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Series / The Felony Squad

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Left to right: Sam Stone, Dan Briggs and Jim Briggs.

—Captions from the series' Title Sequence

The Felony Squad is a Police Procedural that ran on ABC from September 8, 1966 to January 31, 1969.

The series was created for 20th Century Fox Television by Richard Murphy and produced by Walter Grauman, a prolific TV director whose credits included Perry Mason, Burke's Law and The Fugitive, among other series. However, it didn't quite start out as a pure detective drama. It was originally conceived as a nighttime soap opera about police officers entitled Men Against Evil. Both Howard Duff and Dennis Cole, who appeared in the revised series, were cast in the original series, though Cole's character was a patrolman rather than a detective. '40's starlet Jeanne Crain was to have appeared as Duff's wife, and Michael Cole (who later became famous as part of a different squad) was also slated as a regular. There exists a short clip of the original variant, directed by Gordon Douglas.

L&M Cigarettes, the series' sponsor, decided that they weren't going to back a soap opera, and the decision was made to change the series from a soap to a straight police drama. L&M insisted on one other change: they didn't want to sponsor a show with the word 'evil' in the title, and so the series became The Felony Squad.

When the series debuted in the Fall of 1966, Jeanne Crain and Michael Cole were not in the cast. Duff's character, Sgt. Sam Stone, was made into a widower whose wife and son were killed in a car accident. Jim Briggs, played by Dennis Cole, went from being a uniformed cop to a detective. The other major character in the series was Jim's dad, Sgt. Dan Briggs, played by Ben Alexander, who was the desk sergeant at the Westwood Precinct where Sam and Jim were based. The recurring role of their boss, Captain Frank Nye, was played by Frank Maxwell. Maxwell departed the show after one season for a role on another ABC series, The Second Hundred Years, and was replaced by Captain Ed Franks (Barney Phillips). When The Second Hundred Years was canceled, Maxwell returned to the series for the abbreviated third season.

The detectives handled numerous cases during the series' run, ranging from drug offenses to murder. Oftentimes, they were brought in to protect witnesses in cases.

The series managed to run to respectable ratings on Monday nights for the first two seasons, but a move to Fridays in the 1968-69 season proved fatal. The Felony Squad ended its run on January 31, 1969, with a crossover episode with another Fox-produced series, Judd For the Defense. The Judd episode aired a hour and a half after the Felony Squad episode.

Sadly, Ben Alexander died from a heart attack a mere four months after the show was canceled, at the age of 58.

The Felony Squad contains examples of:

  • Alliterative Title: "The Terror Trap".
  • Amoral Attorney: Leslie Gorman (Darren McGavin) in the premiere episode, "The Streets Are Paved With Quicksand". He first tries to bribe Jim after he and Sam break up a fight between Gorman and a parking lot valet. Then when Jim arrests him, he fakes an injury so he can file phony Police Brutality charges against the young cop.
  • And Starring: 'Also starring Dennis Cole', for the first two seasons. The 'also starring' was dropped for the third season.
  • Badges and Dog Tags: In "A Date With Terror", it is revealed that Sam served in The Korean War, just like Sgt. Lufton (Charles Aidman), the Veteran's Hospital escapee that they're looking for.
  • Blackmail Backfire:
    • In "Image of Evil", Hal Jessup (John S. Ragin) threatens to reveal his boss's blackmail scheme unless he's made a full partner in the scheme, which is a PR firm that blackmails its clients. Unfortunately, Jessup brings all of this up as he's flying with his boss in the private jet. He winds up falling out of the plane without a parachute to his death.
    • In "A Fashion For Dying", a model threatens to tell the world that a modeling agency president (Ricardo Montalbán) is the father of her unborn baby unless he pays her a huge sum of money. The end result is her Death by Falling Over.
  • Cain and Abel: Dickie Barrows (Robert Drivas) REALLY is jealous of his successful brother Leonard (Richard Anderson) in "Prologue to Murder". When it's determined that the demented Dickie wants to kill his brother, Sam and Jim must race to prevent a murder from happening.
  • Clear My Name:
    • Jim is framed for Police Brutality in "The Streets Are Paved With Quicksand". In "The Terror Trap", he's framed for murder in an attempt to discredit his testimony against drug pusher Peel (Bartlett Robinson).
    • Sam is framed for murder in "Echo of a Killing" when it looks like his bullet may have hit an innocent teenage bystander during a shoot-out with an armed robber.
    • Dan is framed for murder in "Bond of Fear", but it turns out he framed himself as he thought that his former partner Tony Pennini (Lawrence Dobkin) may have killed a blackmailer threatening him and his daughter.
  • Clear Their Name:
    • In "A Walk to Oblivion", condemned prisoner Joe Caslin (Jason Wingreen), who's sentenced to die in less than a day, asks Sam and Jim to look into a recent robbery/murder that's similar to the one he was convicted of, in an attempt to exonerate him.
    • In "The Broken Badge", Sam tries to aid fellow detective Bill Ehlers (John Larch), who's accused of stealing a portion of stolen money that he recovered.
    • In "The Strangler", Sam doesn't believe that Phil Calder (Dean Harens), who was convicted of nearly killing a woman several years earlier, is guilty of a similar assault and works to clear him.
  • Cool Car: Chris Merritt (Bradford Dillman) drives a snazzy sports car that's used in the theft and murder in "The 30-Gram Kill".
  • The Corpse Stops Here: Joe Morales in "The Human Target" is accused of murder when he's found near his boss's dead body, as well as an open safe that has been ransacked.
  • Creator Cameo: Lawrence Dobkin, who directed several Felony Squad episodes, is the main guest star in "Bond of Fear", an episode he directed.
  • Crossover: The series' final episode, "The Law and Order Blues", featured a special guest appearance by Carl Betz as lawyer Clinton Judd, who arrives to defend African citizen Marcel Nburu (Brock Peters) on assault charges. When he's later accused of killing the victim, the case goes to trial, and Part Two of the episode aired on Judd For the Defense later that evening, with Howard Duff and Dennis Cole guest-starring.
  • Da Chief: Firm but fair Captain Nye in the first and third seasons, Captain Franks in the second season.
  • Death by Falling Over: Model Bobo Bradshaw (Amy Thomson) falls and fatally strikes her head after modeling agency president T.J. Gaynor (Ricardo Montalbán) strikes her, in "A Fashion For Dying".
  • Death in the Clouds: Hal Jessup in "Image of Evil" tries to blackmail his boss Virgil Haney, but Haney's goon Baker pushes him out of a moving plane to his death.
  • Detective Drama
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Lt. Mike Reineck (John Anderson), Sam's ex-partner, in "The Deadly Partner". He kills two criminals who were involved in a robbery he helped plan and sets a third up to be killed in a shoot-out with Sam and Jim.
    • Sheriff Calvin Cable (Pat Hingle) in "Killing, Country Style"...the corrupt small-town Sheriff shows up, looking to eliminate a witness against his boss, Mob leader Gus Mills (Scott Brady).
  • Evil Old Folks: Mr. and Mrs. Anderson in "The Deadly Innocents" turn out to be abortionists.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: In "The Deadly Innocents", Sam and Jim go back to see Betty Jane Foster, who claimed that she saw the neighbors of the people she was babysitting for commit murder. A visit to the neighbors, the Andersons, turned up nothing, so the two detectives came back to admonish Betty Jane. Sam tells her, "Next time, you better be da—", stopping in the middle of 'damn' when he realizes he's talking to a teenage girl, and says "You better be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN of what you saw!"
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • In "Man On Fire", arsonist B.G. Travis, alias 'the Bug', sets fire to a freighter full of plastic goods, despite being taken off the job by Rindells, the rival business owner who hired him to destroy his competitor. Sam and Jim, as well as Rindells, arrive at the freighter. In his attempt to avoid being arrested or killed, Travis falls into the fire he has started and is burned alive.
    • In "Nightmare On a Dead-End Street", a hitman named Queen plants a car bomb to take care of Jim, only to have it blow up in his face.
  • Impersonating an Officer:
    • In "Killer With a Badge", Wade Harte (Paul Carr), the ex-con former husband of Jim's girlfriend Cloris (Diana Hyland), steals Jim's gun and badge and poses as the detective. He then uses the badge and gun to kill a thug named Paulie (Pat Renella), who's out for revenge against him.
    • In "A Most Proper Killing", British jewel thief Harry Wade (Peter Bromilow) kills Scotland Yard Inspector Murchison and steals his identity. Posing as Murchison, he visits the Squad and enlists their aid in finding his accomplice Dandy Phelps (William Beckley) who fled to the States with the stolen jewels.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: In "The Night of the Shark", millionaire Adam Langley strangles his girlfriend to death, then dumps her body into the pool to make it look like an accidental drowning.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Dandy Phelps double-crosses his partner Harry Wade in "A Most Proper Killing" and absconds with the stolen jewels.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Sam Stone is old enough to be Jim Briggs's father, and could be considered a second father to Jim, seeing that his real father Dan is also a police officer and works closely with them.
  • One-Word Title: "Breakout", "Target!" and "Hostage".
  • Pistol-Whipping: In "The Desperate Silence", Vincent Ludi (Chris Robinson), enraged that a fence (Woodrow Parfrey) won't handle the hot jewels he and his partner have stolen, whacks the fence over the back of the head with a gun several times, killing him.
  • Pool Scene: In "The 30-Gram Kill", Jim goes undercover as a resident in the swinging singles complex where Chris Merritt lives. He's swimming in the pool when Merritt, looking from his apartment balcony, notices him. He 'accidentally' fires his tranquilizer gun (the same gun used in the killing of the security guard earlier in the episode) and strikes Jim while swimming, almost causing him to drown.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The two-part episode "The Nowhere Man" introduced a black detective, Cliff Sims, played by Robert DoQui, and many sources say that he was a regular in the final season, but this two-part episode marked the only appearance for the Sims character. However, a pair of later episodes, "Hostage" and "The Law and Order Blues", feature a similar black detective, Ray Hendrix, played by Hal Frederick. The same child actor played both Sims's son and Hendrix's son.
  • Tie-In Novel: A 1967 Popular Library novel by Michael Avallone.
  • Title Drop: "The Streets Are Paved With Quicksand". Dan says this to his son Jim, telling him that there are people who will be out to get him because he's a cop.
    • In "The Killer Instinct", Sam, when examining the trophy that was the murder weapon, wonders if Bull Bradovich (Edward Asner) still has 'the killer instinct'.
    • "No Sad Songs For Charlie". Sam says this to Jim after they witnessed the boat explosion that allegedly killed their former colleague Charlie Murdock (Simon Oakland).