Next week, Billy, we'll discuss ten things you can do with a carrot.
July 20, 2015 8:18 AM   Subscribe

"Who are you and how did you get in here?"
"I'm a locksmith. And... I'm a locksmith."

From the Files Of...
Police Squad! was a tv comedy series that ran for only 6 episodes in 1982. Created by the team of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, it later went on to form the basis of their "Naked Gun" series of feature films. The basic premise was a spoof of Quinn Martin police dramas (previously), filled with non-sequiturs and sight gags. The theme song, the opening credits and the character of Lt. Frank Drebin were spoofs of M Squad, which aired from 1957-1960. Lee Marvin starred on that show as Lt. Frank Ballinger.

TV Tropes: "When Police Squad! was cancelled, the reason given by ABC network head Tony Thomopoulos was that it required the viewer to pay too much attention — a pronouncement that earned Thermopolous and the network a considerable amount of derision (TV Guide called it "the most stupid reason a network ever gave for ending a series"). Ironically, the producers themselves were actually grateful, as the six episodes they made were already stretching their ideas thin and they knew they'd never be able to keep up the level of quality much longer. To this day the show is remembered with fondness by many as a program that respected (and tested) the intelligence of its viewers even while making them roll on the floor with laughter."

In the late '80's and early '90's, Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker took the Police Squad! concept to the big screen in The Naked Gun series


It's a terrible thing that's happened here, Lieutenant. I do hope you will find the people responsible.
* Playlist of all six episodes

1) A Substantial Gift / The Broken Promise
(Special Guest Star: Lorne Greene)
--
2) Ring of Fear / A Dangerous Assignment
(Special Guest Star: Georg Stanford Brown)
--
3) The Butler Did It / A Bird In The Hand
(Special Guest Stars: Robert Goulet, Cathy Murphy, Tommy Lasorda)
--
4) Revenge and Remorse / The Guilty Alibi
(Special Guest Star: William Shatner)
--
5) Rendezvous at Big Gulch / Terror in the Neighborhood
(Special Guest Star: Florence Henderson)
--
6) Testimony of Evil / Dead Men Don't Laugh
(Special Guest Star: William Conrad)


And Guest Starring.... oh dear
Each week featured a special guest star who was immediately killed off in the opening credits:
* Lorne Greene was knifed and tossed out of a car. So was William Conrad.
* Georg Stanford Brown had a safe dropped on him
* Florence Henderson was shot during a musical number
* Robert Goulet was executed by a firing squad
* William Shatner avoided a burst of machine-gun-fire only to drink a glass of poisoned wine.
* John Belushi filmed a cameo "guest star" appearance for the "Testimony of Evil" episode, showing him underwater wearing a pair of cement shoes. He died before the episode aired, so a new sequence was filmed with William Conrad.


Yes, ma'am, it's very impressive, but we need to ask you a few questions.
(More here, here, here and [gasps for air] here.)
* At some point in each of the first four episodes, Drebin runs over a set of objects (garbage cans, bikes) equal to the episode number. This joke does not occur in the fifth or sixth episodes.
* Rex Hamilton appeared in the opening credits portraying Abraham Lincoln but he never appeared in any of the episodes.
* Each episode has two titles: the voiceover narration won't match the on-screen title.
* The episodes end with a mock freeze frame.
* In the 1990s, Leslie Nielsen appeared as Frank Drebin in Red Rock Draught Cider tv ads, "Fraud Squad!": Operation Undercover, There Go My Trousers and My Wife Ate A Walrus. "It's not red, and there's no rocks in it."
posted by zarq (34 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
 
I mean, you can already tell by the end of six episodes that they're running on fumes.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:31 AM on July 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


“Cigarette?” ‘Yes, it is.’
posted by scruss at 8:35 AM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


My favorite thing from Police Squad - and this is saying something - is also from the locksmith episode.

After the thugs have thrown a rock through the shop window - obliterating the "L," Drebin shows up to open the shop the next morning and there's a guy with a ox waiting for him. An exapserated Drebin goes "Locksmith. LOCKsmith," and the man dejected leads his (presumably broken) ox away. It's just so out of left field. Like most things in Police Squad.

YES! There it is at 10 minute mark in episode 5!
posted by Naberius at 8:36 AM on July 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


A "series" of Fawlty Towers or The IT Crowd is six episodes long, by design. That's why every episode is good.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:36 AM on July 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


"A series of gorgeous fashion models had been found unconscious and naked in laundromats. Unfortunately, I was assigned to investigate credit union holdups. I was doing my laundry when the call came in on a shootout. "
posted by logicpunk at 8:41 AM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


So excited for the new cider content, thanks!
posted by joecacti at 8:44 AM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


YES! There it is at 10 minute mark in episode 5!

Yes! Right here.
posted by zarq at 8:46 AM on July 20, 2015


Drebin's undercover stint as a standup comic has some of the filthiest stuff to ever get past network Standards and Practices. E.g. "I don't know if I can handle 67 more of these!"
posted by whuppy at 8:51 AM on July 20, 2015


We would have come earlier, but your husband wasn't dead then.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:59 AM on July 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


Easily one of my favorite shows of all time, possibly because of the short run -- it's amazing dense, and I'm glad that we got six really strong episodes instead of twenty-odd watered down ones. Re-watching this just this week, after many viewings, there are still jokes that I'd missed before or things I didn't catch the last time.

Two small things that stuck out:
-The 'POLICE SQUAD' lettering on the office door's window is stenciled half on each side, such that one of that either 'POLICE' or 'SQUAD will appear reversed (and one will appear correctly) no matter which side of the door you view it on,
-The office clock's numbers are completely scrambled (the one by the door). It's not really a joke, exactly, but the amount of attention paid to minor set details is impressive.

Also not quite a joke (or maybe it is), but I've always loved how many things are titled the way they're spoken, rather than the way they would actually be titled -- the police station has a big sign reading "THE POLICE STATION." The lab has a sign reading "THE LAB" instead of 'Lab,' and so on.

Words to live by: everything in life has risks -- "you take a big chance getting up in the morning, crossing the street, or sticking your face in a fan."
posted by cjelli at 9:02 AM on July 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


To echo George_Spiggott's comment, short, contained series often make for the best comedy. Another case in point is Posh Nosh.
posted by twsf at 9:10 AM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


It didn't turn up in searches when I was working on the post, but I see from the "Related Posts" list below that episodes 2, 3 and 4 (and a bunch of clips) were posted previously.
posted by zarq at 9:18 AM on July 20, 2015


The theme song, the opening credits and the character of Lt. Frank Drebin were spoofs of M Squad , which aired from 1957-1960.

Evidently the entire format was modeled on M Squad . What's more, apparently the first episode starts out as a line-for-line, shot-for-shot remake of an episode of M Squad, with added gags. (Original starts at 6:26)
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:19 AM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I love this show so hard. I still call people 'butter wings' all the time.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:22 AM on July 20, 2015


I keep trying to put the past behind me, but every time I turn around there's somebody telling me where I've been.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:23 AM on July 20, 2015


I got into this at about the same time in the late eighties when a Dutch broadcaster was repeating the Young Ones series, which explains a lot about my sense of humour.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:31 AM on July 20, 2015


No sax before a fight.

I watched these on the TV back in the day. Big fan here.
posted by Chuffy at 9:43 AM on July 20, 2015


This is fantastic! Thank you. A couple years ago I watched all the "Police Squads" again with my then-9-year-old son who was both greatly amused and somewhat perplexed. He easily missed 80% of the references (Dick Clark? Dr. Joyce Brothers?) but understood the humor of shoeshine boys giving out music or psychiatric advice. But watching all 6 back-to-back like that did make me wonder where they would have gone had they not be cancelled.

I hadn't seen The Naked Gun in a long time so we watched that, too, and both of us were hugely disappointed. The movie has a vastly different tone - more slapstick than deadpan. And the movie Frank Drebin is a totally different character from the TV one. The show really succeeded in creating a bizarro world where all the characters were slighly off and Drebin was right there with them, whereas the movie surrounded a more cartoonish/bufoonish Drebin with normal real-world people who have to react to his ineptitude. I'm not saying it's bad, per se, it just wasn't "Police Squad."
posted by majorsteel at 9:47 AM on July 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Pardon the digression, but Leonard Nimoy and James Coburn as arsonist brothers on M Squad. I'm speechless.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:48 AM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have these episodes on old VHS tapes so I'm thrilled they're available on line. Woohoo, thanks Zarq!

My favorite part in the opening title sequences has to be when Abraham Lincoln gets his hat shot off ....and then he gets up and *returns fire*. Yes!
posted by storybored at 10:09 AM on July 20, 2015


The show really succeeded in creating a bizarro world where all the characters were slighly off and Drebin was right there with them, whereas the movie surrounded a more cartoonish/bufoonish Drebin with normal real-world people who have to react to his ineptitude.

This is exactly my problem with the Naked Gun movies.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:01 AM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


"It took me two weeks to find Stella's apartment. She had neglected to give me her address."
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 11:09 AM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ed and I drove around for hours for no particular reason. We came up empty.
posted by Acey at 11:22 AM on July 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


The random Elephant Man reference in the orthodontist's office was gold.
posted by GuyZero at 12:13 PM on July 20, 2015


Can Shatner overact in a five second cameo?

(watches)

Yes.
posted by Devonian at 12:22 PM on July 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I used to have the theme song on my phone, and would occasionally play it for my commute home. My favorite sight gag was a scene in THE LAB, where they walk to another part of the room. Most of the characters exit through a door, while the last simply walks around the open wall. Brilliant.
posted by xedrik at 12:33 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I miss Red Rock Cider.
posted by panboi at 2:53 PM on July 20, 2015


Priceless!
posted by oluckyman at 5:57 PM on July 20, 2015


A wonderful show. It burned brightly and well and quickly.

And twsf, thanks for the reminder about Posh Nosh! I'd forgotten about it, and it deserves to be remembered.
posted by bryon at 8:37 PM on July 20, 2015


Bang up job as usual, zarq, thanks.

Note: The A.V. Club did episode reviews a while back.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:43 PM on July 20, 2015


When I was a kid, anything that made my dad laugh was a million times funnier to me. He absolutely loved this show, and so I did too. And much of the humor is what I think of as "dad jokes" (Cigarette?), although they might just be my dad's jokes.

I rewatched Forbidden Planet the other night and kept waiting for the punchlines. Leslie Neilsen can never be not funny to me anymore.
posted by bibliowench at 12:36 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I rewatched Forbidden Planet the other night and kept waiting for the punchlines. Leslie Neilsen can never be not funny to me anymore.

He was the villain on an episode of Columbo too. So strange.
posted by rifflesby at 11:34 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


And the captain in the Poseidon Adventure!
posted by Chrysostom at 11:51 AM on July 22, 2015


Let's talk in the Japanese Garden.
posted by wittgenstein at 7:35 PM on July 24, 2015


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