Ah yes, I remember it well. Remember first seeing them, remember where I was, remember what I was doing, and remember whom I was not doing it with/to [sigh]. Produced by ABC, the series saw its first US transmission on 4 March, 1982, but I believe its first UK transmission was in 1989 on BBC2, late-evening.
"My name is Sergeant Frank Drebin, Detective-Lieutenant, Police Squad, a special division of the Police Department"
Forget done-to-death POLICE ACADEMY, this is the best police drama spoof ever! Yes, you may now have guessed it, I refer to POLICE SQUAD (in colour), that marvellous creation of David and Jerry Zucker with Jim Abrahams, who gave us other classics such as AIRPLANE! and, of course, THE NAKED GUN series - which fans may recall of its subtitle comes "from the files of Police Squad."
Which is the original, featuring Leslie Nielsen parodying his previous 'serious' cop series THE PROTECTORS and THE NEW BREED, delivering puns and non-sequiteurs whilst playing it straight amid an avalanche of sight and sound gags. He had recently done deadpan comedy in AIRPLANE! but in POLICE SQUAD (in colour) he found his niche. The opening credits always featured Drebin, his boss Ed Hocken (Alan North) and Abraham Lincoln (Rex Hamilton) confidently returning fire following an ambush by assailants unknown, and "tonight's guest star" suffering some spectacular death, often after they, too, had confidently returned fire during an ambush. Drebin is then seen in his car, with deliberately-awful backdrops, introducing the flavour of the episode. "I'd just come from the stockyards. We'd gotten reports of hundreds of cows had been senselessly slaughtered in the area, but I couldn't find any evidence. I stopped off for a hamburger and checked in with headquarters. My boss was already there."
There were three regular supports in the series. There was Nordberg (played by Peter Lupus - strongman Willy Armitage in the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE TV series) but who became O.J. Simpson in THE NAKED GUN. There was 'Dr. Olson' in the lab, who was slightly sinister, if not seedy as he explained some physical or chemical procedure to some wide-eyed pre-teen kid amazed to be at the police station ("Run along Jenny, and next week I'll show you why women can't play professional football."). He featured only once in THE NAKED GUN, much toned-down. By my favourite character did not: Johnny the Snitch, who - for a consideration - always has the word-on-the-street, but also advises genuine professionals on tricky technical procedures, eg. Dr. Joyce Brothers (noted psychologist), Dick Clark (noted TV presenter), Tommy Lasorda (celebrated coach of the L.A. Dodgers), et al.
The TV series POLICE SQUAD (in colour) received two Emmy nominations (Nielsen as lead comedy actor and Zucker, Zucker & Abrahams as series writers, 1982), and a Satellite Nomination (best DVD release of a TV show, 2006). Incredibly, however - and I quote from Cult, the strip that used to run down the edge of the Radio Times - "ABC cancelled Police Squad after six programmes, reportedly because it required above-average concentration from US viewers." [am folding it up again, and it's going back in the wallet] Well, we love hearing that of Americans, of course, however unfair, but this apparent 'shortcoming' was elaborated upon during the interview with Leslie Nielsen. It was due to screen size: whilst Nielsen and North were being deadpan in the foreground, both around and behind them there was too much going on for most viewers to follow on a small television screen. So several years later they expanded the format and made THE NAKED GUN. And the rest, as they say, is expenses!
And now finally available on DVD: POLICE SQUAD (in colour) THE COMPLETE SERIES. A single disc, all six classic episodes are backed-up by a great Special Features list: the above-mentioned Leslie Nielsen Interview, "Behind The Freeze Frames" Featurette, Gag Reel (what we call out-takes!), Casting Test - Alan North, Casting Test - Ed Williams, Producers' Photo Gallery Of Scenery Sets And Props, List Of Celebrity Death Shots and Production Memo Highlights. Don't understand why it is rated 15, though; am pretty sure the British censor would rate it 12A or even PG.
POLICE SQUAD, THE COMPLETE SERIES (did I mention it's in colour?) - RECOMMENDED!