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Franchise: Dragnet
"Their job... to enforce the laws, and preserve the safety of decent citizens."

Archetype of the Police Procedural, Dragnet followed the exploits of Sgt. Joe Friday (badge number 714) and his partners as they investigated crime in Los Angeles.

Dragnet was the brainchild of its star, writer, director and producer Jack Webb, who brought to the screen a level of realism in the Police Procedural that had never been seen before and has only rarely been seen since. This was accomplished via contacts he had in the LAPD, who provided him with both anonymized versions of actual cases and details on contemporary police procedure.

Unqualified, the title Dragnet usually refers to an entire franchise of series which ran intermittently from 1949 to 1971:

  • Dragnet, the original radio series, which ran from 1949-1957.
  • Dragnet, called Badge 714 in syndication, a black and white (with one exception) TV series running from 1951-1959. There was a theatrical film adaptation in 1954 and print adaptations in the form of paperback books and newspaper strips.
  • Dragnet 1967, a Revival of the original series, which ran (under a different title each year) from 1967 to 1971. (This series was launched by a movie, unsurprisingly titled Dragnet 1966.) While sometimes considered the show's weakest incarnation, and prone to unintentional self-parody, this series is the most familiar one to modern audiences. Being filmed in color, it was more attractive to syndicators, and still being under copyright, it's the only incarnation that has received an official DVD release.

Officer Bill Gannon, played in the revival series by Harry Morgan, was actually a Suspiciously Similar Substitute, the last and best known of several partners Friday had in the course of the show. Barton Yarborough portrayed Friday's original partner, Sgt. Ben Romero, from the start of the radio show until his death in December 1951, just three episodes into the first TV version. He was briefly succeeded by a number of different partners until Ben Alexander took over as Officer Frank Smith from late 1952 to the end of the TV show's original run in 1959.

Unlike just about every other police show in history, the focus of Dragnet was not always on homicide: Friday and his partners rotated through the various departments from week to week, allowing them to solve not only murders, but also fraud, arson, and drug-smuggling. Each episode ended with an unseen voiceover announcer giving the results of the perp's trial, accompanied in the TV version by his/her mug shot.

The show spawned a number of CatchPhrases, such as "The story you are about to hear is true"; "This is the city: Los Angeles, California"; and "My name's Friday. I'm a cop" (eventually, "My name is Friday; I carry a badge"). But the most famous phrase identified with the show — "Just the facts, Ma'am" — is actually a Beam Me Up, Scotty! born from a series of Dragnet parodies created by Stan Freberg.

The four note Sting used as a Theme Tune and at commercial breaks is one of the most recognizable musical cues in the history of television and radio. Even today, the sting signifies the forces of law and order as a calm, methodical and relentless force hounding criminals. Listen here (.wav file).

Joe Friday's badge, number 714, which appears during the opening titles, is a real LAPD badge, not a reproduction. Joe Friday is the only fictional character ever to be issued an official badge number by a US police department. When Jack Webb died in 1982 he was given full LAPD police honors at his funeral although he had never actually served in the force. The chief of police, Daryl F. Gates, also announced that badge number 714 would be retired and would never be assigned to anyone else.

After Jack Webb's death, the franchise continued to grow, with varying degrees of success:

  • A 1987 feature film, a combination homage and Affectionate Parody, features Dan Aykroyd as a new Joe Friday, the nephew of Webb's character, and Tom Hanks as his partner. The duo are assigned to investigate a series of bizarre and (seemingly) unrelated robberies and vandalisms, eventually uncovering a dastardly plot by an underground pagan group to undermine all authority in Los Angeles. Harry Morgan reprises his role as Bill Gannon, now a captain.
  • In 1989, a Dragnet (sometimes The New Dragnet) revival (In Name Only) aired in syndication. It featured an LAPD cop named Vic Daniels, and the only connection to its namesake was the Framing Device of the opening narration.
  • Dick Wolf attempted a Revival in 2003 with a series which was eventually retitled LA Dragnet, staring Ed O'Neill as Joe Friday. It lasted only a season and a half. After the first season, the show's format moved away from the original Dragnet template to one closer to Wolf's Law & Order, with Friday supervising a group of officers.

Dragnet provides examples of:

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    The (various) Series 
  • Ability over Appearance: When the series was first being brought to television, Jack Webb argued that his face was not suitable for television and suggested Lloyd Nolan be cast as Joe Friday in his place. Fortunately, neither NBC nor Liggett & Myers (owners of Fatima) would accept any substitute.
  • Always on Duty: Webb did his best to avert this. It is made clear that our main characters are one team out of many working one shift out of many and that just as much happens off-camera as on. In the episode "D. H. Q. — Night School", however, Friday flat out states "I'm a police officer, I have to be on duty 24 hours of the day"note . Also subverted slightly in episodes in which one of the partners invites the other for dinner and neighbors come out of the woodwork, looking for help.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender/Disguised in Drag: A 1950 radio episode, "The Big Girl," (adapted for the television show in 1954) told the story of a series of increasingly-brutal robberies, committed on men by a beautiful, tall woman, with the descriptions given varying only in hair color and style. By the end of the episode, Friday and Smith had tracked down the perp - a man who convincingly disguised himself as a woman. (Unfortunately, the TV version didn't have the man shown in disguise - on the other hand, the actor cast in the role didn't look like he would have pulled it off.)
  • Author Filibuster:
    • The 1967 series was quite fond of this as Joe Friday has had his fair share of long-winded lectures about the moral of the episode. In "The Interrogation," a policeman (Kent McCord, pre-Adam-12) is accused of robbing a liquor store. He says that whether or not he's found guilty he'll leave the force. Friday gives him an epic three-minute rant about how tough police officers have it.
    • A subversion in "The Grenade" — Gannon takes the floor to deliver the filibuster, on how teens were growing up too fast.
  • Badass: Joe Friday could be one when the situation called for it. There is an early episode when Joe and Bill track down a couple thugs who shot another cop with a shotgun. Joe kicks down the door, shoves a shotgun in the perp's face and says: "Flinch and you'll be chasing your head down Fifth Street." Later on, he tells the same guy, "I've bumped into jaywalkers tougher than you."
  • Bibles From The Dead: A gang uses this con in "The Big Betty," albeit with cheap watches and other bits of useless junk rather than Bibles.
  • Big Eater: Bill Gannon. Or perhaps more accurately Weird Eater. As part of his comic relief role, when Gannon wasn't trying to make an honest man of Joe he was usually telling Joe about recipes like his secret bbq sauce ("here's the secret, Joe...add a quart of vanilla ice cream"), bringing his "lunch box" (a fishing tackle box holding everything from extra bread to jars of pickled quail eggs) to work, buying chilli and cupcakes when the two do policework in restaurants and bakeries, and offering Friday a bite of sandwiches combining such things as pastrami pickle and peanut butter. And as he'd say — the topper ("are you listening, Joe?") would be his favorite and most famous sandwich: The Garlic Nut-Butter Sandwich. (See Your Favorite, below).
  • Bottle Episode:
    • The aforementioned three minute rant occurs in an episode called "The Interrogation" in which the only characters are Friday, Gannon, and the guy they're questioning (a cop named Paul Culver, played by Kent McCord aka Jim Reed of Adam-12 fame). It's just the three of them in a room in Internal Affairs for the half hour.
    • "The Big Prophet" features only Friday, Gannon and a self styled Prophet who helps people "find their way" through drugs in a half hour debate with only one set — the interior and exterior of the Prophet's "church".
    • "The Big Squeeze" features only Friday, Gannon, a syndicate man named George Fox and a tape recorder full of evidence.
    • A 50s episode called "The Big Phone Call" has a very similar plot to "The Big Squeeze," this time involving a robbery.
    • "A.I.D. — The Weekend" focuses on Friday being a guest at Gannon's house for a weekend. It plays much more like a sitcom than a typical episode and the actual crime doesn't become part of the plot until the last six minutes.
  • Bribe Backfire: Repeatedly, because Joe Friday was notoriously non-bribeable. Once, a Dirty Cop tried to bribe him to protect his bookmaking...Joe went to the captain and worked with him to get evidence for arrest. Another involved Gypsy fortune tellers who tried it...Joe went along long enough to get evidence, then busted them.
  • Broken Aesop: In one episode, ".22 Rifle for Christmas", the two investigate the shooting of a child near Christmas. They learn it was done accidentally by the boy's best friend when they were playing with the boy's Christmas gift, a rifle. The dead boy's father storms over to the friend's house, but when he sees how hurt the boy is over the loss of his friend, gives the boy all the dead child's Christmas toys. Lesson learned: kill your friend and you get all their toys. However, it is also made pretty clear the victim's friend is deeply remorseful, and that both families have been, perhaps, permanently damaged by the shooting.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Friday and his partners. This is presented as a positive trait, too — standard procedure is standard for a reason, and on this show, trying to second-guess that usually makes things worse.
  • Call Back:
    • The Subscription Racket references The Bank Examiner Swindle.
    • A scene in the episode involving stealing dogs to collect reward money references the purse-snatching dog episode.
  • Catch Phrase: Several examples frequently used or parodied, including, "My name is Friday. I carry a badge."
  • Character Filibuster: Mostly overlaps with Author Filibuster, as Joe Friday (whose views are indistinguishable from Jack Webb's) gets the vast majority of the big speeches. "The Big Prophet" is an exception. The discussion between Friday and Gannon and a Timothy Leary Expy/suspect is, almost literally, an episode-length formal debate over "Resolved: Drug use is harmless." The Leary character, while a Strawman Political whose arguments are demolished by the detectives, actually gets a pretty good opportunity to state his case, and about as much time to do so as the cops get.
  • Christmas Episode: The series did at least two. One was ".22 Rifle for Christmas", which lives up to its ominous title (see the TearJerker page for more details). Then there was "The Big Little Jesus", about a baby Jesus statue being stolen from a nativity creche. The culprit turned out to be a little boy who "borrowed" the statue to give it a ride in his wagon.
    Joe Friday (narrating): The display was almost perfect. One of the Wise Men had a chipped face, a donkey was old and broken, and the baby Jesus was missing from his manger.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The hippie florist in "The Big Dog".
  • Comic Book Adaptation: Although there was a comic strip, there was surprisingly no US comic book released of either the original TV series or the 1960s version. Several issues of a Dragnet comic based on the show were published in Australia, however.
  • Continuity Nod: In the 1970 episode "The Dognappers" Gannon is reading a book from the police library to try to "brush up" on his dog knowledge. The book was ordered by Sgt. Friday in response to the events of the 1968 episode "The Big Dog".
  • Cop Killer:
    • Discussed in an episode each of the radio show and the '60s TV series. Friday monologues that the reason the department goes all-out to catch cop killers isn't just because they killed a friend of theirs. To paraphrase, if a suspect is willing to kill an armed police officer, would they hesitate to kill a civilian?
    • In one episode of the '60s series two officers, a rookie and his training officer, are shot apprehending bank robbers, one of whom escapes. The older officer dies shortly after coming out of surgery and, according to the end of the episode, the captured robber was sentenced to death.
  • Cop Show: Not the first, but its popularity helped establish the genre.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Bill Gannon as revealed in the episode "A.I.D. — The Weekend."
  • Cross Over: Officers Malloy and Reed, from the Webb-produced Adam-12, appear in a 1968-69 season episode, "Internal Affairs: DR 20". There are cases of Kent McCord in earlier episodes appearing as other officers, including ones named Reed. However, it's not certain if the character's name is Jim Reed since those episodes aired before the first episode of Adam-12 did.
  • Darker and Edgier: The 1954 theatrical movie is more violent (and more graphically violent) than the radio or TV series.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Friday, occasionally.
  • Dramatic Deadpan: Joe Friday, usually. Bill Gannon, occasionally.
  • Driving a Desk: Averted in the times when they're actually driving while filming, played straight whenever Bill waggles the steering wheel despite driving down straight city roads.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Emphasized repeatedly, especially in the '60s revival.
  • Ear Trumpet: Appears in one episode as Joe Friday and his partner attempt to question a hard-of-hearing witness.
  • Et Tu, Brute?/Dirty Cop: Or perhaps "Et Tu, Christophore?"note  In an episode of the third season in the Sixties, one of the best cops on the force has turned crooked.
  • Eyepatch of Power: In the episode "D. H. Q. — Night School", the fellow classmate in Friday's night class that forces the Professor to keep Friday in the class.
  • Framing Device: The opening and closing narrations.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Friday comes close to calling a suspect's mother the 'B' word after lighting her cigarette, only to have her blow smoke in his face.
    Female Suspect: You know, you're kinda sexy....for a cop.
    Joe Friday: ...And I bet your mother had a loud bark!
  • Generic Cop Badges: Subverted, see above.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: A non-sexual example. In the episode "The Prophet", Friday states "Marijuana is the flame, heroin is the fuse, LSD is the bomb." In 1993, a techno song was released, entitled "LSD is the Bomb," which quoted Friday's line.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: This trope is invoked in the late '60s series, where at least one criminal of the week espouses it. In a different episode, Friday recommends that a teenage boy try the local library instead.
  • Hospitality for Heroes: In one episode, Friday and Gannon bust a perp just before he can go after a restaurant owner. Immediately afterwards, a line of dialogue reveals that the cops haven't had lunch yet. The restaurant owner immediately offers a free lunch; when they refuse she tells them to sit down and order anyway, there's nothing controlling the size of the portions she serves them.
  • Humans Are Bastards: "The story you are about to hear/see is true." And some of the crimes are horrific.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming:
    • Most episodes of the original radio/TV series were titled "The Big (something)".
    • The 1969 season's episodes are named "(Division): DR (number)".
  • Impersonating an Officer: Con artists try this occasionally. There's four episodes in the 60s series alone which qualify:
    • A pair of phony bank examiners, stealing money from pensioners by claiming they need it to conduct a sting on a bank teller. Gannon poses as a mark and asks the fake inspectors if they're carrying identification.
    Con artist: Here's my badge. We always carry it. (gets out fake credentials)
    Joe: (comes in from the next room with his badge out) So do we. You're under arrest.
    • A pair of phony vice cops shakedown out-of-town businessmen by getting a scantily-clad woman into their room somehow, then conducting a phony prostitution arrest. The con comes when the not-cops claim the victim out-of-towner needs to stay in town long enough to testify at the woman's arraignment. note  They convince the mark, however, that if he forks over $1000 for bail, the woman will likely disappear, meaning no need to testify, and more importantly, no chance anyone back home will hear the mark had anything to do with a prostitute.
    • A group of con artists with a phony police protection league convince marks to pay for a classified ad in their magazine, which comes with a special card that allows holders to get special privileges from the police, such as getting moving violations discarded. The cards don't work, of course.
    • Lastly, in a more benign version citizens are calling the department looking for "Officer Gideon C. Dengle" to give him awards for his service. The LAPD has no Officer Dengle on the payroll, so Friday and Gannon go looking for the amateur cop.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Joe Friday. His only vice is cigarettes, which can be Handwaved given the time the TV show was filmed, and that the series was once sponsored by Chesterfield cigarettes.
  • Infant Immortality: Studiously averted. Two babies die in the '60s series alone, one by drowning in the bathtub when his parents get so high that they forget he's in there, the other by being shaken to death — by his father.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: By Walter Schumann. The famous "dum-da-DUM-dum" sting was actually swiped (unintentionally) from Miklós Rózsa's score to the 1946 film The Killers, which is why Rózsa is co-credited in print if not on screen. (Ironically, he never did any work in television himself.) Later arranged as a swingin' big-band number by Ray Anthony (which became a hit single), and a rather excellent four-part fugue by Stephen Malinowski.
  • It's All About Me: Most of the criminals feel this way, but Mister Daniel Lumis takes the cake, feeling that even the cops should accept his my-wants-trump-all attitude and apologize for daring to interrupt his three-game bowling series with handcuffs.
  • Its Pronounced Tro Pay: In the 1950s TV and radio episodes, archaic pronounciations for "Los Angeles" (Los ANG-el-ess, with a hard "G" sound compared to a soft "G" or "J" sound that comes out "Los An-jel-ess") and "California" (Cal-i-forn-ee-a) are often heard.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Friday is a Knight in Shining Armor who sometimes slips into this, particularly in the 1967 revival when confronting egregious examples of late '60s societal decay.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities:
    • Despite his years of competent service to the force, Friday is apparently never able to rise above the rank of sergeant. He does make lieutenant toward the end of the original series, but for the revival show he's knocked back down to sergeant without (in-universe) explanation. Jack Webb once explained that this was because in real life a police lieutenant would have more of a Desk Jockey position and wouldn't be involved in the nuts and bolts of an investigation. That wasn't what Webb wanted for the character, and he wanted to keep the show as true-to-life as possible, so...
    • Subverted with Officer Bill Gannon though, who we see has made Captain in the 1987 movie.
  • Locard's Theory: Possibly the earliest TV instance, in an early episode.
  • Los Angeles: "This is the city..."
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Different episodes put Friday and his partner in different departments — whichever one is appropriate for the case being investigated, basically — but within each episode jobs are delegated as normal.
  • Mistaken for Quake: Friday and Gannon stay in a hotel posing as orange growers to infiltrate a high-stakes gambling game and the room is right next to the elevator shaft. Friday mistakes the rumbling and shaking for an earthquake the first time it happens.
  • Momma's Boy: Middle-aged bachelor Friday still lives with his mother during the early seasons of the older version. Eventually, he moves out and gets his own apartment.
  • Motive Rant: A frequent staple.
  • The Movie: Two — a theatrical release in 1954 and a TV movie made in 1966 which didn't air until 1969 (the network delayed release when they decided to go ahead with a new series).
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The culprit in The Big Crime. The only thing he's glad of was that he forgot the pocketknife—he'd have killed the kids had he remembered it.
  • Myopic Architecture: During a security check of a business during one of the '60s episodes, Gannon manages to open a locked door by pulling it open and breaking the door frame in the process, then explains to the shocked business owner that a fancy new lock means nothing if the door it's attached to has a frame that's rotting away.
  • Narrator: Friday himself.
  • Opening Narration: By Friday.
    • In the 1966 revival, his opening narrations often included facts and statistics about the city of Los Angeles relating somehow to that episode's case. By the time of Dragnet 1971, however, Webb more often then not just opened with a standard "This is the City — Los Angeles, California. I work here...I carry a badge", before the opening credits.
    • The openings of the original 1950s TV series were similar but often ended with "I'm a cop" instead of "I carry a badge."
  • Overt Operative: When Joe Friday has to go undercover and pretend to be anything other than a cop. In-Universe, he's good at it, but it can be awfully tough for the audience to buy, since everything about Jack Webb's demeanor just screams "cop," even when he uses the alias "Joe Fraser."
  • Perp Sweating: A particular talent of Friday and his partner. "The Big Squeeze" is a half-hour of Friday and Gannon slowly, patiently, expertly wearing down a very savvy suspect by bringing out their bits of evidence — which aren't in themselves enough for an indictment — at just the right time to catch him in his various lies, eventually unsettling him enough that he confesses.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: In the 1954 movie, Friday and Smith finally get the evidence to put Starkey's two killers away. Unfortunately, by the time they get it, one has been rubbed out by his fellow crooks, and the other has died during a cancer operation.
  • Police Procedural: Invented the genre and was king of it for two decades.
  • Precious Puppies:
    • Ginger, a drug sniffing dog. The closing narration tells us she did her job so well the Underground paid her their highest complement: they put a price on her head.
    Joe Friday: (To a fellow cop belittling the dog program) "Woof"
    • One episode has Friday and Gannon on the trail of a purse-stealing canine.
  • Product Placement: A good part of the first 3 1/2 minutes of the 1954 episode "The Big False Make" looks a lot like a commercial for Poland Spring water, even with a close-up shot of the label in Officer Smith's hands and another of him opening the bottle. The pretense is that Smith offers the water to Friday to drink instead of the water out of the fountain.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: If the story you were about to see weren't true, Willing Suspension of Disbelief would sometimes be impossible. Lampshaded in Mister.
    Gannon: The more I learn about Mister Lumis, the more he sounds like the figment of someone's imagination.
  • Real Time: The radio episode "Attempted City Hall Bombing" takes place over half an hour, in-universe and out of it. This format is preserved, with slight modifications to allow for commercial breaks, both in the second radio version produced for the series ("The Big Bomb") and in the version filmed for television ("The Human Bomb").
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Averted - as Webb was a big music fan, he insisted that every episode of both the radio and television versions have an original score (supplied on the original show by theme composer Walter Schumann for the most part, although Schumann's orchestrator Nathan Scott did several as well; Frank Comstock and Lyn Murray handled the revival).
  • Required Spinoff Crossover: Kent McCord and occasionally Martin Milner appearing as their Adam-12 characters Reed and Malloy.
  • Roman ŕ Clef: As it says on The Other Wiki, "Webb was a stickler for accurate details, and Dragnet used many authentic touches, such as the LAPD's actual radio call sign (KMA367), and the names of many real department officials, such as Ray Pinker and Lee Jones of the crime lab or Chief of Detectives Thad Brown." The then-Chief of Police was always credited at the end of every episode.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: It's the title object in the ('67-'71 revival series) episode The Big Gun.
  • Schiff One-Liner: Friday usually made some wryly trenchant comment at the end of the main part of the episode, leading to the four-note Sting and the results of the trial.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Usually instigated by Ben Romero (in the radio series), Frank Smith or Bill Gannon (in the television series).
  • Series Continuity Error
    • Frank Smith is introduced at the beginning of the original TV series' second season, but 20 episodes later it's stated that he and Friday have been partners for years.
    • When Friday faces a police board over shooting a robber, Gannon testifies that he and Friday had been partners for five years. A few episodes later in the episode "The Big Neighbor" Friday mentions they've been partners for eight years.
    • In the first episode of the '60s revival, the famous "Blue Boy" ep., Bill states he has two boys. But every time his kids are mentioned later, it's four boys. It's true they could have been born during the series, but when Joe visits Bill's home in two episodes, it doesn't look like there are any babies or very young children living there.
    • During season one of the '60s revival there is a pair of episodes involving frauds. In the first episode, Friday and Gannon are working on a case involving phony bank examiners. Later they are working on a magazine subscription racket with a different pair of detectives working on the bank examiners case.
  • Shout-Out: Friday's badge number (714) commemorated Babe Ruth's career home run total.
  • Shown Their Work: Webb took accuracy and research very seriously, and it shows in the scripts.
    • Webb was very concerned about the minutiae of police work and oversaw everything down to things like a scrap of paper left hanging on a thumbtack in the background because he felt that including every possible bit of realism meant that the viewer would believe in the show all the more.
    • There's a story about how Webb was shooting a scene where he picked up the phone only for him to angrily throw down the receiver and start yelling because the extension number on the phone was for the wrong department. Let that sink in for a moment: not only was Webb angry about an element that wouldn't even have been visible had the prop been facing the camera, he knew the proper extension number to a real department in the LAPD by heart.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!
    • Friday's rejoinder to a committed neo-Nazi: "You keep harping about minorities. Well, mister, you're a psycho. And they're a minority, too."
    • After arresting a husband who solicited an undercover Friday to kill his wife:
    Forrester: Lousy stinking drunk.
    Friday: Don't knock her, Forrester, she had a reason to drink — she was married to you.
  • Significant Reference Date: In the third season episode "Community Relations — DR-10", the comic relief subplot has Gannon bothering Friday about Friday's horoscope. Joe tells Bill that his birthday is April 2 — the same date that his actor Jack Webb was born. (In a similar Adam-12 episode scene Pete Malloy's birthday is not the same as Martin Milner's).
  • Smug Snake: Mister Daniel Lumis, from the '60s series. Heck, it's even Lampshaded by his grandmother-in law that he stole from.
    Mrs. Candell: I'll give you a description. A forked tongue, little beady eyes, and he slithers on his belly. You'll find him easy. Just look under rocks.
  • Sound to Screen Adaptation: From radio to both the small screen and the silver one.
  • Speak Ill of the Dead: Justified, as sometimes you have to speak ill of a murder victim to get to the truth. Also, roughly half the murderers were executed.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • Adam-12, essentially the "patrolman" version of Dragnet, was also produced by Webb. Both stars had already appeared on Dragnet multiple times (indeed, Martin Milner had appeared on the radio version). Webb and Robert Cinader of Adam-12 later did Emergency!, which was Adam-12 WITH PARAMEDICS!
    • More recently, Team Bondi's L.A. Noire is effectively one big love-letter to Dragnet, albeit set in the postwar '40s and somewhat Darker and Edgier.
  • Standard Police Motto: This was the Trope Maker, bringing the LAPD's now-famous motto into the public eye.
  • Status Quo Is God: The detectives may have worked out of a different division every week, but very little else changed.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Averted with Frank Smith, who wasn't much like Ben Romero, then played straight with Bill Gannon, who was quite the Frank Smith clone at first.
  • Syndication Title: Badge 714 for the original TV series.
  • They Fight Crime
  • Third-Person Person: George Fox does this a few times in "The Big Squeeze".
  • Tie-In Novel: Several paperbacks based on the series appeared in the 1950s, along with a daily newspaper strip.
  • Totally Radical: Many children and teenagers appear on the show, either as victims or suspects. The writers do their best to incorporate modern slang into their dialogue, with... varying success. Especially in the revival series.
  • Vanity Plate: According to the other Wiki, those sweaty hands banging out Mark VII are none other than Jack Webb's himself.
  • Very Special Episode:
    • One episode of Dragnet 1968 took place on April 4 1968...the day Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. The episode details a special police communications center that Gannon, Friday and a handful of officers bunkered down in, awaiting any signs of rioting that might come in LA and across the country.
    • One Dragnet 1968 had Joe Friday face a police inquiry board after killing a robber he caught in the act. The ending featured Friday in the 'mugshot' tag with the overlay 'Joe Friday — Returned to Duty'.
    • Another Dragnet 1968 episode dealt with a fellow officer who'd gone AWOL after a major case he broke was thrown out of court on a procedural violation. Friday and Gannon convince the captain to give them a couple days off to find him before he gets fired from the department.
  • Vignette Episode: Occasionally happened during the '60s series, particularly in later seasons, when Friday and Gannon were assigned to work covering a special desk, like Juvenile on the Night Shift, or the Business Office, where several different people with unrelated cases would ask for help. At least one of those cases would result in an arrest, allowing for the Once per Episode trial result epilogue.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: The Internal Affairs Department does.
  • Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Friday and Gannon would be on detail to many different police divisions — from Homicide to Bunco to Community Relations — for the current episode's case. While Webb was a stickler for details, he opted for less realism here to allow for a wider variety of stories. By comparison, in the 2003 revival, Friday was always assigned to Homicide.
  • You Look Familiar: There were many of these, actually. Jack Webb maintained a cadre of actors that he liked working with, and cast them often as he needed them, provided they were available. Many of these actors got their start working with Webb on the radio series, and continued working with him to the end of the '60s revival series. Of particular note are:
    • Don Ross, who according to IMDB holds the record at 31 episodes.
    • Virginia Gregg, probably the most recognizable actress, a fixture on the radio series and appearing at least 13 times on the TV series.
    • Peggy Webber, who many may remember from her appearances on the MST3K episodes "The Screaming Skull" and "The Space Children", was in eight episodes of the '60s revival, four episodes of the fifties show, and a couple of the radio shows, plus several episodes of Adam-12 and Emergency!.
    • Kent McCord appeared as a desk clerk (uncredited) in the made-for-TV movie, then as a couple different patrolmen in early episodes before appearing as Officer Reed here and in Adam-12. (Oddly enough, he appeared in consecutive episodes in the 1968 season as different cops. One of his partners was an Officer Reed, according to the credits of the first of the two shows. He appears in the 1968 episodes "The Phony Police Racket" and "The Search" as an Officer Reed, but it's not certain if he's playing the Jim Reed or if the name of the character was just a coincidence.)
    • Tim Donnelly qualifies both in terms of the Dragnet series itself (5 different roles), as well as the Dragnet/Adam-12/Emergency! shared universe (2 roles in Adam and his regular role as Firefighter Chet Kelly in Emergency!).
    • "Marty" Milner, later of Adam-12, played a role in one of the 1953-54 season TV episodes as well as several radio episodes, including a short stint as Joe's partner.
    • Harry Morgan also starred on Jack Webb's series D.A., and Webb appeared as Joe Friday in one episode of the series as well.
  • Your Favorite: For Bill Gannon, his Garlic Nut-Butter Sandwich.
    Bill Gannon: "Take two slices of pumpernickel bread, spread one with your preferred variety of peanut butter, spread one with cream cheese, crush garlic cloves over the cream cheese side, allowing juice to drip into cream cheese (to taste), join slices into sandwich form, cut into quarters and enjoy!"
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: In "The Big Make," the officers identify and arrest a good suspect, an ex-con who lied about his alibi and whom the victims identify as their attacker. They figure that the case is just about cleared up... when an anonymous letter arrives in which someone else claims responsibility for the crime and adds enough details to make the claim believable. The detectives scrap everything and start over.

     1987 Affectionate Parody Movie 
  • Accidental Misnaming: Friday's Granny Mundy cannot pronounce Streebek's last name to save her life. She even calls him "Detective Star Trek" at one point.
  • Aerith and Bob: Joe Friday, meet Pep Streebek.
  • Affably Evil: Jonathan Whirley
  • Agony of the Feet: Friday has this when a limo runs over his feet.
  • Affectionate Parody
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: After Friday's car is car-bombed... "My hat was in that car."
    • "Reckless endangerment of human life... willful destruction of private property... failure to signal for a safe lane change..."
  • Ascended Meme: Friday actually gets to say "Just the facts, ma'am" in the film.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Reverend Whirley and the police commissioner.
  • Big Damn Heroes: With a tank!
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Whirley, a self-proclimed Moral Guardian who is secretly the Big Bad in disguise.
  • Brick Joke: The film parodies the series' opening "names have been changed" Catch Phrase by noting that "George Baker will now be called Sylvia Wiss." A minor character by the name of Sylvia Wiss later shows up for a brief exchange.
  • Buddy Cop Movie
  • Cassandra Truth: During the pagan ritual, the Virgin Connie Swail manages to snag the mask off the pagan leader and see his face. When she later identifies him as the Reverend Whirley, only Friday believes her.
    • It Was Here, I Swear: Friday and Streebek bring the police commissioner and their captain back to the site of the pagan ritual, only to discover that the pagans are better at cleaning up after themselves than a Slasher Movie villain. note 
  • Chekhov's Gun: The handful of drugs Streebek takes at the Pagan rally to blend in while undercover.
  • Celibate Hero: Friday, until the final scene.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Friday is nearly mugged by a gang of teenage delinquents, he laments "And on a school night too!"
  • Comically Serious: Dan Aykroyd takes Jack Webb's uber-straight demeanor and cranks it Up to Eleven. Could be described as Elwood Blues Up to Eleven as well.
  • Compensating for Something: Averted with Friday
    The Virgin Connie Swail: How come his is so much bigger than yours?
    Officer Joe Friday: Miss?
    The Virgin Connie Swail: The gun.
    Friday: I've never needed more.
  • Cool Old Lady: Granny Mundy is clearly a lot more laid back than her grandson Friday is.
    Streebek: Granny Mundy, have you ever eaten a chili dog from the back of a motorcycle?
    Granny Mundy: Not 'til now!
  • Cranky Landlord: Enid Borden.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The other characters (and the audience) chuckle at Friday's hopelessly outdated, stodgy attitudes. But he shows us time and time again exactly why he's considered the best cop in Los Angeles.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pep Streebek. Friday too, in his own Motor Mouth way.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Minor case. After Friday is captured by P.A.G.A.N., Streebek becomes the narrator while he finds out what happened to Friday.
  • Description Porn: Friday's Narration is stuffed to the gills with generally trivial details.
  • Determinator: Friday, chasing a kidnapper who escapes on a Lear jet. Cue the police jet! (Complete with siren, flashing lights and 'To Serve and Protect' emblem.)
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: Friday constantly refers to the young woman they rescued as "the Virgin Connie Swail." Until the very end of the film:
    Streebeck: [catches Friday yawning on the way into work] Long night last night partner? I thought the Christian Science Reading Room closed at ten.
    Friday: Not that it's any of your business, Mr. National Enquirer, but I had the pleasure of spending a quiet evening in the company of Connie Swail.
    Streebeck: Wait a minute. "Connie Swail?" Don't you mean "the Virgin Connie Swail"?
    [Friday merely turns his head and looks at Streebeck with a raised eyebrow, accompanied with a *BUM-BA-DUM-BUM!* ]
  • Dirty Cop: Or in this case, dirty police commissioner.
  • Distressed Damsel: The Virgin Connie Swail
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Not the title theme itself, but the film's other major song, "City Of Crime" which plays over the closing credits, is an '80s style rap performed by Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks (in-character as Friday and Streebek).
  • The Dragon / The Brute: Emil Muzz.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Police commissioner Jane Kirkpatrick
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Friday and Streebek dress like street punks to infiltrate the P.A.G.A.N. meeting. (They look kind of ridiculous, but it works until they have to rescue Connie.)
  • Drives Like Crazy: "Streebek, there's no road here!"
    • During Friday's and Streebek's first police chase together, Friday enumerates a Long List of traffic violations... against his own partner.
    • Later reversed when Friday is rushing to save the Virgin Connie Swail (Streebek quickly guesses that Friday is acting less like a cop this time and more like a man in love, which Friday doesn't comment on):
      Streebek: Don't you remember those films they showed us in high school? Red Asphalt? Blood On The Highway?
      Friday: Buddy, you just picked two of my favorites!
      Streebek: (turns around) Hey, that was a four-way stop you just blew through!
      Friday: Felt good!
  • Face Palm: Captain Gannon does a double-barreled version whilst Friday and Streekbek demonstrate the goat dance.
  • Fair Cop: Streebek, after some serious cleaning-up.
  • The Film of the Series
  • Fed to the Beast: The faux cultists intended to do this Connie by throwing her to the stolen Burmese Python, which was in a large water-filled pit. Streekbek was able to subdue the snake by force-feeding it the narcotic drugs he had gotten from a gang member earlier, putting it out quickly.
  • Flanderization: Ackroyd's Joe Friday takes the original Friday's straight-laced, by-the-rules personality Up to Eleven. Somewhat justified, as Ackroyd's character is the nephew of Webb's Friday, and clearly only imperfectly emulates his uncle.
  • Fun with Acronyms: People Against Goodness And Normalcy. Pulls double duty as an Incredibly Lame Pun.
    • Not forgetting Moral Advance Movement of America, though that one gets a bit less attention.
  • Gilligan Cut: Not an actual cut, but in one scene where Friday is waiting to meet Streebek in a bad neighborhood, Narrator!Friday notes that it's not a good place to stand around whistling. You can guess what Friday is doing in the scene.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Streebek's "interrogation" of Emil Muzz is a variation. When Friday (Good Cop) leaves the room to get coffee, Steebek (Bad Cop) does something very unorthodox to get him to talk. He reveals a few important details when Friday comes back, but then shuts up again, at which point Streebek "suggests" Friday leave again to get some donuts... In the next scene it is implied that Emil told them the rest.
    • Also, Friday uses this term to describe a bondage game Streebek plays with his motrocycle cop girlfriend, but not a true example.
  • Groin Attack: During the chaotic escape from the pagan cult festival, one of the pagan cult members attempts to grab Connie, but she quickly takes him out with a fast knee to the nuts, saying that she's terribly sorry while he falls to the ground in a state of excruciating pain.
    Well, Emil. Looks like it's just you, me, your balls...and this drawer. (Cue screaming)
  • Guilty Pleasure: For Friday, chili dogs.
  • Hollywood Satanism: P.A.G.A.N. seems to practice this at first. However, it turns out to be a ruse to rile up the public by making them think such an organization is in their mist, and make everyone distrust authority in order to put their true plan in motion. (Unfortunately for Connie, they're more than willing to commit murder to make their Virgin Sacrifice look real.)
  • Human Sacrifice: Luckily for her, they needed a virgin.
    Streebek: You're still a virgin?
    Connie: Yes!
    Streebek: [prat-fall]
  • Hypocritical Humor: see Drives Like Crazy, above.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: "You'll get used to me in time."
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Friday. Spoofed, of course.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "Thank God, it's Friday!"
  • The Infiltration: Friday and Streebek go undercover at a pagan festival.
    • Dressing as the Enemy: Played semi-straight with the detectives; but also reversed with a pair of highway patrol officers who turn out to be disguised pagans.
  • Insistent Terminology: Everyone calls her "the Virgin Connie Swail".
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Streebek puts the charm on Friday's grandmother.
  • It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: Different people have different pronunciations for Emil Muzz's name. Enid Borden (his landlady) pronounces it the way it's spelled, Friday and Streebek pronounce it, "A-mul," and Whirley pronounces it, "Em-mole".
  • Jerk Ass: Jane Kirkpatrick, Jerry Caesar (who narrowly escapes becoming an Asshole Victim later on) and Emil's landlady.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Capt. Gannon is presented as a crusty, "tough love" type of guy. On the other hand, when told that one of the best officers on the entire force has gone missing (let alone the nephew of your old partner), you'd think your reaction would be a little more than "WHO CARES?".
  • Last Name Basis: Friday is on one with Streebek, which irks him to no end.
    And by the way, my name... is Pep. ... Friendships start with first names Joe.
  • Lawful Stupid: Friday is a borderline case, but he gets better.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Word of Saint Paul (Dan Aykroyd, to be precise) is that Friday averts this.
  • Motor Mouth: Friday.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Aside from the various girls accompanying Caesar, there is Streebek's motrocycle cop girlfriend.
  • Mythology Gag: At the start of the film, Friday's partner Frank Smith gets Put on a Bus (since he never appears on camera, it's more accurate to say he never got off the bus). One of Friday's partners in the series, as detailed in the body, was also named Frank Smith.
    Capt. Gannon: I'm afraid Frank won't be coming in today, Joe.
    Joe Friday: 24 hour flu?
    Capt. Gannon: It's a bit more serious than that.
    Friday: 48?
  • Of Course I'm Not A Virgin: Totally averted. The virgin Connie Swail doesn't mind people introducing her as such, and Friday doesn't deny it himself.
    Joe Friday: [as they go undercover at a pagan ritual] "Prepare the virgin?" I don't like the sound of that.
    Pep Streebeck: Let's just hope they're not referring to you.
  • Odd Couple
  • Perp Sweating / Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: "Well, Muzz, looks like it's just you and me... your balls, and this drawer."
  • Psycho for Hire: Emil Muzz.
  • Remake Cameo / Continuity Nod: Harry Morgan as Captain Gannon, having been promoted a few times since the original series' run.
    • A photo of Jack Webb sits on Joe's desk.
  • Sergeant's Log: Friday gives us the facts, just like Jack Webb used to.
  • Sex Is Evil: Friday seems to think so at first.
    Friday: [After turning down Sylvia Wiss] Now let me tell you something, Streebeck. There are two things that clearly differentiate the human species from animals. One, we use cutlery. Two, we're capable of controlling our sexual urges. Now, you might be an exception, but don't drag me down into your private Hell.
  • Sinister Minister: Reverend Whirley, whose pious televangelist act is just that, and while he rails against the wickedness of Jerry Caesar's smut empire for the cameras, he's also plotting to murder Caesar and take it over himself. Friday, who was a fan of the Reverend, isn't happy to learn this.
  • Shown Their Work: As a good-natured send up of the original show, the script paid homage to Webb's fastidious attention to detail. The movie version of Friday cites the actual regulations regarding dress and appearance from the LAPD handbook.
    Friday: I don't care what undercover rock you crawled out from, there's a dress code for detectives in Robbery-Homicide. Section 3-605. 10. 20. 22. 24. 26. 50. 70. 80. It specifies: clean shirt, short hair, tie, pressed trousers, sports jacket or suit, and leather shoes, preferably with a high shine on them.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Enid Borden.
  • Smug Snake: Reverend Whirley and Jerry Caesar.
  • Straight Man: Dan Ackroyd portrays a very anal-retentive Joe Friday. Can be described as Elwood Blues Up to Eleven.
  • Spin-Offspring: Well, nephew, at any rate. Just for good measure, the nephew not only acts like his uncle, but also talks and dresses like him.
  • Stepping Out for a Quick Cup of Coffee: Friday does this so Strebeck can have a quick "heart-to-heart" with Emil Muz. When Muz starts to shut up again, Strebeck says, "You know, some donuts would go great with this coffee", and out Friday goes again.
  • Storming the Castle
  • Take That: A few aimed towards the Yugo (the only car the department is willing to issue Friday and Streebek after they lose two of them), but most would call that's an Acceptable Target.
  • Tank Goodness
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Friday invokes this when forced to work with smut king Jerry Caesar:
    Friday: I don't care for you or for the putrid sludge you're troweling out. But until they change the laws and put you sleaze kings out of business, my job is to help you get back your stench-ridden boxes of smut; and since I'll be doing it holding my nose, I'll be doing it with ONE HAND!
  • Theme Naming: Granny Mundy. Sure, it's spelled different, but still...
  • They Call Me Mr Tibbs: While stressing out about Friday and The Virgin Connie Swail being missing, Pep unloads on an unkempt uniform cop who fails to address him as "Detective", capping it off by ordering the cop to get a proper haircut.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Threatened by the police commissioner, mainly because she's in on the caper. Friday is finally forced to do so, but by the film's climax, Gannon hands it back to him, confessing that he didn't have the heart to make it official.
  • Values Dissonance: In-Universe example with Friday, who doggedly clings to his uncle's Fifties-/Sixties-era button-down, hyper-conservative worldview in the midst of the so-called Decade Of Excess.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Whirley and Kirkpatrick
  • Virgin in a White Dress: In the 1987 film, the bad guys steal a wedding dress so their Virgin Sacrifice will wear white.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Connie Swail
  • Virgin Tension: Downplayed, but Connie Swail is always "the virgin Connie Swail"... until the closing shot of the film.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Streebek seems to view his partnership with Friday as such, and even confesses to Friday that inspite of all his past judgement in thinking he's thick-headed, insensitive, reactionary, and less fun to be around than anyone else he knows, he considers him a true friend. Friday's viewpoint is a little more ambiguous, though he does eventually call Streebek by his first name (and with a smile) after given this little speech:
    Streebek: My name is Pep. It's not Mister, or Junior, or Bub, or even Streebek, it's Pep. Friendships start with first names... Joe.
  • Wham Line: "Don't you mean the VIRGIN Connie Swail?" Cue dramatic look from Friday and "DUN Dun DUN DUN..."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Nothing is said about what happens to Commissioner Kirkpatrick.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The film dutifully trots out the series' signature closing shot describing the Big Bad's ultimate (legal) fate... and then proceeds to give it a big ol' wedgie. "[The Villain] was sentenced to 43 consecutive 99-year prison terms. Which means he'll be eligible for parole in seven years."
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: "And then I'll control both sides of the equation."
  • You Look Familiar: Dabney Coleman was a background extra on one of the final episodes of the '70s version of the TV Show.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame:
    Caesar: I'll give you money, I'll give you jewels, I'll give you women! I'll give you anything you want, just name it!
    Friday: How about you take your hands off my suit.
    Caesar: Absolutely.

Double DragonCreator/Illusion ArtsDragonheart
Lethal WeaponBuddy Cop ShowAlien Nation
Thud!Police ProceduralBlue Force
Dragon AgeFranchise IndexDragon Ball
DexterCrime and Punishment SeriesDue South
The Dick Van Dyke ShowThe SixtiesThe Ed Sullivan Show
Dinosaur KingCreator/Shout! FactoryThe Electric Company
Due SouthCop ShowFillmore!
The Facts of LifeCreator/NBCEd
Dream OnCreator/UniversalEmergency!
Double Dare (1986)American SeriesDragons: A Fantasy Made Real
Philip K. DickThe FiftiesWaiting for Godot

alternative title(s): Dragnet; Dragnet
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