In 1966, producer/director/actor Jack Webb filmed a new, TV-movie version of his classic 1950s series Dragnet for Universal Pictures and the NBC network. Both studio and network were so impressed by the results that they invited Webb to revive Dragnet on a weekly, half-hour basis -- which is just what happened on January 12, 1957, when Dragnet: 1967 took over the Thursday-night slot recently vacated by the failed NBC sitcom The Hero. At base, it was the same old Dragnet, with the same old, "the story you are about to see is true" opening, the same "Dum-de-DUM-dum" theme music, the same monotonic narration and incessant, acronymic police jargon, and the same Sgt. Joe Friday (played, of course, by Jack Webb), whose promotion to lieutenant in the final season of the original Dragnet in 1958 was never mentioned. Also, several of Webb's radio colleagues -- Virginia Gregg, Vic Perrin, Harry Bartell, Peggy Webber -- showed up over and over again in supporting roles, just like in the good old days.
The changes to the venerable property included Joe Friday's new partner, Sgt. Bill Gannon, played by the ever-reliable Harry Morgan. Also, the new series was lensed exclusively in color, eschewing the black-and-white photography that predominated in the 1950s version. In addition, Friday and Gannon tackled cases with a decidedly contemporary slant (contemporary to the late '60s, that is). Case in point is the new series' now-legendary debut episode, "The LSD Story," in which Joe and Frank come face to face with a wild-eyed druggie (played by Michael Burns) who calls himself Blue Boy. ("I see a train! I see a train!") In subsequent first-season episodes, the detectives foil a neo-Nazi's plans to blow up a school that is poised to allow black students to attend; they pursue a pair of motorcycle bums who have bludgeoned a 62-year-old man to death; they go after a con artist who uses an authentic Congressional Medal of Honor as part of a magazine subscription scam; and they bust a gang of kids calling themselves "the Mod Squad," who use petty theft as a rite of initiation. Nevertheless, for all of its up-to-date trappings, Dragnet was at its best in the season's final episode, "The Bullet" -- a remake of the classic 1954 Dragnet episode "The Big Bible." Though some observers found Dragnet: 1967 to be corny and archaic in comparison to "hipper" cop shows, the revived series scored a big hit with Middle America, and the series was renewed by NBC with the greatest of ease. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi