Police Squad!: The Complete Series review by Mike Long

Thanks to technological innovations such as home video, the Internet (and specifically websites such as Youtube), and cable TV, it's very difficult for a television show to disappear into obscurity these days. Even the most short-lived show can find new life (or at least have its existence acknowledged) in various locales. However, this hasn't always been the case. For most of the history of TV, if a show flopped, it was gone forever. Despite a promising pedigree, the show Police Squad! came and went very quickly in 1982. The show would go on to spawn a successful movie series, but the original program still went unseen by many. Now, Paramount Home Entertainment has brought all 6 episodes of Police Squad! to DVD.

Police Squad! follows the adventures of Sergeant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), Detective Lieutenant of Police Squad. Drebin, along with his boss Captain Ed Hocken (Alan North), solve crimes in the big city (which appears to be Chicago). Utilizing the scientific assistance of Ted Olson, Scientist (Ed Williams) and the enthusiastic help of Norberg (Peter Lupus), Police Squad investigates murders, robberies, and drug rings.

The above synopsis may sound like every other cop show on TV, until you realize that Police Squad! comes from David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker (better known as ZAZ), the creators of Airplane!. The silly, pun-laden humor found in that hit film was transplanted to television for Police Squad!. And as they did with Airplane!, the ZAZ guys take a genre and turn it on its ear.

All of the jokes aside, one of the best things about Police Squad! is the look of the show. The series has the appearance of every police show from the 1970s, including the sets, the cars, and the extras. If one were to suddenly come across the show on TV, it would probably take you a few minutes to realize that the program was a comedy and not a gritty police show. Clearly, the team behind Police Squad! put a lot of work into getting the aesthetics of the show right.

Of course, it's this pseudo-realistic quality which punctuates the humor in the show. Just as in Airplane!, everything is played straight, but most of it is incredibly silly. We are given a story which could have come from any cop show, peppered with the stereotypical supporting characters. And as noted above, the look of the show was dead-on. But, this is where the serious qualities end. From the outset, Police Squad! is littered with jokes. From visual gags to puns to non-sequitirs to double-entendres, the episodes throw jokes at the viewer one after the other, only taking a break to set up the next scene. And the jokes range in difficulty as well. The prat-falls and potty-humor will be picked up by most any viewer, but there are some fast gags which will zip past some members of the audience. Clearly, the show must have contained more of the latter, as it was pulled from the air after four episodes. (The last two shows were aired later.)

Of course, ZAZ had their revenge when Police Squad! was rolled into the successful The Naked Gun films, which took the best parts of the series and amplified them. Personally, I consider The Naked Gun movies, especially the first one, to be very funny. And therein lies the problem with the series. After seeing the movies, the TV shows just feels watered down. Its almost as if the show is a spin-off of the movie and not vice-versa. Granted, the series does contain some funny moments, some of them classics (and many of which were repeated in the films), but the overall effect isnt as satisfying as the movies.

ZAZ completists will be thrilled that Police Squad! is finally available on DVD. Curious parties who love The Naked Gun films will certainly want to check out the inspiration for those movies. But, be prepared for a bittersweet reaction. The show is funny and was the basis for some great films, but its easy to understand why the show couldnt last on TV.

Police Squad!: The Complete Series is taken into custody by DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The DVD contains all six episodes of the series. The shows are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Police Squad! was shot on film and the episodes here were clearly transferred from film. The eps show some grain at times and defects from the source material are visible throughout. The colors are OK, but the image is somewhat dark at times. Video noise and artifacting are kept to a minimum. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. For the most part, this track doesnt sound like a 5.1 track, as most of the audio comes from the center and front channels. There were a few moments of subwoofer response, but no overt surround sound. Purists will most like want to stick with the Dolby Digital mono track.

This DVD contains a smattering of extras. Series creators David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, and Robert K. Weiss provide AUDIO COMMENTARIES on two episodes. These are fun talks, as the group reminisces about the show while making fun of how cheap and unfunny the show is at times. They also marvel at some of the jokes that they were allowed to get away with. Robert Wuhl, now best known as an actor, wrote two episodes of Police Squad! and provide commentary on the final episode. However, his chat is quite dull as he mentions several times that he doesnt remember certain parts of the show and doesnt give a lot of scene specific commentary. The DVD contains a five-minute GAG REEL. In the Leslie Nielsen Interview (9 minutes), the actor talks about his history with ZAZ and his work on Police Squad!. Behind the Freeze Frames features an unaired freeze frame with commentary by ZAZ and Weiss as they explain where the idea came from and how this particular freeze frame was going to be used to make an early Police Squad! movie. We get to see Casting Tests for Ed Williams (3 minutes) and Alan North (6 minutes). The extras are finished off with the Producers Photo Gallery, the List of Celebrity Deaths, and Production Memo Highlights, which includes notes on what had to be cut from the show.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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