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Series / Police Woman

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Pepper in action

Police Woman is a Cop Show that ran for four seasons between 1974 and 1978, starring Angie Dickinson as Los Angeles vice detective sergeant Suzanne "Pepper" Anderson. 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.

Pepper Anderson, together with her detective colleagues Pete Royster (Charles Dierkop) and Joe Styles (Ed Bernard) as well as their immediate superior, Sergeant. (later Lieutenant) 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 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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 the microphone taped to her chest, as well as her lacy bra.
  • 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 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.
  • Lingerie Scene: The episode "Requiem for a Bored Wife" starts with a gratuitous example: 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.
  • 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 (see the Fanservice entry for examples). This is expecially true for the first part of the first season; later on, the fanservice is somewhat toned down in that 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.
  • Shameful Strip: In the episode "Warning All Wives", a serial killer forces housewives to strip to music, and then rapes and murders them.
  • Sweater Girl: Pepper fairly often wears this look with tight sweaters, sometimes with a bullet bra underneath and sometimes braless.
  • 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 quite often goes visibly braless in her spare time and on undercover missions.
    • 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 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.
  • 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.

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