1 9 8 2 (USA)
6 x 30 minute episodes
A spoof crime drama series from ABC/Paramount featuring the cases of outrageous cop Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), a detective lieutenant with an unnamed unit of what is called ‘the Police Department’, headquartered as Frank says, “at the Police Station”.
The series was filmed in the style of the Airplane! films with sight gags and literalisms galore.
One detective was so tall his head was always cut off at the top of the screen. The lab technician explained science a la Mr Wizard and made ballistic tests by shooting into tapes of old Barbara Walters interviews. And when a suspect cornered by Drebin took a hostage, the lawman also took a captive, just to even up the score.
Frank’s superior was Captain Ed Hocken (Alan North). Ofﬁcer Norberg (Peter Lupus) of the Undercover Unit assisted Frank. Ted Olson (Ed Williams) was the sleazy police chemist who appeared to enjoy performing hazardous experiments on children but was never given the chance – he was always interrupted by Frank.
Each week’s guest star (Lorne Greene, Georg Stanford Brown, Florence Henderson, William Shatner, Robert Goulet and William Conrad) was murdered before the opening credits finished, and Drebin’s snitch, Johnny the shoeshine boy (William Duell), was a font of erudite knowledge.
The show only ran for six weeks before it was unjustly axed. It was a critical success and a ratings failure. Some years later, Nielsen repeated his characterisation for the movie The Naked Gun and it was a box office bonanza.
“We think we know how he did it”
“Oh, Howie couldn’t have done it. He hasn’t been in for weeks!”
Detective Frank Drebin
Captain Ed Hocken
Shoe-Shine Johnny the Snitch