Adam-12: Season One
One all time favorite standards for television programming has always been the police drama. Long before the cutting edge shows like NYPD Blue or the Shield there was Adam-12. Born from the creative mind of Jack Webb of Dragnet fame, this series detailed the work lives of two Los Angeles county police offices, Peter Joseph 'Pete' Malloy (Martin Milner) and his partner James A. 'Jim' Reed (Kent McCord). In the season one opener Malloy was despondent, having just lost his friend and partner. At the verge of quitting the force he changes his mind when he is assigned the training of a young rookie fresh out of the academy. What made this series so ground breaking was how it dealt realistically with the on duty experience of the police force. While most series always seem to deal with high profile cases Adam-12 showed that much of how the police serve the community was with the little things. The name of the show comes from the designation used to identify a police radio car. One Adam-12 refers to a two man car in division one designated unit 12. The now famous ‘One Adam-12, One Adam-12, see a woman’ (dispatcher voiced by Shaaron Claridge) would send the pair of officers on their way to protect and serve. The only thing unrealistic about the series was the beat for these police officers ranged from the urban streets to the downtown business district. It would appear that Malloy and Reed patrolled the entire grater Los Angeles area. The team where supervised by Sgt. MacDonald (William Boyett), a sage veteran of the force that handed out the assignments and made sure the two always had the right backup.
The typical episode would have Malloy and Reed engage in a high speed chase, track down a drug dealer selling his deadly wares to teenagers and responding to the worse call an officer can hear come in over the radio, officer down. Much of what the pair are called upon to do is community relations, helping a domestic dispute come to a peaceful resolution or stopping a deranged neighbor from harassing others. This was a show about the rank and file in the war against crime, the officer on the street instead for the usual focus of television, power house detectives. While not all the cases Malloy and Reed handle are glamorous they all have an impact on the lives of the citizens they serve. What made this series so popular is the audience could identify with the plights depicted. After all, not many of us are the victims of jewelry heists, kidnapping or murder. We can identify with a mother watching her infant given mouth to mouth by an officer or being hit by a drunken diver. There was an emotional connection made by this show that is still not rivaled anywhere on television. This was a series about two men that choose a profession of service and despite the abuse they often receive would not choose any other career.
This was a great cast worthy of this memorable series. Martin Milner was no stranger to popular television series; he starred in the now classic Route ’66 and had numerous film roles stretching back some twenty years before Adam-12. He brought professionalism to the show that brought viewers back week after week. As the senior partner it was up to him to guide the rookie in the actual job of police work. Milner handled this role as few others could have; he was able to go from an action sequence to more dramatic scenes with ease. Kent McCord so impressed the series creator, Jack Webb, in an episode of Dragnet that Webb wrote the role of Jim Reed with him in mind. McCord was able to play the rookie cop in a fashion that the audience would respond to. He presented Reed as a young man just discovering there is a difference between what was taught to him in the police academy and how things work on the street. Rookies are usually shown on television as completely clueless, here McCord was able to give the audience a young man that was well trained but now needed the practical guidance of a more seasoned officer. These two actors had a natural and easy chemistry between them. They worked well together, just as their characters did. There was never any question that Malloy was in charge but he was willing to listen to the observations of his young charge. This is without a doubt one of the best police teams ever shown on television.
This was one of several series created by Jack Webb. Webb was always a big time supporter of the Los Angeles police department. Between Adam-12, Dragnet and Emergency Webb was dedicated to showing the American public just want law enforcement officers encountered each and every day. Webb created a little world of his own with these series; there was frequent cross over appearances of the characters. Sgt. Friday would call for a police car on Dragnet and Malloy and Reed would respond. Malloy and Reed would take an injured citizen to the hospital and it would be Emergency’s Rampart General. Not only was this cross pollination fun to watch it showed just how closely these different groups interacted and assisted each other. Adam-12, like its sibling series, was just about a text book of police procedure, the officers where always firm but polite, looking to resolve an issue instead of resorting to violence. One thing that Jack Webb always provided was quality family entertainment. You could be sure that nothing offensive would ever be shown on his series; you can’t say the same for any police drama running today.
Thankfully, Universal has gone to their vaults and is now releasing Jack Webb’s series on DVD with season box sets. This one for Adam-12 is excellent. The full screen video has held up very well over the decades. The color balance is still strong with a very small amount of defects present. Sure there are some random white speaks that streak across the screen but over all the quality is excellent. The audio is a re-mixed Dolby two channel mono that is nicely balanced in the mid range. Considering this series does not seem to get a lot of play in syndication it is great that it is now available on DVD. If you are just a little bit tired of police shows with so much violence and gratuitous bare butts, invest in getting this season set and enjoy it with your whole family. Let the kids see that there can be quality television without having to constantly push the boundaries of taste. In fact, do yourself a big favor and also get the Universal releases of Dragnet and Emergency and treat yourself to a Jack Webb marathon weekend!