Judge Brett Cullum's helping to bridge the generation gap by explaining the appeal of this time-capsule drama.
Our review of The Mod Squad: Season 1, Volume 2, published April 2nd, 2008, is also available.
Justice never goes out of style.
The Mod Squad: Season 1, Volume 1 is a collection of the first thirteen episodes of the series that debuted in September 1968. It was a pivotal time for America—the Summer of Love was over, the hippies had a funeral for their movement a year earlier, and social unrest was brewing at an alarming rate over many issues. Key to the concerns of network television was how to capture the lucrative youth demographic that seemed harder and harder to catch with the old formulaic shows they were cranking out. Then along came Aaron Spelling, Danny Thomas, and Buddy Ruskin with an idea. They wanted to take a trio of rebellious teens and make them undercover cops. They were forced to work to help "the man," and they would be hip and rebellious but at the same time helping the establishment. Pete Cochran (Michael Cole, The Wicker Man) was a rich kid who had it with his establishment Beverly Hills parents, Lincoln "Linc" Hayes (Clarence Williams III, Purple Rain) was the soul brother from Watts, and beautiful flower child Julie Barnes (Peggy Lipton, Twin Peaks) formed the team. Each of them, when arrested, was given the choice of doing jail time or helping bridge the generation gap. They were led and trained by police captain Adam Greer (Tige Andrews, The Werewolf of Woodstock).
Unfortunately I am one of those people who was around for the abysmal 1999 movie adaptation, but wasn't born in time for the television series. Okay, maybe I caught it in syndication at some point (I'm not that young). What stands out to me is this was one of the first integrated television casts, the style was always more important than the mystery, and Peggy Lipton was smoldering hot as a hippie chick. The Mod Squad holds up about as well as other Spelling creations such as Charlie's Angels, meaning it remains a nostalgic time capsule of the years it was created. The Mod Squad ran for five years, and it did well enough in the ratings and has a devout cult following who remembers it fondly. The clothes and the cars remain cool, the slang sounds dated, and the stories are way too simple. We've come so far in the complexity of our mysteries that these thirteen episodes seem too simple and straightforward in comparison. But it's young people running, jumping, and fighting crime. Typical to Spelling productions, guns were not allowed, clothing was fashionable, hair was carefully done, and the people were pretty. I can still dig it. It's a solid watch, as Linc would say.
Paramount's DVD treatment of the show is fine, save for one nagging issue. I'm not a fan of splitting up seasons in two packages, but here we are with Volume 1 of the first year. This is only half a season, and we can expect 10 sets of The Mod Squad if the pattern continues. It seems a bit stingy and just a way to make an extra buck or two off the loyal fans. Also there is a disclaimer on the back saying some of the episodes are edited and not the original broadcast versions. This can only mean a couple of these are syndication versions or perhaps music may have been altered slightly here and there. Otherwise the full-screen transfers are impressively crisp and lively with excellent color saturation. The series looks great! Sound is an unimpressive but true to the original mono. It's clear enough though it sounds strangely muffled in a few sequences.
Extras are found on discs one and three of the four-disc set. On the initial DVD we get two featurettes covering the creation of the show and the history around it. Peggy Lipton and Michael Cole are featured heavily, and they provide all of the insights. Unfortunately Tige Andrews recently passed away, and Clarence Williams III declined the invitation to talk about the series. On Disc Three we get guest stars remembering their time on the show. Included are Lou Gossett Jr., Lesley Ann Warren, Ed Asner, and Tyne Daly. The extras are well thought out, and serve as a nice time capsule of the series and what it meant back then.
If you're a fan of the show then this is a truly nice set which preserves the series quite well. Can't believe it has taken this long to be officially released, but it is finally out. I disagree with the idea of splitting the seasons in two volumes each. I'm not sure exactly what studios gain by doing this. I guess it spreads out the releases and offers them a chance to make more per unit. Yet at least Paramount has provided high-quality transfers and nice extras to compensate a bit. The show itself still seems hip in its own way. It inspired so many other projects like 21 Jump Street, and it remains iconic in the way it assimilated a multicultural cast to do something young and fresh. The Mod Squad may be dated, but they still seem groovy to me. Definitely worth a look.
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Scales of Justice
• Making-of Featurette--"Forming the Squad"
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