When asked which machine needed repair, Judge Clark Douglas replied, "Just the fax, ma'am."
Our reviews of Dragnet (1987) (published June 29th, 1999), Dragnet 1968: Season Two (published July 6th, 2010), Dragnet 1969: Season Three (published December 13th, 2010), Dragnet 1967: Season One (published September 28th, 2005), and The Tom Hanks Comedy Favorites Collection (published March 5th, 2007) are also available.
Just the facts.
"I work here. I carry a badge."
Facts of the Case
You know the drill. Sgt. Joe Friday (Jack Webb) continues his work with the Los Angeles police department. Along with his partner Officer Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan), Friday investigates a wide variety of cases and brings an equally eclectic variety of bad guys to justice. The stories you are about to see are true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
All 26 episodes of Dragnet 1970: Season 4 are spread across four discs:
Well, here we are, Dragnet fans: the very last season of the very last Jack Webb-starring incarnation of the legendary cop show. After playing character of Joe Friday for more than two decades on radio and television (starring in hundreds of episodes in both mediums), Webb decided to retire badge number 714. It's just as well, as the relevance of the Joe Friday character had faded considerably by the time Dragnet 1970 rolled around. Particularly in this version of the show, Friday comes across as an irritable, out-of-touch man sternly battling all of the things he doesn't understand. There are moments of genuine insight on occasion, but for the most part Webb seems content to shake his head at all those gosh-darned hippies.
As always, Dragnet is crisply entertaining on a superficial level. Webb's performance is never less than riveting, and his apparent weariness with the role only adds a touching measure of fatigue to his character. His chemistry with Morgan is gentle and charming, and the episodes move along at a satisfying clip. The actual stories get a little predictable on occasion, but Webb proves capable of delivering surprising thoughtfulness even in the midst of episodes which are agonizingly ham-fisted otherwise.
Consider "Homicide—The Student," in which Friday and Gannon investigate a moody young existentialist. Much of the episode is a hilarious warning against existentialism and the writings of Flaubert ("Killing wasn't what I expected. It didn't fill me with joy like Flaubert wrote about—it filled me with sadness and guilt."), and yet Friday proves unexpectedly reasonable when asked about the crime. "Do you think Flaubert was the reason for the murder?" a woman asks. "Not the reason," Friday says. "Just the excuse." In the midst of what is an otherwise ultraconservative sermon, Friday delivers a fact-of-the-matter statement dismissing the notion that art actually causes criminal behavior.
It's the moments like that which make Dragnet much less grating than many agenda-driven programs. While Webb makes it very clear that he is a staunch conservative, you sense that he is always promoting what he believes is right rather than what he believes will appeal to a particular political group. He's not above setting up straw man arguments on occasion and there were more than a few moments in which Dragnet 1970 which made me roll my eyes, but you dig this show in spite of itself. There's a straightforward charm to a man like Joe Friday; contrast him to the politicians of today (on the left and right) who will spew all sorts of nonsense for the sake of phony political posturing. However flawed Joe Friday may be, he's never artificial.
The final episode is memorable for its simple uneventfulness. Over the course of 25 minutes, we follow Friday as he goes about an ordinary day on the job, dealing with cases ranging from small-time thefts to brutal murders. The show makes a point of emphasizing the equal importance of each and every case a police officer is given—a somewhat questionable point, but one Webb believed in nonetheless. While it lacks the feel of a proper conclusion, the episode does a nice job of summarizing one of the important ideas that ran through the show from the very beginning.
The DVD transfer is pretty solid, though there are some minor scratches and flecks present in most of the episodes. Detail is decent, though there are occasional moments of bleeding. Audio is crisp and clean, with the famous score and that trademark clipped dialogue coming through with clarity. The only supplement is a brief, amusing appearance Webb made playing Joe Friday on "Jack Benny's Second Farewell Special." It runs just over 5 minutes.
Dragnet 1970: Season Four doesn't represent the show at its best, but it serves as evidence that the program remained compelling television to the very end. The DVD set doesn't offer much in terms of supplements, but Dragnet fans will undoubtedly be grateful for the opportunity to dig into this final season of the show.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
• TV Segment
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