Follow TV Tropes


Series / Police Woman

Go To
Pepper in action.

Police Woman is a Cop Show that ran for four seasons (1974–78) on NBC, starring Angie Dickinson as Sgt. Suzanne "Pepper" Anderson, a vice detective with the LAPD. It was one of the first drama series on American network TV with a female lead, and the first case of a woman police officer playing the same part as her male colleagues. It was a Spin-Off from Police Story (1973).

Pepper, together with her detective colleagues Pete Royster (Charles Dierkop) and Joe Styles (Ed Bernard) and their immediate superior, Sgt. (later Lt.) Bill Crowley (Earl Holliman), fight drug dealers and prostitution rings, but also investigate rape cases and other violent crimes against women. As the only female detective in her department, Pepper often has to go on dangerous undercover missions, but also conducts more conventional police investigations, especially concerning violence towards women.

In 1975, Angie Dickinson won a Golden Globe Award for Best TV Actress for her part in the series.

This show provides examples of:

  • Action Girl:
    • Before Charlie's Angels, Pepper Anderson was fighting dangerous criminals with a gun in her hand, or going on even more dangerous undercover missions.
    • Promo shots for the show usually show Pepper with a gun, often in a firing pose, but frequently also avert the trope by using the gun as an accessory to a slinky evening dress.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Surprisingly averted given the time period the show aired. While nowhere near "realistic" levels of blood are ever shown, there is still more used than was generally common.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: In "Brainwash" an institute that "deprograms" troubled teenagers, especially ones who have been caught up in various cults, comes under investigation when one of their clients is found murdered. By posing as a journalist, Pepper finds out that they use brainwashing techniques (though of course they don't call it that) which the founder learned the hard way as a POW in Korea. The "for the greater good" part is questionable; it turns out they are only in it for the money and several of the employees have criminal backgrounds.
  • Chase Scene: Many episodes contain car chases. In "Requiem for a Bored Wife", there are several boat chases as well: a playful one, which an undercover Pepper uses to get acquainted with a suspect, and a serious one that ends in the death of the main suspect.
  • Clothing Damage: In the episode "Operation Sidewinder", a suspect becomes suspicious of Pepper (who is impersonating a call girl to extract information from him). Pepper's attempts to get away from him results in a struggle which culminates in her blouse getting ripped completely open, exposing her bra — and the Hidden Wire taped to her chest.
  • Cool Car: That drug dealers and pimps drive flashy cars is perhaps not unexpected, but unlike in many other police series the police don't drive old clunkers or The Alleged Car, but new and often high-end vehicles. Since this is The '70s, most of the cars are large, flashy and cool.
  • Dirty Harriet: Being a female vice detective, Pepper often has to go undercover as a prostitute or showgirl.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The initial pilot - Police Story episode "The Gamble" - named the character as Lisa Beaumont.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: In the episode "Requiem for a Bored Wife", this happens to the motorboat the bad guy is trying to escape in: he runs into a jetty which causes the boat to immediately explode.
  • Fair Cop: Pepper's good looks earn her many compliments, both from colleagues and suspects, and make her a good choice for geting close to male suspects or for Dirty Harriet operations.
  • Fanservice:
    • The nature of many of the squad's investigations gives the producers reasons to show women in stripperific outfits, whether they are actual strippers, prostitues, or just 1970's disco girls.
    • During her undercover missions Pepper of course has to dress to fit in. This provides many opportunities for shots of Angie Dickinson in halter tops, low-cut dresses, bikinis, or thin shirts without a bra.
    • In her professional role as a plainclothes police sergeant, Pepper dresses more modestly (and practically) and shows less skin, but she often wears tight trousers and sweaters that show off her figure.
    • There are numerous scenes where Pepper gets a phone call when in the shower and answers the phone clad only in a towel.
  • Girls Behind Bars: In the epsiode "Fish", Pepper has to go undercover in a women's prison to gain the confidence of one of the prisoners. Apart from the fact that the prison seems a lot more comfortable than the usual media depiction of prisons, and that the inmates are all young, good-looking women in short, sleeveless dresses, the plot is not different from the usual male equivalent.
  • Healthcare Motivation: In the episode "Smack", high school chemistry teacher Mark Ciprio (William Shatner) becomes involved in the manufacturing of heroin to help pay for his wife's medical bills.
  • Hidden Wire: Pepper usually wears a wire during her undercover operations.
    • In many cases, radio contact with the detectives monitoring her wire is lost just as things gets tricky, leaving her without backup in a dangerous situation.
    • Often the wire is in her handbag (due to clunky 1970's technology that won't fit under her tight and/or skimpy clothes). This sometimes leads to trouble when she has to open her purse and the bad guys catch a glimpse of the transmitter.
    • In the pilot episode, Pepper is wearing a tight dress and is not carrying a purse. Some male colleagues are speculating on where exactly she could be hiding the wire (the answer turns out to be in her bra, but this is never shown).
    • In the episode "Operation Sidewinder", Pepper impersonates a call girl while wearing a wire to try to extract information from a suspect. They ride off in his car, with the other detectives following. When the suspect gets suspicious, he almost manages to shake his pursuers but they just barely manage to keep track of Pepper's radio transmitter until they spot the suspect's car again.
  • Jiggle Show: The first season often ventures into this territory, taking any excuse to put Pepper in various skimpy outfits, often focusing on her braless breasts. This aspect is toned down considerably in later seasons: while there is still plenty of fanservice and focus on Pepper's good looks, it's much less prominent. According to inside sources, the producers were initially concerned that a cop show with a female lead wouldn't sell, and added the fanservice to attract the young male demographic. Once the show proved that it could attract viewers because of the story and characters, the fanservice could be toned down.
  • Lingerie Scene:
    • In the episode "Requiem for a Bored Wife" we see Pepper coming home from work, taking off her skirt and then her sweater while going upstairs, and walking around for a while in just a rather skimpy full slip. She then goes off-screen and returns in a bathrobe.
    • In "Brainwash", the bad guys have captured Pepper (undercover as a journalist) and prepare to use their brainwashing techniques to interrogate her. For some reason, they force her to change from her street clothes into a hospital gown; when she's undressing, we briefly see her in her bra.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Pepper. Angie Dickinson was in her forties when the show was shot, but still a major sex symbol, and the show constantly emphasizes her good looks as well as her body. While she dresses in a professionally modest way when doing official police work, the producers frequently put her in situations (such as undercover missions, or just enjoying the sun in her spare time) where she wears more revealing clothes. This is expecially true for the first part of the first season; later on, the fanservice is toned down and Pepper wears less revealing clothing.
  • Older Than They Look:
    • Despite being in her forties, Pepper can go undercover as an exotic dancer without any problems.
    • Lampshaded in the pilot, when her colleagues comment that she seems a bit old for a fresh detective sergeant.
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: In "The Melting Point of Ice", two construction workers happen to find the loot from a jewelry robbery, which was hidden near their construction site by the robbers. The robbers manage to track down the workers by their changed spending habits, and so do the police, who manage to catch the robbers just as they are about to take the stones back by force.
  • Sexy Sweater Girl: Pepper fairly often wears this look with tight sweaters, sometimes with and sometimes without a bra underneath.
  • Shameful Strip: In the episode "Warning: All Wives", a serial killer forces housewives to strip to music, and then rapes and murders them.
  • Undercover Model:
    • Many of Pepper's undercover assignments involve a transformation from a sensibly dressed (though admittedly good-looking) policewoman to a glamorous Femme Fatale in a slinky evening dress.
    • In the pilot, she goes undercover as a hostess at a chain of illegal casinos, where her job is to entertain the customers and make them feel welcome. When one important customer (a mob boss) requires a more physical kind of entertainment, and Pepper refuses, her cover is blown.
  • Vapor Wear:
    • Since the show is from the mid-70s, many of the women are noticeably braless. This is sometimes played for fanservice but most of the time it just reflects the fashion of the time.
    • Though Pepper always wears a bra in her official role as a police sergeant, she usually goes braless when on undercover missions and when off duty.
    • At the start of "The Melting Point of Ice", Pepper is impersonating a street walker, wearing a skintight jumpsuit with open sides that makes it quite obvious that she's not wearing any kind of undergarments. When called to investigate a murder scene, she has no time to change, but wears the same clothes while interviewing an elderly robbery victim whose colleague was killed by the robbers. He doesn’t even seem to notice what she’s wearing.
    • Alluded to in "Bank Hours", after Pepper realizes that a bank robber who's wearing baggy coveralls and a helmet with a visor is a woman because she keeps adjusting her bra strap. Crowley remarks that it was a good thing the perp wasn't a "bra burner" with no strap to adjust.
    • In "The Death of a Dream", the main antagonist is revolutionary/domestic terrorist Hallie. She's a mature woman with large breasts who throughout the episode wears a tank top without a bra. Since she has an action part with lots of running there is a lot of jiggling. This is played only partly as fan service, but mostly to emphasize her character as a driven fanatic who doesn't care very much for her appearance. Her wild eyes and unkempt hair add to the effect.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: In the pilot episode, Pepper wears a Hidden Wire in her bra. It is never shown how she manages to hide the rather bulky early-1970s device there.
  • Witless Protection Program: The episode "No Place to Hide" has hit men working under the guise of a detective agency taking down former mob witnesses. One of them has a girlfriend working on the inside to provide information on the targets.