Judge Ben Saylor will never look at the ice cream man the same way again.
Our reviews of Adam-12: Season One (published October 12th, 2005), Adam-12: Season Two (published October 23rd, 2008), Adam-12: Season Five (published September 2nd, 2010), and Adam-12: The Final Season (published April 4th, 2012) are also available.
With a few exceptions, I don't follow current television. But when NBC debuted cop show Southland in the spring of 2009, I took note. To me, the show appeared to be a gritty, hard-hitting oasis in a desert of slickly produced, gimmicky crime fare. With its depiction of L.A. beat cops on patrol (as opposed to super high-tech forensic units), Southland seemed to be tipping a cap to an earlier series, Adam-12, the third season of which has been released on DVD by Shout! Factory.
Co-created by Jack Webb of Dragnet fame, Adam-12 takes the viewer inside the prowl car driven by LAPD Officer Pete Malloy (Martin Milner, Route 66), with partner Jim Reed (Kent McCord, Predator 2) riding shotgun. Together, the officers do everything from issuing traffic tickets to foiling bank robbers.
Although I knocked modern crime shows at the beginning of this review, Adam-12 is no less rigid in its adherence to the formula its creators set down. Unlike many modern shows (Southland included), Adam-12 takes no interest in its characters' personal lives, instead focusing on the wide variety of incidents that Malloy and Reed come across on an episode-to-episode basis. In the episode "Vice Versa," for instance, the officers arrest a man for selling drugs out of an ice cream truck, apprehend a bank robber, respond to a burglary call in which a man's entire house has been ransacked by his neighbors, disarm a drunk and distraught woman who fatally shot her husband during a wedding anniversary celebration, and rescue a baby that has been discarded in a trash can. All that, and in 24 minutes, no less.
Usually, episodes have one particular crime and/or situation that recurs throughout that installment; in the afore-mentioned "Vice Versa," Reed gets to drive the squad car when Malloy forgets to renew his license. This results in comic interludes of Malloy critiquing Reed's driving throughout the episode. In another, "Cigs, Cars and Wild, Wild Women," as Malloy and Reed go about their patrol, they also attempt to crack a car theft ring.
Formulaic though it may be, Adam-12 is an entertaining show. Although some of the show's events are rather silly (a tense standoff in which an escaped mental patient has a knife to his wife's throat ends when a pair of nurses from the hospital scold the man into yielding), the sheer variety of the officers' encounters makes the show fun to watch. The PSA portions of certain episodes are also amusing, like the lecture Malloy gives to some pot-smoking youths in "Loan Sharks."
Adam-12: Season Three also offers some great deviations from the show's template; the most notable is the episode "Elegy for a Pig." For this installment, the series' distinctive theme music is absent, replaced by a solemn voiceover by Webb himself. The rest of the episode is dialogue-free, with Malloy's voiceover narration imparting the story of a fellow officer who has been killed in the line of duty. Although the voiceover sometimes feels too mannered, the episode is powerful. Another, "Internal Affairs Division," opens with an officer, Johnson (Jed Allan), saving Malloy's life. When Johnson is accused of blackmail, Malloy and Reed agree to help clear his name. Watching this, I fully expected Johnson to be found innocent, and the episode certainly plays it that way right up until the end, when it's revealed that Johnson has indeed gone crooked. Milner gets to go outside Malloy's even-keeled professional demeanor for the scene in which he confronts Johnson, which is great to see.
Shout! Factory's DVD release of Adam-12: Season Three is a huge technical improvement over its predecessor. The ghosting/smearing problem that marred season two's transfers has been addressed, and although these still aren't perfect transfers, they're very good considering the show's vintage. The sound is very good as well; there are no subtitles included, but dialogue is always easy to make out, and the show's fun music comes through nicely.
Here comes the other shoe. Unfortunately, there are no extras for Adam-12: Season Three, a big departure from the thoughtful bonuses that came in Shout's season two release, including commentary tracks by real LAPD officers.
Despite the disappointing lack of bonus features, Adam-12: Season Three is a cinch for fans of the show who should be pleased by the improved technical presentation for this go-around.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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