|Created by||Jim Abrahams
|Developed by||Paramount Television|
|Narrated by||Leslie Nielsen|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||6 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Jim Abrahams
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original run||March 4, 1982 – July 8, 1982|
|Followed by||The Naked Gun film series|
Police Squad! is a short-lived television comedy series first broadcast in 1982. It was a spoof of police dramas, packed with visual gags and non sequiturs. While a parody of many television shows and movies, it bore a particular resemblance to the Lee Marvin cop show, M Squad (especially the opening credits), which the creators stated in a featurette for The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear.
Police Squad! was created by the comedy filmmaking trio Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, who had previously worked together on The Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane!. Despite critical acclaim, the show was cancelled by ABC after just six episodes. This was enough to gain a strong cult following through repeat broadcasts, which led to the 1988 film version The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! and two further sequels. Many gags from the show were recycled for the films.
Leslie Nielsen played a role that was written especially for him, as Detective Frank Drebin in the series and all three films. Alan North played the role of Captain Ed Hocken on the show; in the films, the role was played by George Kennedy. Peter Lupus co-starred as Officer Norberg (in the films, O.J. Simpson appeared as the similarly named Officer Nordberg). Ed Williams, who played scientist Ted Olson on the show, would reprise his role in the films, making him and Nielsen the only two actors from the series to appear in the movies. Robert Goulet, who appeared as one of the "special guest stars" who were invariably killed off at the beginning of their episodes, would appear as villain Quentin Hapsburg in the second Naked Gun film. Dr. Joyce Brothers played herself in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! She played herself in Episode 4 of the television series.
The show was presented in the style of a Quinn Martin show of the early 1970s, with a portentous narrative over the opening titles which made a big feature of the show being "...in color" (a common real-life feature in opening credits and promos of TV shows in the 1960s, before color broadcasting became the norm), followed by numerous gags. Each episode would similarly play credits over a 1970s style freeze frame of the final scene, except that the frame was not frozen – the actors simply stood motionless in position while other activities (pouring coffee, convicts escaping, chimpanzees running amok) continued around them.
One noticeable difference between the series and the films is in the portrayal of Frank Drebin. In the series he is shown to be considerably more competent and strait-laced, and less Maxwell Smart-like than he is depicted in the films. The TV portrayal of Drebin was never intended to be overtly comic, merely a send-up of the ultra-serious Dragnet-like portrayal of TV cops, the kind of role Nielsen himself had played straight in the QM Production The New Breed and in The Protectors segment of The Bold Ones. In the series, Drebin was intended to be the archetype of the straight man, in contrast to the rampant hilarity going on around him. It was not until the films that Drebin was changed to a more outwardly comic character.
ABC announced the cancellation of Police Squad! after four of its six episodes had aired in March 1982. The final two episodes were aired that summer. According to then-ABC entertainment president Tony Thomopoulos (on Entertainment Tonight), "Police Squad! was cancelled because the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it." What Thomopoulos meant was that the viewer had to actually pay close attention to the show in order to get much of the humor, while most other TV shows did not demand as much effort from the viewer. In its annual "Cheers and Jeers" issue, TV Guide magazine called the explanation for the cancellation "the most stupid reason a network ever gave for ending a series."
Matt Groening is quoted as saying "If Police Squad! had been made twenty years later, it would have been a smash. It was before its time. In 1982 your average viewer was unable to cope with its pace, its quick-fire jokes. But these days they'd have no problems keeping up, I think we've proved that."
Of the main cast, Nielsen, Williams and Taylor were the only ones who returned and were portrayed by the same actors in The Naked Gun film series.
During the opening credits of each episode, a well-known actor is introduced as a "special guest star", but then meets a grisly death during the introduction, thus completing their appearance on the show. Stars (along with their fates) included:
A sequence was filmed with John Belushi (chained to concrete blocks underwater) but the actor died shortly before the episode was due to air, and the producers decided not to use the scene. According to the Internet Movie Database the producers wanted to include the Belushi scene when Police Squad was rebroadcast in the 1990s, but the footage could not be located and is presumed lost.
In the first episode "A Substantial Gift (The Broken Promise)" two of the dental patients in Dr. Zubatsky's office would go on to star in major television hits of 1990s. Among the patients waiting on the couch is David Schwimmer who would go on to star on Friends. Meanwhile the patient walking out of Dr. Zubatsky's treatment room with his chin supported on a wheeled structure (who Frank Drebin steps aside for so he can pass) is Anthony Edwards who would go on to play "Goose" in Top Gun and Dr. Mark Greene on ER. Both Friends and ER debuted in September 1994 and would go on to anchor NBC's Thursday night line up for years. Neither Schwimmer nor Edwards has spoken lines or is credited in the episode.
A selection of other influences include:
The opening sequence of each episode ends with an on-screen graphic listing the title of the episode, accompanied by an announcer's voice-over intentionally giving a different title for the episode. The list of episode titles, with the on-screen graphic title followed by the announcer's title in parentheses. Although presented on DVD with episode three as episode five, the commentary reveals the correct order of episodes as follows:
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The opening and closing music was penned by composer Ira Newborn. The jumping big band/blues theme was retained for the Naked Gun movies (along with the opening police-light visual of the Police Squad! series) and may be Newborn's best-known single tune. It has been covered by some swing-style dance bands on CD, and has even been scored in marching-band style by arranger Paul Jennings.
1982 - Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series - Leslie Nielsen - Nominated.
1982 - Outstanding Writing In A Comedy Series - David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker - for the episode: A Substantial Gift (The Broken Promise) - Nominated
In 1985, Paramount Home Video first released all six episodes of the show on VHS, Betamax, and LaserDisc; Paramount released the show on two separate volumes: Police Squad!: Help Wanted! and More! Police Squad!, each volume containing three episodes. On the release of the show, Washington Post critic Tom Shales commented "People can rent them and laugh, and then cry that ABC was so cruel."
Paramount first released the series on DVD in 2006 in a keepcase, on one disc. The DVD contained various extras, including actual production notes from network executives, a "freeze-frame" that was filmed but never used, bloopers, casting tests, and an interview with Nielsen. Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, producer Robert K. Weiss and writer Robert Wuhl recorded audio commentary for the first, third and sixth episodes. Critics universally praised how the show was still funny after more than twenty years after its cancellation. The DVD set was nominated for a Satellite Award for Best DVD Release of a TV Show, though it lost to the DVD set of the eighth season of Fox's The Simpsons.
Six years after the cancellation of Police Squad! (see above for more information), the first Naked Gun film was released called The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. It performed well at the box office grossing around $78,756,177. It became a hit comedy, it became so popular that two sequels The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994) were released, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear was considered the most successful of the three, grossing around $86,930,411. (while Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult grossed $51,132,598) Roger Ebert rated the first movie 3 1/2 out of four stars, and gave 3 stars to the two following films. The second film won a Golden Screen award for Best Picture.
A series of British advertisements for Red Rock Cider made in the same style, with the opening titles changed to other names such as "Fraud Squad" or "Fried Squid", featured Leslie Nielsen. In one of these ads, Nielsen shouts, "Hey! You, over there, in the shadows!" The man steps forward and reveals himself to be Hank Marvin, guitarist with sixties pop group, the Shadows. The catchphrase was "Red Rock Cider—it's not red, and there's no rocks in it." The opening titles were re-used for the commercials (see above), they included:
Some of the jokes that were used in the commercials were originally taken from Police Squad! such as when Frank says "Cover me!" he gets covered with a blanket, which was one of the gags taken from The Butler Did It (A Bird in the Hand).
After the show's cancellation (and well before production on the Naked Gun movies), the producers considered turning the show into a movie by linking several episodes together with new scenes. A few of these scenes were actually filmed (including an elaborate "freeze frame" gag involving a burning courtroom) before the project was abandoned. This footage can be viewed on the DVD release.
Police squad (1982) was a 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 other Quinn Martin police dramas.
One of the recurring jokes was in the title: A title was shown on the screen, and the narrator would read off something totally different. Here, the first title is the one shown on screen, while the one in parenthesis was read aloud. Episodes are presented in order.