Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Thank Goodness, It's Friday -- Again; 'Dragnet,' Redux

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Thank Goodness, It's Friday -- Again; 'Dragnet,' Redux

Article excerpt

Byline: Nancy McAlister, Times-Union staff writer

Before Cops and America's Most Wanted, before even the first installments of Law & Order and CSI, there was Dragnet.

Originally a radio drama, it made its debut on NBC in 1952 and became the prototype for cop-show realism. Star Jack Webb's no-nonsense Sgt. Joe "Just the facts, ma'am" Friday was lionized in the 1950s, particularly by the Los Angeles Police Department. But the show's 1960s version, with its "dirty, hippie scum" perspective, became a caricature of itself -- the terse "My name's Friday; I'm a cop" overshadowed by the melodramatic "Marijuana is the match, cocaine is the fuse and heroin is the bomb."

As anyone who watched the Super Bowl knows, Dragnet is returning as a series on ABC this weekend (10 p.m. Sunday).

Although the original was based on real police files, each week's episode on ABC will be drawn from headlines. For example, Sunday's pilot focuses on a serial killer who imitates the M.O. (another bit of famous Dragnet jargon) of the infamous Hillside Strangler. The how-to of apprehending the murderer is the basis of the script. All the while, Sgt. Friday punctuates the investigation process with voice-overs. At the outset each week, viewers are told, "The story you're about to see was drawn from actual events. The names have been changed to protect the innocent."

Other than those qualities, this Dragnet veers sharply from the original in tone. Ed O'Neill's Friday is a seasoned, world-weary detective who's seen it all. His partner in robbery/homicide is a detective named Frank Smith (Ethan Embry). He's younger and more impulsive than his colleague.

And if Sunday's pilot is an indication, the crimes they investigate will be depicted more graphically. There are a number of references to semen left at the crime scenes, where each of the woman has been sexually violated. And, at one point in the drama, two young girls are held in captivity by the murderer. Executive producer Dick Wolf, creator of the Law & Order franchise, called this Dragnet an homage to, not a remake of, the original.

"I remember the night the original Dragnet went on," Wolf said at the recent midseason television press tour. …

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