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Retooled "Dragnet" - does not sound promising

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#1 of 7 OFFLINE   MatthewLouwrens



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Posted August 27 2003 - 11:08 AM

I know it wasn't a huge hit in its first season, but personally, I quite liked the new Dragnet series with Ed O'Neill. I'm several decades too young to have watched the original Dragnet shows, but I was familiar enough with the show and its format - the opening announcement ("The story you are about to see was inspired by actual events. The names have been changed to protect the innocent."), the theme, the voiceovers, I liked it. And I liked the fact that it felt completely different to every other cop show on TV - the retro element really helped the show. It may have modern crimes, but it had a nice old-time feel. And Ed O'Neill was great.

But the whole show is being retooled now. See this CNN article about the changes:

[quote] Made famous more than 50 years ago by Jack Webb and now played by Ed O'Neill, Friday no longer prowls the streets of Los Angeles with a lone sidekick. He's been promoted to lieutenant, in charge of a diverse group of junior detectives who seem to hang on his every word.

Friday's upgrade to mentor of his own mod squad on what is now called "L.A. Dragnet" is one of many changes in the ABC series' evolving effort to survive.

When the second season premieres in a new time slot on Saturday, September 27 (10 p.m. ET), it will look markedly different from the retro-flavored "Dragnet" launched on Sunday nights last February to disappointing results.

There will be more women and more vistas of Los Angeles. Updated, less noir-like dialogue and more of a documentary shooting and editing style. Even subtle wardrobe changes -- gone are Friday's nerdy short-sleeved shirts.

There are also two new writers -- twin brothers Jonas and Josh Pate.

"We want it to be a current show, we don't want it to reference the old show in any wink, wink kind of way," says Josh Pate on a visit to the squad-room set.


So why, then, was the series moved to Saturday night, when younger, more hip viewers are out experiencing life and the lead-in show is "The Wonderful World of Disney"?

While admitting it's not an ideal time slot for a cop show trying to reinvent itself, Lloyd Braun, ABC entertainment chairman, has said the strategy is to "incubate" the show in a noncompetitive time period. If it becomes a self-starter, he says, then it may be moved to a more suitable slot later in the season.

To make that happen, says Pate, the series must "look forward more than it looks back."

But that doesn't mean the Pates don't have reverence for the series' top cop.

"The show is still centered on Friday," Pate assures. "We definitely want to ramp up the legend of Joe Friday and his kind of larger-than-life character as a famous cop ... get that sense across that he's an iconic character."


Last season, Friday and his then-partner, Frank Smith (Ethan Embry), were in virtually every scene, creating an excessive workload for the actors. "I mean they built the pyramids that way," the 57-year-old O'Neill chuckles.

With Embry gone, O'Neill's new detective co-stars are Desmond Harrington as Jimmy McCarron, Eva Longoria as Gloria Duran, Evan Parke as Raymond Cooper and Roselyn Sanchez as Elana Macias.

Although Friday's new position will keep him inside more than before, he'll join his team members in the field from time to time. But even when he's not around, Friday's presence will be felt by his traditional voice-over commentary.


Cooper is spiritual, a family man and a native Angeleno. McCarron, the youngest of the squad, originally from the Bronx, is hot-tempered. Pate says McCarron has a streak of vengeance toward the criminals, while Cooper is more concerned about justice for the victims.

"Friday has seen all these different kinds of cop attitudes before and knows how to manage them," says Pate.

Longoria says the reality of the series is greatly strengthened by the addition of a "more ethnic" cast. [quote]

I do not like what I am hearing in this report. The new title, "LA Dragnet"? Why is that change needed? What is wrong with keeping the name? (Other than allowing us to distinguish between the original season and the season that destroyed the show).

Abandoning the two-cop format in favour of a group - I can understand trying to lift Ed O'Neill's workload, but this "head of a group" seems less like Dragnet. Wasn't Dragnet always about a cop and his partner? This is a key point of difference from every other cop show. Most other cop shows are about a group of cop, and Dragnet and Criminal Intent are the only exceptions. Now it's just CI.

More of a documentary style? Like we haven't seen that before.

More women? That's a novel approach.

I liked Embry. He was an interesting character, trying to struggle for the first time with the pressures of being a cop. Goodbye.

The differing attitudes of the team members - sounds to me like a show that will focus more on the conflict within the team than on trying to solve the case.

Changing Friday's costume? Honestly - who watches or doesn't watch a show because of clothes?

Most worrying is the idea of increasing Friday's status as an iconic character, a larger-than-life famous cop. He's not a famous cop, at least not to my view. At the start of every episode, he says "My name’s Friday. I’m a cop." Not "I'm a super-cop", or "I'm a famous cop." He's just an ordinary cop, who happens to be the cop the makers of the show focus on. Making him some iconic cop who everyone respects just because he's Joe Friday is completely wrong.

And these new guys they have working on the show don't seem to get this, judging from their comments. They seem to be all but abandoning the concept of the show being Dragnet, and just holding onto the name.

Does anyone else have any thoughts?

Or is there really not much interest in the show?

#2 of 7 OFFLINE   Peter Kline

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Posted August 27 2003 - 01:40 PM

The name doesn't matter, only the show writing, acting and premise. When Dragnet first went into syndication in the late 50s (the first show) it was called "Badge 714". So name changing is not unusual.

#3 of 7 OFFLINE   MatthewLouwrens



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Posted August 27 2003 - 02:26 PM

[quote] The name doesn't matter, only the show writing, acting and premise. When Dragnet first went into syndication in the late 50s (the first show) it was called "Badge 714". So name changing is not unusual. [quote] I did not know that. You learn something every day.

The name change definitely is the least of the changes being proposed. But its symptomatic of the changes being made to the show without real reason.

#4 of 7 OFFLINE   Jason Seaver

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Posted August 27 2003 - 11:10 PM

That sort of syndication name change wasn't uncommon; local stations often didn't like looking as though they were re-running another station's first-run stuff. (Remember "Happy Days Again"?) This change sort of intrigues me. The best episodes of Dragnet last year were the ones about the chase, the tactical work of hunting someone down. Making Friday a general of sorts could strengthen that.
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#5 of 7 OFFLINE   Randy Tennison

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Posted August 28 2003 - 01:42 AM

I'm taking a wait and see attitude. I really liked the series last year, and am glad they didn't totally dump it. I thought Ed O'Neill was fantastic. And honestly, I didn't care for Ethan Embrey. I much more enjoyed the black female detective (from OZ). So, let's see how this goes. It could be good.
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#6 of 7 OFFLINE   Steve Phillips

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Posted August 28 2003 - 10:20 AM

I kind of liked it last year. These changes don't sound like ones for the better. I predict an early cancellation.

#7 of 7 OFFLINE   Peter Kline

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Posted August 28 2003 - 11:27 AM

Bonanza was called Ponderosa in syndication. Both Dragnet and Bonanza were still on network television when they went into syndication to local stations.

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