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Police Squad!: The Short-lived yet Critically-acclaimed Show that Became a Successful Movie Franchise

Police Squad! Opening Title Sequence

Police Squad! Opening Title Sequence

Fun Facts About Police Squad!

  • Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), Norberg (Peter Lupus) and Hocken (Alan North), the main characters of Police Squad!

    Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), Norberg (Peter Lupus) and Hocken (Alan North), the main characters of Police Squad!

    Police Squad! was a television comedy series first broadcast in 1982. It was a spoof of police dramas, packed with visual gags & non sequiturs.

  • While a parody of many television shows & movies, it bore a particular resemblance to the Lee Marvin cop show, M Squad.
  • Police Squad! was created by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker & Jerry Zucker, who had previously worked together on The Kentucky Fried Movie & Airplane!.
  • Despite critical acclaim, the show was cancelled by ABC after just six episodes.
  • This was enough to gain a strong cult following through repeats on TV, which led to the 1988 movie version The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad! & two further sequels. Many gags from the show were recycled for the films.
  • Leslie Nielsen played Detective Frank Drebin in the series & all three films. Alan North played the role of Captain Ed Hocken on the show; in the films, the role was played by George Kennedy.
  • Peter Lupus also co-starred on the show as Officer Nordberg, while O.J. Simpson appeared as Nordberg in the films.
  • Ed, Frank and "Tall Al"

    Ed, Frank and "Tall Al"

    Ed Williams, who played scientist Ted Olson on the show, would reprise his role in the films, making him & Nielsen the only two actors from the series to appear in the movies.

  • Robert Goulet, who appeared as one of the “special guest stars” who were invariably killed off at the beginning of their episodes, would appear as villain Quentin Hapsburg in the second Naked Gun film.
  • Dr. Joyce Brothers played herself in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! She also played herself in Episode 4 of the television series.
  • The show was presented in the style of a Quinn Martin show of the early 1970s, with a portentous narrative over the opening titles which made a big feature of the show being “…in color”, followed by numerous gags.
  • Each episode would similarily play credits over a 1970-s style freeze frame of the final scene, except that the frame was not frozen – the actors simply stood motionless in position while other activities (pouring coffee, convicts escaping, chimpanzees running amok) continued around them.
  • The Naked Gun was the first of three movies based upon Police Squad!

    The Naked Gun was the first of three movies based upon Police Squad!

    One noticable difference between the series & the films is in the portrayal of Frank Drebin. In the series he is shown to be considerably more competent & straight-laced, & less Maxwell Smart-like than he is depicted in the films. The TV portrayal of Drebin was never intended to be overtly comic, merely a sendup of the ultra-serious Dragnet-like portrayal of TV cops (Nielsen’s trademark deadpan delivery was a perfect fit for this kind of parody). In the series, Drebin was intended to be the archetype of the straight man, in contrast to the rampant hilarity going on around him. It was not until the films that Drebin was changed to a more outwardly comic character.

  • ABC announced the cancellation of Police Squad! after four of its six episodes had aired in March of 1982. The final two episodes were aired that summer.
  • According to then-ABC entertainment president Tony Thomopoulos (on Entertainment Tonight), “Police Squad! was cancelled because the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it.” What Thomopoulos meant was that the viewer had to actually pay attention to the show in order to get much of the humor, while most other TV shows did not demand as much effort from the viewer.
  • In its annual “Cheers & Jeers” issue, TV Guide magazine called the explanation for the cancellation “the most stupid reason a network ever gave for ending a series.”
  • Police Squad! DVD Cover

    Police Squad! DVD Cover

    Matt Groening is quoted as saying “If Police Squad! had been made twenty years later, it would have been a smash. It was before its time. In 1982 your average viewer was unable to cope with its pace, its quick-fire jokes. But these days they’d have no problems keeping up, I think we’ve proved that.”

  • Four years later, ABC aired another law enforcement series spoof titled Sledge Hammer! which enjoyed more longevity. The show, created by Alan Spencer, featured characters that were not one-dimensional (unlike “Police Squad”), as well as more serious undercurrents to the plots. There was also a legitimate relationship between David Rasche’s Hammer & his female partner, Doreau.
  • The series was released to DVD on November 6, 2006 in the United Kingdom, & a day later in the United States. Special features include audio commentaries on several episodes, a gag reel, a new interview with Leslie Nielsen, featurettes, & a photo gallery. Co-creators David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, & Jim Abrahams recorded audio commentary, along with series writers Robert K. Weiss & Robert Wuhl.

Opening Title Sequence

The title sequence was packed with sight & visual gags. A selection:

  • Spoofing 1960s police show N.Y.P.D., the opening credits would show a red flashing squad car light going down a city street.
  • When Captain Hocken is introduced in his office, someone offscreen starts shooting the place up, with ridiculous results (people catching on fire, jumping out windows, etc; one woman even throws her baby on the floor as she runs away).
  • According to Pat Proft, had the show been renewed for a second season, this sequence would have been replaced by Mahatma Gandhi brandishing an assault rifle.

Titles

The opening sequence of each episode ends with an on-screen graphic listing the title of the episode, accompanied by an announcer’s voice-over intentionally giving a different title for the episode. The list of episode titles, with the on-screen graphic title followed by the announcer’s title in parentheses:

  • Police Squad Ending Credits

    Police Squad Ending Credits

    “A Substantial Gift” (“The Broken Promise”)

  • “Ring of Fear” (“A Dangerous Assignment”)
  • “Rendezvous at Big Gulch” (“Terror in the Neighborhood”)
  • “Revenge & Remorse” (“The Guilty Alibi”)
  • “The Butler Did It” (“A Bird in the Hand”)
  • “Testimony of Evil” (“Dead Men Don’t Laugh”)

Guest Stars

During the opening credits of each episode, a well-known actor is introduced as a “special guest star”, but is then killed off during the introduction, thus completing their appearance on the show. Stars included:

  • Lorne Greene (stabbed & thrown from a speeding car)
  • Georg Stanford Brown (crushed by a falling safe)
  • Florence Henderson (gunned down while singing in a kitchen)
  • William Shatner (dodges a salvo of bullets but drinks poisoned wine)
  • Robert Goulet (executed by firing squad)
  • William Conrad (stabbed & thrown from a speeding car)
  • A sequence was filmed with John Belushi (chained to concrete blocks underwater) but the actor died shortly before the episode was due to air, & the producers decided not to use the scene. According to the user-edited Internet Movie Database the producers wanted to include the Belushi scene when Police Squad was rebroadcast in the 1990s, but the footage could not be located & is presumed lost.

Running Gags

Drebin getting advice from Johnny, the shoeshine guy

Drebin getting advice from Johnny, the shoeshine guy

Frank Drebin’s rank constantly changes, often many times within a single scene. He often introduces himself (in narrative) as “Sergeant Frank Drebin, Detective Lieutenant Police Squad”, which is a non-existent rank made up of three real ones (Larger police departments often have Detective Lieutenants & Detective Sergeants, but NOT all three titles.) Also, in the first episode, a witness first refers to Drebin as ‘Sergeant’ then a few lines later calls him both ‘Lieutenant Drebin’ & finally ‘Captain Drebin’.

Drebin repeatedly drives into something (usually trash cans) when he parks his car. The number of trash cans he hits indicates the episode number i.e. one in episode one, two in episode two & so on.
Each episode had a crime lab scene where Ted Olson is giving a highly suspect or dangerous lesson to a kid, in a parody of Watch Mr. Wizard, when Frank interrupts him.
Ted uses the doorway while Frank walks around the set.

Drebin would offer a cigarette to people he was interviewing with the line “Cigarette?”, to which they would respond “Yes, I know” or “Yes, it is.” Drebin’s usual response would be a slightly nonplussed “Well…”

Drebin frequently needs to meet with Johnny, the omniscient shoeshine boy who knows everything in town, for “the word on the street”. Johnny won’t actually tell Frank anything until Frank slips him a bribe (often saying, “I dunno anything about it,” or, “It’s a big city,” until he’s paid). Each time Frank leaves Johnny, a specialist or celebrity arrives, & asks Johnny for advice about their particular profession:

  • A doctor asks Johnny how to perform an operation
  • A priest inquires about Johnny’s views on life after death
  • A fireman is instructed how to fight a fire at a furniture warehouse
  • Dick Clark asks about ska
  • Joyce Brothers talks with Johnny about psychology
  • Tommy Lasorda wonders about baseball, specifically his problems with his pitching game
Act II Running Gag

Act II Running Gag

The Act II label is followed by a joke:

  • Act II: Bruté?
  • Act II: Gesundheit
  • Act II: Richard III
  • Act II: Ball III
  • Act II: Lieber
  • Act II: Yankees One

The weekly criminal is always sent to “the Statesville Prison” (a pun on State Prison). Captain Hocken recites the names of the criminals caught in the previous episodes, so by episode six, five names are recited plus the final culprit.

The glass door of the squad room has “Police Squad” written on it in gold in such a manner that whichever side you look at it, one of the words is written backwards.

The Zucker Brothers hailed from Shorewood, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. In every episode, a discreet reference is made to Milwaukee place.

Other jokes

In “Rendezvous at Big Gulch” (“Terror in the Neighborhood”), the characters work undercover in a locksmith shop. Whenever anyone enters, Norberg is cutting a key on a grinding wheel & loses his grip. The key flies up & embeds itself in the ceiling—along with hundreds of others already stuck. As someone exits the shop, the door slams & all the keys fall to the floor.

"I'm a locksmith.  And I'm a locksmith."

"I'm a locksmith. And I'm a locksmith."

Drebin, posing as a locksmith, enters a man’s office & is greeted by the resident with “Who are you & how did you get in here?” to which Drebin replies, “I’m a locksmith … & I’m a locksmith.”

The locksmith shop at one point in the episode is vandalized with a rock thrown through the window, leaving a hole where the “L” would be in “Locksmith.” In a later scene, Frank goes to the shop to open it in the morning & sees a man waiting with a big ox. The window with the hole reads “ocksmith” (ox smith), & Frank can be seen explaining to the man he doesn’t shoe animals.

Also in the locksmith shop, behind the counter is a board labelled “Car Keys, House Keys, Florida Keys (a map of the Florida Keys), Francis Scott Keys (which are red, white, & blue), Honkeys (which are all white), Turkeys, & Pot Roast”

In “The Butler Did It” (“A Bird in the Hand”), a kidnapping takes place in a Japanese garden. This consists of pots with Japanese people standing in them. Drebin asks to see the “crime scene,” so a film projector is started showing the same scene of the kidnapping shown minutes earlier in the episode (complete with a slate).

In “A Substantial Gift”(“The Broken Promise”), as Frank & Ed are driving to Little Italy, the rear-projected background scene is from Rome, Italy, including the Colosseum. Later, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is seen out of an apartment window.

In the same episode, the U.S. Capitol Building is seen out the window of the Police Squad headquarters. In another episode, the Eiffel Tower is seen out the window. In each episode, a map of the New York City & Chicago metropolitan areas hang on the wall.

In “The Butler Did It” (“A Bird in the Hand”), Frank & Ed stop to fill up at an ARGON gas station. ARGON is the name of an oil company with an ad appearing in “Kentucky Fried Movie”, in which they claim to refine oil from teenager’s faces, discarded hair combs, leftover fast food, & other sources.

VIDEO:  Police Squad! Opening Intro

VIDEO:  Police Squad!  Frank visits Johnny, the shoeshine guy

VIDEO:  Police Squad! Epilogues

Special thanks to www.lonympics.co.uk

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The “Spruce Goose”: Howard Hughes’ Remarkable and Enigmatic Wooden Aircraft

The Hughes Flying Boat H-4 (HK-1) Hercules a.k.a. The "Spruce Goose"

The Hughes Flying Boat H-4 (HK-1) Hercules a.k.a. The "Spruce Goose"

Fun Facts About the Spruce Goose

Names: Hughes Flying Boat H-4 (HK-1) Hercules (“Spruce Goose”)

Description: The Hughes Flying Boat is a cargo-type seaplane designed to transport men and materials over long distances. This aircraft is of a single hull, eight-engine design, with a single vertical tail, fixed wing-tip floats, and full cantilever wing and tail surfaces. The entire airframe and surface structures are composed of laminated wood (primarily birch). All primary control surfaces except the flaps are fabric covered. The hull contains two areas: a flight deck for the operating crew and a large cargo deck. A circular stairway provides access between the two decks. Below the cargo deck are fuel bays divided by watertight bulkheads.

Largest wingspan: 319 feet, 11 inches with a wing area that covers 11,430 square feet
Features full cantilever wing and tail surfaces.

Tallest aircraft: 79 feet, 3 3/8 inches

Length: 218 fee 6 ¼ inches

Record setting: Largest seaplane and largest wooden aircraft: the entire airframe is composed of laminated wood. Primary control surfaces, except the flaps, are fabric-covered. The most reciprocating horsepower ever installed in an aircraft.

Power: Eight Pratt & Whitney R-4360, 3,000 horsepower engines

Propellers: Eight, 17 feet, 2 inch diameter

Weight, Empty:
 300,000 pounds

Weight, Loaded:
 400,000 pounds (maximum take-off weight)

Capacity: 750 troops or two Sherman tanks

Normal Crew:
 18

First And Only Flight:
 November 2, 1947

Howard Hughes in the cockpit of the Spruce Goose

Howard Hughes in the cockpit of the Spruce Goose

Why built: In July 1942, the world was at war. America had just lost 800,000 tons of her supply ships to German U-boats. Henry Kaiser, famed industrialist and builder of “Liberty” ships, proposed a fleet of flying transports to safely move troops and material across the Atlantic. Kaiser approached Howard Hughes with his idea. Together they formed the Hughes Kaiser Corporation and obtained an $18,000,000 government contract to construct three flying boats.

Hughes and his team of skilled engineers designed a single hull flying boat capable of carrying 750 troops. The plans called for eight 3,000 horsepower engines, a mammoth fuel storage and supply system, and wings 20 feet longer than a football field. They called the prototype aircraft the HK-1, standing for the Hughes Kaiser design number one.

Delays and Constraints: Encountering and dealing with tremendous design and engineering problems, the Hughes team developed new concepts for large-scale hulls, flying control surfaces, and complex power boost systems. Hughes engineers created the first “artificial feel system” in the control yoke, which gave the pilot the feeling he was flying a smaller aircraft, but with a force multiplied two hundred times. For example, for each pound of pressure exerted on the control yoke by the pilot, the elevator received 1,500 pounds of pressure to move it.

The H-4 now resides at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, OR

The H-4 now resides at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, OR

Adhering to the government mandate not to use materials critical to the war effort (such as steel and aluminum), the Hughes team constructed the Flying Boat out of wood. Hughes perfected a process called “Duramold” to create almost every part of the plane. Originally developed by Fairchild Aircraft Company, Howard Hughes purchased the rights to use Duramold in large aircraft. The Duramold process is a plywood-like series of thin wood laminations, with grains laid perpendicular to each other. Workers permeating the laminations with plastic glue, then they shaped and heated the pieces until cured. The result is a material that many engineers agree is both lighter and stronger than aluminum.

All of the research and development that went into the new seaplane delayed the construction process. In mid 1944, Henry Kaiser withdrew from the project, and Hughes took personal responsibility for all facets of the flying boat’s design and production. He renamed the gigantic seaplane H-4, representing his aircraft company’s fourth design.

After the war’s end in 1945, criticism of the project mounted. The Flying Boat prototype had exceeded the government’s funding allowance and the U.S. Senate formed an investigation committee to probe alleged misappropriation of funds. Hughes invested $7,000,000 of his own into the project to keep it going. While Hughes testified before the investigative committee in Washington, D.C., the Hughes team assembled the Flying Boat in the Long Beach dry dock. After his interrogation, Hughes was determined to demonstrate the capability of his Flying Boat. He returned to California and immediately ordered the seaplane readied for taxi tests.

Proof of Concept: On November 2, 1947, a crowd of expectant observers and newsmen gathered. With Hughes at the controls, the giant Flying Boat glided smoothly across a three-mile stretch of harbor. From 35 miles per hour, it cruised to 90 during the second taxi test when eager newsmen began filing their stories. During the third taxi test Hughes surprised everyone as he ordered the wing flaps lowered to 15 degrees and the seaplane lifted off the water. He flew her for a little over a mile at an altitude of 70 feet for approximately one minute. The short hop proved to skeptics that the gigantic craft could fly!

 

Special thanks to www.sprucegoose.org

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