Judge Ben Saylor says you have the right to remain silent while reading this review.
Our reviews of Adam-12: Season One (published October 12th, 2005), Adam-12: Season Three (published October 21st, 2009), Adam-12: Season Five (published September 2nd, 2010), and Adam-12: The Final Season (published April 4th, 2012) are also available.
"One-Adam-Twelve, One-Adam-Twelve, see the man…"
Jack Webb's Dragnet spinoff Adam-12 sees its second season released onto DVD, several years after the first season was put out by Universal. With a decent (if not perfect) transfer and some solid special features, Adam-12: Season Two provides lots of classic television viewing.
Facts of the Case
Adam-12 follows the day-to-day, on-the-Job lives of Los Angeles Police Department officers Pete Malloy (Martin Milner), the veteran, and Jim Reed (Kent McCord), his young partner. Together, the two patrol the streets of LA, their daily fates decided by the calls that stream in through their police radio.
Adam-12: Season Two contains 26 episodes, which were broadcast between September 20, 1969 and May 9, 1970. The episodes are spread out across four discs as follows (* denotes commentary with LAPD officers; + denotes "Ride Along" Fact Track):
In the interest of full disclosure, I've never watched Dragnet, and had never seen an episode of Adam-12 until this set arrived in the mail. Within a few episodes, however, I soon found Adam-12 to be an entertaining T.V. show.
The chief pleasure of Adam-12 is the workaday narratives of most episodes; Malloy and Reed do get into significant crises (a sniper on a rooftop, hostage situations) but, if this set is any indication, Adam-12's main interest is in the two officers traveling in their black and white, taking the kinds of routine calls from the dispatcher that cops in any department might get. In one episode, Malloy and Reed are sent to pick up a drunk flapping his jacket at cars in the middle in the street like a matador. In another, they respond to an apartment on a report of a screaming woman, only to find two women practicing karate. They do unholster their sidearms a lot more than other beat cops might in their careers (depending on the beat, of course), but with a television show, that's to be expected.
Adam-12 is police television in the days before shows like NYPD Blue, which delved more into the cops' personal lives, so most of Adam-12 deals with Malloy and Reed's professional lives. There is, however, one memorable episode on Disc Two called "Log 63—Baby" (which is given an incorrect synopsis on the case), where Reed anxiously awaits the birth of his son, while on patrol with Malloy. The plot is then contrived to keep Reed from reaching the hospital in a timely fashion, which is a little silly but undeniably entertaining. And in another episode, "Log 103—A Sound Like Thunder," Malloy and Reed go visit a ghost town with Reed's wife and a nurse friend of Malloy's and find themselves besieged by a biker gang. You don't really learn much about the characters, but technically it does happen on their day off.
Another interesting facet of Adam-12 is how educational its creators clearly wanted it to be in terms of what police (and, specifically, the LA police) do. In the very first episode, "Log 15—Exactly One Hundred Yards," Malloy and Reed do community outreach work with schoolchildren, a move likely engineered to inform younger viewers about a policeman's duties. (The episode is amusingly dated; a problem student is observed playing with a pocketknife on school grounds by Malloy, Reed, and the school principal, and none of them seems particularly concerned about the weapon.) In "Log 52—Good Cop: Handle With Care," the showrunners seem to want to send a message about nosy reporters trying to stir up trouble, as the plot concerns a pair of freelance journalists trying to catch Malloy and Reed in an act of "police brutality." And finally, in "Log 14—S.W.A.T.," Sgt. MacDonald (William Boyett) explains to a reporter what a SWAT team does, correcting the journalist when he suggests that a SWAT team is used to kill more effectively. And at the end of the episode, the same journalist asks Reed why he didn't just kill the sniper instead of taking him into custody unharmed, to which Reed explains that deadly force wasn't necessary. Depending on one's view of law enforcement, I suppose episodes like these might rub some viewers the wrong way, but I still enjoy them.
Since most of the character work on Adam-12 is limited to what's happening in and around the patrol car, Milner and McCord don't have a whole lot to work with acting-wise. Of the two, however, Milner makes the strongest impression; his bemused facial expressions (either at citizens and criminal he and Reed encounter, or at Reed himself) provide a lot of the show's humor. For his part, McCord isn't bad, providing the occasional short fuse to contrast with Malloy's cooler demeanor, and together, the two make a convincing team, and that's what counts.
Shout! Factory's DVD presentation of Adam-12 isn't exactly terrible in terms of video and sound, but it could be better. The image suffers from ghosting, which is too bad, because the transfers on these episodes really are pretty good most of the time. The sound, similarly, is adequate if nothing spectacular. In terms of extras, Shout! has compiled a few good ones, the best being four commentary tracks featuring real LAPD officers. These tracks are a great listen, as the officers point out what is done right (and wrong) on the show, and how police tactics and procedures have changed from the time of the show to today. This is a really unique extra, and I wish more commentaries could have been recorded. Included with "Log 123-Courtroom" is a "Ride Along" Fact Track, which is a text-only feature with notes that pop up during the episode about Adam-12 and, specifically, that episode, which deals with search and seizure. (A side note: Kent McCord played one of Ricky Nelson's fraternity brothers on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. In "Log 123—Courtroom," Skip Young, who played Wally on that show, guest stars as a deputy DA.) While not nearly as interesting as the police tracks, this still provides a lot of context and facts on the show, and more of these fact tracks would have been welcome as well. Rounding out the features are an interesting Tour of Reed and Malloy's Training Center, which is a photo-and-text-only tour of LAPD training facilities, and a Historic Police Photo Gallery.
Shout! Factory did a credible job on its first time out on Adam-12. Hopefully, additional police commentaries can be included on future sets and the ghosting problems of this season can be corrected as well.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
• Commentary tracks with LAPD officers
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