Police Squad!

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Police Squad!
Police squad in colour.jpg
Title card for Police Squad!
GenreCrime comedy
Created byZucker, Abrahams and Zucker
Written by
Narrated byLeslie Nielsen
Theme music composerIra Newborn
Opening theme"Theme from Police Squad!"
ComposerIra Newborn
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes6
Executive producers
  • David Zucker
  • Jim Abrahams
  • Jerry Zucker
CinematographySherman Kunkel
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time24–25 minutes
Production companyParamount Television
DistributorParamount Television
Original networkABC[1]
Picture format35 mm film
Audio formatMono
Original releaseMarch 4 (1982-03-04) –
July 8, 1982 (1982-07-08)[1]
Followed byThe Naked Gun film series

Police Squad! is an American television crime comedy series that was broadcast on the ABC network in 1982. It was created by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, and starred Leslie Nielsen as Frank Drebin. 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 (in particular the opening credits) and the late 1960s series Felony Squad.[2] Although the show was canceled after six episodes, it was later followed by The Naked Gun film series from 1988 to 1994. In 2013, TV Guide ranked it #7 on its list of 60 shows that were "Cancelled Too Soon".[3]


Police Squad! was created by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, who had previously worked together on The Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane!. They declined to work on a sequel to Airplane! and instead chose to apply the comedic approach of that film to television.

The producers were contracted to produce an initial six episodes. The show aired as a mid-season replacement in March 1982, but was taken off the schedule after four episodes. The remaining two episodes were dumped onto the summer schedule in place of the usual summer reruns. Despite critical acclaim, the show was canceled by ABC after just six episodes.[4] The show gained a strong cult following through repeat broadcasts on cable channels. They were repeated dozens of times on A&E, for example.[5]

Alan North played the role of Captain Ed Hocken on the show, and Peter Lupus co-starred as Officer Norberg (in the films, those roles were played by George Kennedy and O. J. Simpson respectively, with Norberg renamed Nordberg). Apart from Nielsen, the only actors who reprised their roles in the films were Ed Williams as scientist Ted Olson, and Ronald "Tiny Ron" Taylor as Al, a very tall officer who is seen only from the neck down. Robert Goulet, who appeared as one of the "special guest stars" who were invariably killed off at the beginning of episodes, appeared as the villain Quentin Hapsburg in the second Naked Gun film. Joyce Brothers played herself in the first Naked Gun film. She also played herself in the fourth episode of the show.[6]


A recurring gag was that each episode's voiced title differed from that displayed on screen. In the following list, the voiced title is in brackets.

No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date Production
1"A Substantial Gift (The Broken Promise)"David Zucker
Jim Abrahams
Jerry Zucker
David Zucker
Jim Abrahams
Jerry Zucker
March 4, 1982 (1982-03-04)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 DanteStory by : David Misch
Teleplay by : Tino Insana & Robert Wuhl
March 11, 1982 (1982-03-11)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' wife, and will only release her if Briggs deliberately loses the fight. In a race against the clock, Frank has to find Buddy's wife before Buddy gets knocked out.
3"Rendezvous at Big Gulch (Terror in the Neighborhood)"Reza BadiyiStory by : Pat Proft
Teleplay by : Nancy Steen & Neil Thompson
July 1, 1982 (1982-07-01)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.
4"Revenge and Remorse (The Guilty Alibi)"Paul KrasnyNancy Steen and Neil ThompsonMarch 25, 1982 (1982-03-25)1PS04
Special guest stars: William Shatner, Dr. Joyce Brothers
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"The Butler Did It (A Bird in the Hand)"Georg Stanford BrownStory by : Deborah Hwang-Marriott & Robert K. Weiss
Teleplay by : Pat Proft
March 18, 1982 (1982-03-18)1PS05
Special guest stars: Robert Goulet, 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.
6"Testimony of Evil (Dead Men Don't Laugh)"Joe DanteTino Insana & Robert WuhlJuly 8, 1982 (1982-07-08)1PS06
Special guest stars: William Conrad, Dick Clark
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.


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

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

Rex Hamilton was credited in every episode as "Abraham Lincoln", and the same clip of him was invariably played in the opening credits. However, he never appeared in the program, only in the credits.

Nielsen, Taylor, and Williams were the only members of the main cast who returned to portray 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 (slightly renamed from "Norberg").


Opening sequence[edit]

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

The show's opening sequence was a satire on traditional crime-drama opening sequences, particularly those of M Squad and various Quinn Martin shows such as The Fugitive and particularly The New Breed (which also starred Nielsen).[9] Hank Simms, who had worked as an announcer for some of 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 shootout,[12] as well as Abraham Lincoln impersonator Rex Hamilton, who dramatically returns gunfire to John Wilkes Booth. Hamilton never appeared in the show itself.[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 following Belushi's 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 had 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]

Johnny the Shoeshine Guy[edit]

At some point in each episode, Lt. Drebin would stop by the shoe-shine stand of Johnny (William Duell), an informant, and would obtain some valuable information about the crime after passing him some money. A running gag was the subsequent arrival of another customer (including celebrities Tommy Lasorda, Dick Clark, and Dr. Joyce Brothers) offering money in exchange for information for their own personal or professional needs.

Closing sequence[edit]

The end of every episode featured Drebin and Hocken talking about the week's criminal going to "Stateville Prison", and mentioning the names of the criminals from all previous episodes. The scene ended with an imitation freeze-frame, with the actors trying to stand still while various things happened to or around them (such as Hocken pouring coffee into Drebin's cup until it overflows and starts burning him.)


The show was intended to mock police dramas in the same way in which Airplane! had 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] In fact, the pilot episode was an almost scene-for-scene remake of "More Deadly," the opening episode of the second season of M Squad. 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. In the audio commentary that 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]


Awards and nominations[edit]

Emmy Awards[24]
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)"
Other awards[25]
Year Category Nominee Result
2006 Satellite Award for Best DVD Release of a TV Show "The Complete Series" Nominated


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. In an interview for the DVD release of the series, Nielsen said ABC entertainment president Tony Thomopoulos asserted Police Squad! was canceled because viewers had to pay close attention to the show in order to get much of the humor.[26] Nielsen also thought the premise was more effective in the successful Naked Gun films because the much larger screen size in a cinema meant viewers saw more of the visual gags. 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."[27]

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."[28]

Home media[edit]

In 1985, Paramount Home Video first released all six episodes of the show on VHS, Betamax and LaserDisc formats as two separate volumes: Police Squad!: Help Wanted! and More! Police Squad!, each volume containing three episodes in their production order.[29][30] 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."[31]

Paramount and CBS DVD first released the series on DVD in 2006 in a keepcase on one disc.[32] The episodes were placed in the order in which they had aired on ABC. 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.[33] Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, producer Robert K. Weiss and writer Robert Wuhl recorded audio commentary for the first, third and sixth episodes.[34] Critics universally praised how the show was still funny more than 20 years after its cancellation.[35][36][37] 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.[38]

The series was released in Blu-ray format in the US on April 14, 2020.[39]


The Naked Gun films[edit]

Six years after the cancellation of Police Squad!, the first Naked Gun film was released, titled The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. It performed well at the box office, grossing around $78,756,177.[40] The hit comedy became so popular that two sequels, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33+13: The Final Insult (1994), were released. The Naked Gun 2+12: The Smell of Fear was considered the most successful of the three, grossing around $86,930,411,[41] while Naked Gun 33+13: The Final Insult grossed $51,132,598.[42] Roger Ebert rated the first movie 3+12 out of four stars and gave three stars to the two following films.[43]

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", and featuring 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 of a popular music group called The Shadows.[44]

  • Operation Undercover (The Secret Assignment)[45]
  • My Wife Ate a Walrus (The Amy Johnson Story)[46]
  • Albert Einstein Form Guide (Voiceover David Healy, Available for Bar Mitzvahs)[47]

The advertisements were shown in British cinemas as well as on television. They were directed by John Lloyd, with such apparent success that Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker approached him to direct Naked Gun 33+13: The Final Insult, but he turned them down.[48]

Other spin-offs[edit]

The Police Squad! characters were resurrected during the WWE's Summerslam 1994 pay-per-view event, when they were shown looking for The Undertaker, who in storylines had previously vanished.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Police Squad!". The TVIV. 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. Archived from the original on August 7, 2011. Retrieved January 19, 2008.
  5. ^ "Police Squad! at TV Guide". Premise. Retrieved January 3, 2008.
  6. ^ "Dr. Joyce Brothers". TV.com. Archived from the original on March 31, 2009. Retrieved January 3, 2008.
  7. ^ a b c 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 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. ^ Advanced Primetime Awards Search from the Emmy Awards website
  25. ^ "Police Squad! at the Internet Movie Database". Awards. Retrieved January 3, 2008.
  26. ^ Police Squad: The Complete Series (2006). CBS Paramount. ISBN 1-4157-2217-X
  27. ^ Ess, Ramsey. "A Lost Script from the Files of the 'Police Squad!'". www.vulture.com. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  28. ^ "4 TV Shows That Should Have Lasted Longer". CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 8 October 2010.
  29. ^ Burr, Ty (December 20, 1991). "Trigger-Happy". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  30. ^ Bark, Ed (December 29, 1985). "The Best of '85 (and a few duds, too !) – Videos". The Dallas Morning News. p. 1C.
  31. ^ Shales, Tom (July 24, 1985). "TV Could Take Lessons from Coke Executives". The Washington Post. p. 16.
  32. ^ Hicks, Chris (December 29, 2006). "The best of 2006: DVDs". Deseret News. p. W1.
  33. ^ Russo, Tom (December 31, 2006). "Extras – from commentaries to featurettes to complete alternative versions – make these discs extraordinary". The Boston Globe. p. 20N.
  34. ^ Westbrook, Bruce (November 7, 2006). "New on DVD: Police Squad has arresting humor – Cult TV series only had six episodes". Houston Chronicle. p. 2.
  35. ^ Owen, Rob (November 19, 2006). "Popular Discs – TV Shows on DVD are Gifts with Something Extra". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. GG8.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ Barnhart, Aaron (December 6, 2006). "Police Squad: Big laughs from a little DVD set". Kansas City Star.
  38. ^ "2006 11th Annual Satellite Awards". International Press Academy. Archived from the original on September 17, 2011. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  39. ^ Police Squad!: The Complete Series Blu-ray Release Date April 14, 2020, retrieved 2020-05-29
  40. ^ "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!". BoxofficeMojo. Retrieved January 11, 2008.
  41. ^ "The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear". BoxofficeMojo. Retrieved January 11, 2008.
  42. ^ "The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult". BoxofficeMojo. Retrieved January 11, 2008.
  43. ^ "The Naked Gun movies". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved Sep 22, 2009.
  44. ^ "Red Rock Cider commercials on Youtube". Retrieved January 11, 2008.[dead YouTube link]
  45. ^ "Red Rock Cider commercials on Youtube". Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved January 11, 2008.
  46. ^ "red rock cider advert, 1990's". Retrieved November 29, 2010.[dead YouTube link]
  47. ^ "Classic Ads: Red Rock Cider: Fraud Squad Albert Einstein's Form Guide". Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
  48. ^ Roberts, JF, "The True History of the Black Adder", 2013, Random House
  49. ^ Baer, Randy; R.D. Reynolds (2003). Wrestlecrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling. ECW Press. pp. 168. ISBN 1-55022-584-7.

External links[edit]