Friday, June 13, 2008

TV Rebels: Jack Webb; TV Land's She's Got The Look Scores Again for Episode 2

We were very busy in May (upfronts!) so we couldn't bring you the May installment of TV Rebels, but we will bring it to you today! We will bring you the June edition later this month, I promise. We originally had special permission to publish the first 6 essays on TV shows and actors that will be featured in the upcoming book TV Rebels: 100 People and Programs That Shaped the Medium by authors Lou Orfanella and Oscar De Los Santos...and as we mentioned in April, we have now gotten rights to 6 additional essays, so we will be bringing you one each month until at least November! Upcoming TV Rebel columns coming soon are about Andy Griffith, Bill Cosby, and Desi Arnaz. The book is in the works and will be released in 2009.

So without further adieu, we bring you the sixth essay of TV Rebels:

Jack Webb: Just The Facts Ma'am
by Lou Orfanella

Dum de dum dum. Dum de dum dum dum. "The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent." Nine musical notes, eighteen words, and the most famous police drama to ever hit the airwaves. From 1952 to 1959 and again from 1967 to 1970 on NBC Sgt. Joe Friday of the Los Angeles police department kept the streets safe from crime solving cases drawn from the actual LAPD files. Stone-faced actor Jack Webb played Friday in both incarnations of Dragnet, a part he originally played on a radio version of the series. With catch phrases like "My name's Friday, I'm a cop." and "Just the facts, ma'am," Webb's Joe Friday became an iconic figure among television cops. Besides starring, Webb created, directed, and produced Dragnet as well as overseeing the hits Adam-12 and Emergency! through his MarkVII Limited company.
With a keen eye for detail and a desire for realism in his series, Webb the producer, and Dragnet the series, created what may well have been the prototype for all police shows that followed. "Jack Webb's contributions to the film industry were his use and improvement of the teleprompter, automobile tow shots, and close camera angles. He is credited as the person who pioneered the television police drama, which remains popular to present times. Further, with his demand for accuracy and realism, Jack desired an economy of dialogue with no excessive verbiage, insisting on a 'clean script.' He would have strongly objected to today's excessive violence offered on television" (Moyer 220).
Dragnet was in fact relatively devoid of violence. Few gunshots were fired and the show was considered unqualified family fare that was praised for its overarching theme that crime does not pay. A letter received by Webb and quoted in an early article about Dragnet underscores the appreciation he received. "Not only do you provide wholesome entertainment, but you are doing more for law enforcement than anyone else in the entertainment field. As a former FBI agent, deputy city attorney and prosecuting attorney, I'm particularly grateful for the public service you are rendering" (Harris 21).
After Webb's death in 1982 there were several attempts to revive Dragnet. Dan Aykroyd starred in a comedic big screen version in 1987. A syndicated version ran for 52 episodes starting in 1989. Producer Dick Wolf whose own Law & Order franchise drew from actual case in the Dragnet tradition attempted a revival in 2003. In this Dragnet a post-Married with Children Ed O'Neill played Joe Friday. Only 22 episodes were produced for ABC. Joe Friday was apparently too closely associated with Jack Webb for anyone else to wear badge 714.
Webb was a pioneer, a TV rebel whose contributions to the medium were long lasting. "Jack Webb achieved fame as a film and television actor, producer, and director who created the most popular crime drama it its time. His fast-paced and long-running Dragnet set standards and formats that influence television and motion-picture films today. Most police and detective stories prior to Dragnet concerned commercial and glamorized characters that real-life officers frequently laughed about. But Jack's contribution to police work was that his stories addressed the daily trials and tribulations of an actual large city department, from whose records he drew true-to-life accounts" (Moyer xi).

Works Cited
Harris, Jay S. TV Guide: The First 25 Years. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978.
Moyer, Daniel and Eugene Alvarez. Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Authorized Biography of Jack Webb. Santa Ana: Seven Locks Press, 2001.

TV Land's newest original reality series, She's Got The Look, continues to build momentum, as the second episode aired this past Wednesday and scored double digit gains among the network's target demo, Adults 25-54, and the network's core audience, Adults 40-54 over last week's series premiere.
The six-episode series, a collaboration with Wilhelmina Models, Inc., sets out to discover a sophisticated, beautiful and confident woman 35 or older destined to become the next great supermodel. The winner will receive a lucrative modeling contract with Wilhelmina Models, Inc. and a photo spread for SELF Magazine.
Wednesday's episode, in which the ten finalists dare to bare it all in their first elimination challenge, posted a 0.5 rating (488,000 viewers) among A25-54, up 15% in rating from last week's episode and 14% in viewers. Among the network's core A40-54 audience, the episode earned a 0.6 rating (313,000 viewers), a rise of 12% in rating and 13% in viewers over last week's premiere episode. The median age was 45...which is inside the network's 40-54 core audience. Compared to a year ago, the telecast witnessed a 74% increase in rating and 79% increase in viewers among A25-54 and a 39% rise in rating and 44% in viewers among A40-54.
TV Land did not release how many total viewers there were as they did for the series premiere...my guess is it went down a bit in total viewers.

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