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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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Doonesbury: Garry Trudeau’s Classic Comic and Mainstay of American Newspapers Since 1970

Gary Trudeau, creator of "Doonesbury"

Garry Trudeau, creator of "Doonesbury"

Fun Facts About Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury”

Michael James “Mike” Doonesbury is the main character in Garry Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury. He started out as a nerdish freshman from Tulsa at the fictional Walden College, and shared a dorm room with B.D. Currently he is married to Kim Rosenthal, and divorced from J.J. Caucus but raising their teenage daughter Alex. He has a widowed mother and a younger brother, Benjamin (who during some time as a punk rocker was known as “Sal Putrid”).

Mike is the everyman of the strip. He is a fairly normal, well-adjusted person who is easy for most readers to relate to, in contrast to the often surreal, crazy and extreme characters that populate the strip. Trudeau based Mike’s personality on his own and for this reason it is usually Mike who speaks the creator’s own viewpoints. Mike’s name was taken from the word “doone”, meaning a person who is not afraid to appear foolish, and Charles Pillsbury, the roommate of Trudeau’s at Yale.

Who played ‘uptight end’ for the Walden College football team when B.D. was the quarterback?
    Zonker Harris. Zonker’s habit of smoking marijuana in the huddle did not endear him to the straightlaced B.D. Zonker later turned up as a war correspondent in Vietnam while B.D. was there.
What is the name of the Justice Department attorney who was romantically involved (unsuccessfully) with a priest and a gay man?
    Joanie Caucus. Joannie got married to investigative reporter Rick Redfern and is the mother of Jeff.
What is the first name of “Uncle” Duke’s long-time assistant? She was a 1974 graduate of Peking University.
    Honey. Among other things, Honey Huan has been the translator for the U.S. Ambassador to China, the Dean and President of the Baby Doc College of Physicians, and the Social Director aboard Donald Trump’s yacht.
The first time Mike Doonesbury met his lab partner Bernie, what did Bernie do?
    Turned himself into a werewolf. Bernie later confided to Mike that he ate an outboard motor at the age of four. Years later he hired Mike’s future wife, Kim, to work for him at Bernie’s Byte Shack of Seattle.
Which ‘Doonesbury’ character once staged a nine hour performance art piece titled ‘Welcome to Artville’?
    J.J. Doonesbury. J.J. married and divorced Mike Doonesbury. She became a sculptor living in Seattle.
Which ‘Doonesbury’ character developed a monthly contribution program, complete with buttons to signify whether or not the person had already given?
    Alice Schwartzman. Alice, a one-time New York debutante,was homeless for many years until Congresswoman Lacey Davenport left her estate to her. She and her husband Elmont had to get used to living indoors.
Who was Sid Kibbitz?
    Boopsie’s agent. Sid was Boopsie’s agent. He also tried to package Ronald Reagan and Tom Cruise together in a ‘buddy’ movie.
Who was the first gay character to appear in ‘Doonesbury’?
    Andy Lippincott. Lippincott first appeared in the strip in the 1970’s. He eventually died from the AIDS virus.
Which ‘Doonesbury’ character revealed that he was gay on the radio?
    Mark Slackmeyer. Slackmeyer, along with his life-partner Chase Talbot III, began to host a radio show on National Public Radio called ‘All Things Being Equal’.
In 1973, one of the Watergate conspirators resigned from office, causing Garry Trudeau to withdraw a weeks worth of ‘Doonesbury’ strips. Which Watergate figure was it?
    John Ehrlichman. Ehrlichman later wrote Trudeau, “I hear that my resignation fouled up your series. Sorry. Next time let me know what you are planning and I’ll try to cooperate”.
Which character in ‘Doonesbury’ won $23 million in a lottery?
    Zonker Harris. Zonker won the lottery, but it didn’t change him one bit. He began working as a nanny, helping raise B.D. and Boopsie’s daughter Sam.
Has ‘Doonesbury’ creator Garry Trudeau ever won a Pulitzer Prize?
    Yes. in 1975 Trudeau became the first comic strip artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. The Editorial Cartoonist’s Society promptly passed a resolution condemning the Pulitzer Prize committee. Trudeau supported the resolution.
One of the first characters to appear in the strip was B.D. On whom was the character based?
    Brian Dowling, Yale’s starting quarterback. B.D. was a star quarterback just like the inspiration for his character, Brian Dowling. B.D. became the football coach at his alma mater, Walden College.
When ‘Bull Tales’ became ‘Doonesbury’, in how many newspapers did it first appear?
    28. ‘Doonesbury’ appeared in 28 newspapers when it debuted on October 26, 1970.
‘Doonesbury’ was originally called ‘Bull Tales’ when it appeared in a college newspaper. What college was that?
    Yale. Garry Trudeau is a graduate of Yale University and ‘Bull Tales’ was first seen in the Yale ‘Daily News’ on September 30, 1968.
In the early 90s, Mark came out as being gay. Who is his partner?
    Chase. He’s a Republican, surprisingly.
Who is the embodiement of the tobacco industry?
    Mr. Butts. Mr. Butts, a giant walking cigarette. His friend, Mr. Jay, is a giant joint.
Who did Mike campaign for during the 1980 election?
    John Anderson. Anyone remember him?
Zonker was one of those people who never grew up. Who where his imaginary friends that he always talked to?
    His plants. His plants had names and distinct personalities.
Who was B.D.’s buddy during both Iraq wars?
    Ray Hightower. Ray was wounded in the first war.
Several characters have died in the strip. Who died of a heart attack?
    Dick. Dick died of a heart attack while birdwatching. His wife, Lacey, died about ten years later, of Alzheimers. Andy died of AIDS, Phil of old age.
Joanie once fell for a fellow legal student named Andy. Why didn’t it work out?
    He was gay. Joanie: “Are they sure?” Andy: “Joanie, I’m sure.”
What celebrity neighbor did Duke always fight with near his house in Colorado?
    John Denver. He went after Denver with a gun on more than one occasion.
Everyone’s favorite character is Duke. What football team was he the assistant manager for?
    The Redskins. After a little problem with his liberal distribution of pills to the players, he was forced to look for work elsewhere.
After a serious injury in 2004, we got to see B.D. without his helmet for the first time. Which kind of helmet had he never worn?
    batting. He never played baseball. He played football, both in college and professionally, was a veteran of Vietnam and both Iraqi wars, and was a motorcycle cop for a bit.
Comics can have an effect on real life. The so-called ‘Doonesbury Amendment’ of Palm Springs dealt with what unfair practice?
    The requirement of domestic employees to carry passcards. In the 1980s, domestic employees of Palm Springs were required to carry a passcard. Since many of them were black or Hispanic, it essentially became a crime to be an undocumented minority. After the comic spoofed this law, it was quickly changed.
One trademark of the strip is the use of icons to represent famous people. How was Bill Clinton shown?
    A waffle. Reagan was Max Headroom, Bush, Sr. was a point of light, Bush Junior an asterisks in a cowboy hat, Dan Quayle a feather, Newt Gingrich a bomb, and David Duke a swastika.
Barbara Ann Boopstein, aka Boopsie, sometimes channels the spirit of an ancient warrior. What’s his name?
    Hunk Ra. Boopsie grows fangs and a pointed tongue when she channels the Hunk.
J.J. once created a large mural for Donald Trump. Where was it?
    His big, obnoxious boat. She felt she was selling out, painting a mural in a billionaire’s boat (in the bathroom, no less).
Duke was almost executed by firing squad at the hands of which organization?
    The Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Duke parachuted into revolutionary Iran on behalf of American oil interests, and was captured by Khomeini’s supporters, who tried him and found him guilty of crimes against God. He escaped a roof-top execution by bribing his tormentors, but it was, perhaps, his closest call yet. Right-winger though he is, Duke has historically enjoyed fairly good relations with the communist world, and has never fallen foul of the Stasi or any comparable organization. The Sandinistas, I imagine, would have loved to kill Duke, but they never got the chance. Duke never tangled with the Khmer Rouge, either – if he had, I doubt they would have arranged anything as civilized as a firing squad.
Which political figure did star reporter Roland Hedley eagerly question about his beard?

Yasser Arafat. Roland scored his first interview with Arafat in Beirut, as the PLO Chairman faced Israeli attack. Roland asked Arafat to explain how he managed to grow a beard which always looked like three-day stubble.

Special thanks to  www.absoluteastronomy.com and www.funtrivia.com

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