Universal // 1968 // 647 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Corupe (Retired) // October 12th, 2005
"On this job, the only thing that's black and white is the car" -- Officer Pete Malloy (Martin Miliner)
After forever changing the face of detective radio and TV with his realistic, groundbreaking series Dragnet, creator/producer/star Jack Webb sought to revolutionize the TV cop formula with the same no-holds-barred grittiness that brought his law enforcing alter ego, Sergeant Joe Friday, so much success over the years. Adam-12, a spin-off from Webb's own updated Dragnet 1967 series, debuted in 1968 and went on to a noteworthy seven-year run on NBC. Portraying the daily duties of a pair of uniformed beat cops as they patrolled the streets of Los Angeles, the show was an unpretentious, meticulous look at the procedural policing of those oft misunderstood boys in blue. Universal's new DVD collection, Adam 12: Season One, collects all 26 half-hour first season episodes on two doubled-sided discs.
Officer Pete Malloy (Martin Miliner, Valley of the Dolls) and his new partner, rookie cop Jim Reed (Kent McCord) patrol the streets of Southern California on the lookout for everything from drug dealers and armed robbers to domestic fights and noise complaints. Under the watchful eye of Sgt. MacDonald (William Boyett, Bloody Birthday), Malloy takes the new recruit under his wing, and teaches him about the intricacies of the job as they work the streets.
Like Dragnet, the Jack Webb-produced Adam-12 is a sparse but tough cops and robbers TV series that features stories "ripped from police files." Like its predecessor, it's a self-congratulatory, unabashedly one-sided view of law and order, but here the tone is much lighter and friendlier as it takes the viewer right into the squad car for an upfront view of this fascinating job.
The show's pledge towards police procedural realism, of course, was its main attraction, and it doesn't disappoint even when compared to today's primetime cop offerings. From the name of the show -- a real police radio designation that refers to a two-man car in a particular division -- right down to the voice of a real LAPD dispatcher over the radio, Adam-12 is extremely precise about using true-to-life props and vehicles to complement the action on screen. Malloy and Reed are very much by-the-book cops trying to do their best on their beat, and the show almost lovingly portrays the most trivial aspects of their jobs in order to give the audience the true feel (and respect) for all facets of police work.
Part of this "police blotter" accuracy comes from the actual structure of the show. Instead of sticking with one investigation and seeing it through to the very end, the show frequently hops around from one call to another, as Malloy and Reed cover every kind of unlawful behavior imaginable, from the mundane to the deadly. An episode may start out with a drunk driver or a minor traffic violation, and proceed to a teenage suicide or a drug bust, and end with a kitten up a tree. You never know quite where Adam-12 is headed, and the unpredictability of each 30-minute episode keeps the show feeling fresh. The one down side to the show's intentionally haphazard approach, however, is that in most cases, the writers have attempted to create cohesion by stringing these unrelated events together with the flimsiest of sitcom plots -- happily married Reed tries to convince bachelor Malloy that he should settle and with the right girl, or Reed needs to find a popular act for the upcoming police talent show. As a result, the best shows in this set are the ones that actually manage to combine the plot's premise with the crimes depicted, such as one episode that has Malloy taking classes at the local college and investigating a bomb threat by a group of student radicals, or the Christmas episode, in which Malloy and Reed attempt to get back a box of police-donated toys stolen from a poor single mother's car.
If the show represented a realistic portrayal of how the common police officer carries out his or her duties, then its only real failure is in its broad, improbable depiction of those on the other side of the law. Most of the crimes committed on the show are by laughable hippies and deluded student radicals -- bizarre caricatures of the then-rising counter-culture that commit their nefarious anti-community crimes to a soundtrack of counterfeit acid rock and sparse sitar grooves. In this way, Adam-12 often plays like a piece of clueless police propaganda, where drunk drivers are comical lushes, liquor store thieves are hardened prison veterans, and every non-conformist deserves to be accosted for their "long hair and dirty appearance" while smug, middle-aged women look on from their porches, their fists tightly grasping the tops of their housecoats.
As Malloy and Reed, the sleepy-eyed Martin Milner and the chisel-faced Kent McCord make a believable team on the show. Their acting isn't particularly spectacular, but it fits the low-key tone of the show just fine, and even from the first episode, they seem to have a genuine rapport.
As with the rest of their recent spate of detective TV shows on DVD, Universal's technical presentation of Adam-12: Season One gets a big 10-4. Episodes are nice and clean with clear bright colors, deep blacks, and minimal source artifacts. The remixed mono soundtrack is understandably limited, but dialogue is always clear, complemented by the show's "march of crime"-styled soundtrack. Not surprisingly, there are no extras present.
While not the best cop show ever to appear on TV, Adam-12 was a competently made, realistic show that has held up extremely well over the last several decades. Although the highly episodic nature of the series doesn't really lend itself to repeated viewings, fans of Adam-12 will definitely want to give these discs a whirl.
One Adam 12, One Adam 12, verdict is innocent-repeat-innocent. Go code two.
Review content copyright © 2005 Paul Corupe; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 647 Minutes
Release Year: 1968
MPAA Rating: Not Rated