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"The Big High"
Dragnet episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 8
Written by David H. Vowell
Directed by Jack Webb
Production no. 32
Original airdate November 21, 1967
Guest stars

Tim Donnelly
Ed Prentiss
Merry Anders
Brenda Scott
Kent McCord

Episode chronology
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"The Senior Citizen" "The Big Ad"
List of Dragnet episodes

The Big High was an episode of the American television series Dragnet. It aired on the NBC network on November 2, 1967, the program's second season[1]. It starred Jack Webb (who also produced and directed the episode) Harry Morgan, Tim Donnelly, Ed Prentiss, Merry Anders, Brenda Scott, Kent McCord and James Oliver. It is sometimes called "Grass Kills" and is considered comparable to Reefer Madness in terms of exaggerating the marijuana threat.

Plot summary

Los Angeles police officers Joe Friday(Webb) and Bill Gannon (Morgan) are visited one day by one Charles Porter (Prentiss), a wealthy man who's very concerned about the welfare of his only grandchild, Robin Shipley. Porter's concern rises from the fact that his daughter Jean Shipley (Scott) and her husband, computer programmer Paul (Donnelly) admit to using marijuana.

Friday and Gannon pay a call on the Shipleys at their posh home in the San Fernando Valley. Though Jean refuses a search of the home, she admits that she does in fact smoke marijuana as does Paul, who comes in mid-interview, looking upset. The Shipleys resent the intrusion of Porter and the police, but as there is nothing to arrest them for, Friday and Gannon leave a little frustrated.

Friday and Gannon approach policewoman Dorothy Miller (Anders) who specialises in cases of child abuse. Though Miller is sympathetic, she is loaded down with some very serious cases (including a child who was beaten with a garden shovel) and since there is no evidence the Shipleys are abusing Robin, there is nothing she or the others can do.

Time passes and Friday and Gannon get a break. One Fred Ludden (Oliver) is arrested for possession and the two detectives get him to admit he got the marijuana for free from the Shipleys. In short order, the police raid the Shipley home, where a pot party is still in progress. The Shipleys, both high, seem more annoyed than anything else at first, even when Gannon retrieves a bag of reefer, about 1 ounce. But when Gannon notices Robin is missing from her playpen, Paul Shipley can't remember where she is, Jean tries to remember, but is having trouble - then runs fearfully to the bathroom. When she gets there she and the detectives see the bathtub is overflowing, Robin still in there, drowned. Jean and Paul, both heartbroken, break down crying. Gannon has to leave the room to throw up, leaving Friday, still holding the bag of grass, to walk towards the camera, his face out of shot. As the familiar Dragnet theme plays, Friday's hand tightens around the bag in rage.

In the end, Paul Shipley is found guilty on a charge of involuntary manslaughter and is placed on probation. Jean Shipley, apparently driven mad by her grief, is not charged but sent to a mental institution.

Cultural references

  • In the Simpsons episode "Weekend at Burnsie's" the scene where Mr. Burns is found dead in his bathtub is apparently inspired by this episode.


  1. ^ Episode list for "Dragnet 1967"


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