During his twenties, Judge Dennis Prince posed as grammar school custodian to bring down a ring of milk money bandits. Punks.
Our review of The Mod Squad: Season 1, Volume 1, published January 4th, 2008, is also available.
One white. One black. One blonde.
When prevalent television producer Aaron Spelling decided he wanted a fresh new crime drama that would shoot from the hip, he wasn't referring to holsters but, rather, hype. Partnering with Danny Thomas, Spelling set about to appeal to the young demographic of American society, that contingent that distrusted "the fuzz" but nevertheless realized bad news was going down and someone needed to infiltrate the youth culture to rescue those in need. The Mod Squad was the result, a program that brought together a multi-racial, multi-gender threesome of young people—Pete (Michael Cole), Linc (Clarence Williams III), and Julie (Peggy Lipton)—to serve as the antithesis of the typical square and wholly uptight flatfoots. Fashion conscious and street savvy, the troupe was assembled by forward-thinking Captain Adam Greer (Tige Andrews), who offered each of the probates an alternative to incarceration for their crimes—car theft, rioting, and vagrancy. The trio agreed but on the condition that they wouldn't rat out their generational peers but, rather, would work undercover to expose adult offenders who preyed upon young people. No badges, no guns, no boundaries—the squad was enabled to infiltrate the Southern California communities to show the cops a new way to fight crime.
Now, if you go back in cinematic history a bit and peek in on a screening of B-movie teen-angst favorite, High School Confidential, you will have discovered the likely blueprint for The Mod Squad. While not intending to diminish the unchallenged influence of show co-creator Bud "Buddy" Ruskin, a real-life L.A. cop who, incidentally, managed a youth cop force during the 1960s, you'll find that a young Russ Tamblyn similarly worked undercover to upend a drug trafficker who was busy getting "the kids" hopped up and hooked. And, by coincidence, it was famed 50s monster director, Jack Arnold, who directed the film and, subsequently, Squad episode "Hello Mother, My Name is Julie."
The pace of the episodes is brisk, each running about 52 minutes (fashioned for an hour-long broadcast slot) and each quick to get down to business. A typical pre-credit sequence establishes the predicament at hand then segues into the frantic credits that depict the three unlikely cohorts under some sort of pursuit, apparently only from Earle Hagen's pulse-pounding theme music. The standard three-act drama unfolds, pitting the squad and Capt. Greer against all manner of assaulters and extortionists while attempting to protect embattled citizens and enlightened political activists.
The show manages to hold up well today, rife with enjoyable late-60s styling and emerging slang yet still able to convey a reasonably compelling tale without need for the numbing excessiveness of today's fare. Sure, you'll smirk a bit at the sensibility on display yet you'll likely find yourself becoming genuinely drawn in to the escapism at hand (though it was arguably realistic for its time). "Solid," as Linc would proclaim.
Within this four-disc set you'll find the balance of episodes that comprised the flagship season, 13 installments to be precise. Each is presented in their original 1.33:1 full frame format and most look remarkably clear and crisp. A couple episodes bear some nasty scratches from their source elements though the remainder is quite clean and nicely detailed. The color palette is rather subdued, evoking their 1969 production values, but they look authentic nevertheless. The audio comes by way of a clear Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that suits the image well. A single extra, the 10-minute Hello, My Name is Julie: The Mod Look, catches up with the still-radiant Peggy Lipton as she discusses the fashion sense of her character.
All said, this is an enjoyable 1960s artifact and one that has been dutifully re-mastered by the team at Paramount. If you're looking to take a trip back into television history and would like to spend some time with the brewing youth of the day, The Mod Squad: Season 1, Volume 2 is a good choice.
"Solid," that is.
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• "Hello, My Name is Julie: The Mod Look"
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