fall of 1957 and Phil Silvers' long running CBS comedy, Sgt. Bilko, in 1958. Both series were eventually cancelled.

Guest stars[edit]


  • The theme music for the first season was composed by Stanley Wilson, who won the 1959 Grammy Award for the Best Soundtrack Album and Background Score from Motion Picture or Television. In the second and third seasons, the new theme was composed by Count Basie.
  • A soundtrack album, Music from M Squad, with liner notes by Lee Marvin, was released by RCA Victor Records in 1959 during the last season of the show.[4]


  • The TV series Police Squad! was a spoof on police series in general, and on signature elements of M Squad in particular. The opening sequence of Police Squad! spoofed portions of the opening sequence of M Squad, particularly the theme song arrangement and the sequence with shots being fired from behind a car. As well, the Police Squad! office was designed to look very much like the M Squad office, and the narration in each series was very similar, with each character introducing himself in each episode as a "detective lieutenant".
  • Similarly, the 1994 music video directed by Spike Jonze for the song "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys directly parodies the opening sequence of M Squad, amongst other police shows.[citation needed]
  • A novel was published in 1962, M Squad: The Chicago Cop Killer, by David Saunders. It was published by Belmont Books, New York.
  • Lee Marvin carried two Colt Cobra revolvers, the lightweight variant of Colt's "Detective's Special" revolver, which was popular with detectives at the time.[citation needed]

DVD releases[edit]

Timeless Media Group released M Squad: The Complete Series on DVD in the Region 1 on November 11, 2008.[5] This release has been discontinued and is out of print.

On November 4, 2014, Timeless Media re-released the complete series on DVD in a new 16-disc special edition collection that contains an entire disc of bonus content.[6]


External links[edit]