Act Two: Yankees One

After ABC canceled Police Squad a mere six episodes into its run, then ABC president Tony Thomopoulos stated the show failed because, “the viewer had to watch it in order appreciate it.” Seemingly without realizing it, Thomopoulos condemned every other network show as simplistic drivel.

Police Squad is an absolute masterpiece though; maybe the condemnation isn’t wrong. In its too-shot lifespan, the parodies, the puns, the satire, the stupidity were unrelenting in their brilliance. The only saving grace is that Police Squad led to the Naked Gun movies. At least this wasn’t the end.

Small of a run as Police Squad had, the influence continued

Maybe the parody doesn’t have the kick it once did (inspiration M Squad totally forgotten). Some racial humor draws cautious laughter at best when looked on from 2020. But, Police Squad can match the faultless Airplane in successful jokes-per-minute, even jokes-per-second. Seminal casting puts Leslie Nielsen in the lead, who, like in Airplane, plays this whole thing straight. He doesn’t crack under total idiocy, utter confusion, or impossible lunacy. Nielsen’s a hero, because anyone watching probably needs frequent rest breaks to get through each episode, yet he never so much as smirks.

Primarily, gags come from the writing, but also in skewering how serious cop shows take themselves. Such levels of professionalism under duress, the constant action, and unbound heroism needed Police Squad’s treatment. Although always finding the perp, getting there in Police Squad means mocking the endless procedure, and stymieing the belief that such detectives represent the whole. Not that detectives don’t work hard, rather these shows embellish reality – crooks act irresponsibly dumb to make the audience feel smart (or smarter).

In their prime, the creative team of Zucker/Zucker/Abrahams dominated this type of humor. Together as a trio, they never missed. If they failed anywhere, it was by not keeping Police Squad on the air, leaving behind these six classics that never seem like enough even when viewed back-to-back.

Decades later, Nancy & Steve Carell tried a reboot of sorts titled Angie Tribeca. Mostly, it worked, and managed four seasons in this distracted era, further burying the idea that people needed to watch Police Squad for it to work. Small of a run as Police Squad had, the influence continued. Imagine the pop culture impact if Police Squad kept on.

Video

An unexpected Blu-ray release, CBS/Paramount distributes the show with decent mastering. Excellent grain reproduction keeps consistency. Resolution looks high, possibly a 2K scan, with only light filtering evident. There’s enough texture to go around, matching expectations for an ‘80s TV show. Picking up on Nielsen’s suit striping, previously a lost detail, is now possible.

Concerns occur in the prints. A scratch too often appears down the frame’s right side, and yellow splotches mar the imagery. Degradation is unfortunate, but generally controlled. A full restoration is unlikely anyway.

Occasionally chalky flesh tones aside, the dry color palette isn’t a loss. Earth-tones suit the series, even giving it the aesthetic of a Dragnet episode circa the late 1960s. Enough contrast helps too, elevating depth along with stable black levels.

Audio

While the original mono is included, don’t dismiss the DTS-HD 5.1 track. Surprisingly, the soundstage is greatly widened. While not all together natural, gunshots do ring out from rear or positional channels. Precision isn’t great (more like a stereo extension), if active. Plus the main theme spreads around, filling each channel aggressively.

Don’t expect dynamics to stretch far. Other than music, the subwoofer doesn’t factor in. Stock studio sound effects dry out from their age.

Extras

A five minute gag reel keeps the laughs going, as much so as the episodes themselves. Leslie Nielsen is interviewed for nearly nine minutes. Some cut freeze frame material is overlaid with commentary, explaining the concept. Two short casting tests look into the comic process. A brief photo gallery, a memo listing possible celebrity death shots, and the grandest bonus of them all, a memo that shows the changes needed to appease standards and practices finish out the bonus menu.

In the episode selections, two come with commentaries from Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Robert Weiss. This trio is essential, and each time they come together, it’s a must listen. A third commentary comes from Robert Wuhl.

Police Squad
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Series

A masterwork on the same comic level as Airplane, Police Squad holds up even as its core parody slips into history.

Sending
User Review
5 (1 vote)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 29 Police Squad screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 100,000+ already in our library), 100 exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.