Thursday, July 18, 2013

TV review: Adam-12 on Me-TV - when a fictional TV show is so realistic that the actors can win real LA Police Department awards!

I will start with a clarification first: I was selected by the Classic TV Blog Association to participate in their Summer of Classic TV Blogathon. I was very happy to be honored by having my blog included in this campaign because I love watching the crime shows from the 50s and 60s. Having emigrated to the USA in the late 80s, I never got an opportunity to watch shows like Dragnet, Adam-12 or even Rockford Files when they appeared on TV during their original runs. There was no financial reward offered for writing this blog post and the opinions expressed in this blog post regarding the specific shows are solely my opinion and have not been influenced by any third party. 

I love to watch TV shows from the 50's and 60's. So you can imagine my excitement when I finally upgraded to a new flat screen TV and my channel line up expanded to include Me-TV. The crime shows are my favorite and currently the weekday line-up includes such as favorites as Hawaii Five-0, Perry Mason, Ironside, Dragnet and Adam-12 on Me-TV.

I had heard of the other shows before, but Adam-12 was totally new to me and when I mentioned it at work, barely anyone younger than 50 years of age had heard of the show. So I want to use this opportunity to introduce a show that I think it a well made and still relevant crime show.

photo taken from Ken McCord's website at

Adam-12 was created by Jack Webb of Dragnet fame and follows the adventures of two LA policeman starring Kent McCord and Martin Milner. Milner's character Malloy is the senior member of the team, while the show picks up with Reed (played by McCord) about to graduate from the police academy. In the initial episodes we see Malloy having to provide advice on proper procedure to Reed repeatedly because it is clear that while you may graduate from the academy, you still have a lot to learn as a rookie cop. This is picked up in subsequent episodes as well as some other characters join the force or join Malloy and Reed on patrol. We also gain some insight into the family life of Reed, who is married and will have eventually a son. The worries of the wife of a cop and the strain that the constant danger can put on a marriage are also a frequent theme, especially in the earlier episodes. Malloy is a bachelor, through not for lack of Reed trying.

What really sets Adam-12 apart from other cop series and where you can clearly see the influence of Webb is the emphasis on educating the viewer about procedure. So while Malloy has to advice Reed on procedure and safety, the viewer is participating in the lessons as well. In subsequent years, as Reed needs less advice from Malloy, the partners need to educate other characters in the series and again we as viewers get the benefit of this advice as well. Similar to Dragnet, realism of police work was the central theme of Adam-12. Codes for calling in lunch breaks, proper procedure for asking a driver to pull out the registration from the glove department and the interaction between cops and neighborhood groups all figure into the scenes that make Adam-12 a typical Webb production. I immediately fell in love with Adam-12 and continue to watch it. Even reruns seem to have little things that I missed the first time around. Another wonderful experience when watching Adam-12 is the cast of future stars that got their start on this series. Included in this list are Royal Dano, a well known character actor that was present in many shows in the 50's and 60's and later could be seen on Little House on the Prairie. Also making guest appearances are a young Mark Harmon, Frank Sinatra Jr, and June Lockhart.

the fictional cops received real LAPD awards (image from

Interestingly, both McCord and Milner received awards from the LS Police Department (see image above from For those readers familiar with Dragnet and Jack Webb, you may recall that Webb was buried with a replica LAPD badge for the rank of Sergeant. I think the fact that Webb, Milner and Reed all were honored by the LAPD is an indication how well the series Adam-12 was written and how close to reality Adam-12 was and is. I therefore rarely miss an episode and even watch reruns because the series, lasting only a 30 minute timeslot, is so fast-paced that almost each sentence is important. One episode, in particular, comes to mind when talking about LAPD awards. Reed risked his life getting Malloy, who was wounded to safety. As a result Reed is supposed to be given an award recognizing his bravery. Normally a joyous ocassion, Reed's wife is not happy since she is worried about him getting killed on the job. It looks like for the longest time that Reed will get going solo to the award event because this episode put a serious strain on his marriage. In the end, things turn out okay, but the episode underscores that many cops risk their life each day on the job and that their families carry a heavy burden as well. So providing McCord and Milner with a real LAPD award is justified, considering that they starred in a series that realistically showed the dangerous job of a policeman.

Usually each episode will have several plot lines that sometimes merge, but often stay separate. Add into these plots the scenes in which the routine of the LA cops is shown from how reports are a never ending part of the day to trying to call in a lunch break, only to find out that a bank robbery got called in. If you enjoy Dragnet or any well-made crime drama, give Adam-12 a try, you will not be disappointed.

Disclaimer: This post is part of Me-TV's Summer of Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Go to to view more posts in this blogathon. You can also go to to learn more about Me-TV and view its summer line-up of classic TV shows. The opinions expressed in the post are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party. 


Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

I kind of hate to repeat myself with regards to Adam-12 but I still maintain that while I get a kick out of the series I don't think it was a realistic portrayal of the LAPD any more than Dragnet was. (There was a lot of racism in that department, something Jack Webb kind of whitewashed, unfortunately.)

If you overlook that, it's still enjoyable TV. I've always been a fan of Martin Milner (though I remember him more for Route 66) and I get a tremendous kick at some of the offbeat guest star casting in the episodes

Classic Film and TV Cafe said...

How interesting to learn that the LAPD honored both Milner and McCord in real life! While I'm sure the writers of ADAM-12 enhanced the dramatic aspects of the show (hey, it's TV!), I think they did a fine job with the pseudo-documentary approach of the series. As you pointed, the maturing of Reed from rookie cop to veteran was one of the show's strongest features. It also paralleled the real-life careers of Milner and McCord. Milner had starred in movies and had a previous hit with ROUTE 66, while Reed was a relative unknown. Thanks for participating in the Me-TV blogathon!

Amanda By Night said...

I've just started watching Adam-12 on Me-TV and really enjoy it. Milner is a natural and I loved how fast paced it is. And, like you, I enjoy the guest stars (often before they were stars!).

Joanna said...

Thanks for participating in the blogathon. I still love watching Adam-12 too--over and over and over...

I also love the look of Los Angeles in the late '60-early '70s. Classic.