Dragnet was the original police procedural series, setting standards for what would become one of the dominant genres in TV shows.
It can also be seen as one of the ancestors of the currently-popular “true crime” genre. Its famous tagline was “the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”
It debuted in 1949 as a radio drama, then soon branched out as a 1950s TV series. By 1954, the first movie was released. Dragnet stories kept returning until at least 2003 (L.A. Dragnet).
One of the most notable revivals was the late 1960s one. It explicitly was a propaganda effort by the Los Angeles Police Department , whose public image was at a dismal ebb.
This was remarkably successful. The exemplary lead character, police Sgt. Joe Friday (Badge 714), was instrumental in shifting then-common views of police from “racist, corrupt and reactionary thugs serving oligarchs” toward “self-evidently righteous pillar of civilisation and justice”.
- Real Name: Joseph “Joe” Friday.
- Known Relatives: Joe Friday II (nephew), Mrs. Friday (mother).
- Group Affiliation: Los Angeles Police Department.
- Base of Operations: Los Angeles, CA.
- Height: 6’1″ (1.84 m). Weight: 210 lbs. (95 Kg.).
- Eyes: Black. Hair: Black.
Powers & Abilities
Joe Friday is a highly competent detective. He knows all skills that could be expected of anyone in the profession.
In the earlier shows, he was a World War Two veteran.
Here’s a typical, famous-back-then bit from the show and its message.
Detective-Sergeant Joe Friday worked virtually every division in the Los Angeles Police Department throughout the 1950s, 60s and early 70s. Sometimes, it seemed that he was with a new one every week.
Joe has also had four known partners during his career:
- Ben Romero (1952).
- Ed Jacobs (1952).
- Frank Smith (1952-1959).
- Bill Gannon (1967-1970).
By 1986, Joe was said to have died of unrevealed causes, most likely on the job.
Joe Friday was a nondescript but handsome man of average height and build, without facial hair.
He usually wears a gray three-piece suit and black neck tie.
Sgt. Friday makes few unnecessary movements. For instance, his arms do not move when he walks.
Joe lived mostly for the job, which he did with absolute professionalism. The show spent little time on any personal life he might have had.
He had contempt for criminals, and for those he saw as having limited maturity.
Sgt. Friday is famous for his unique, matter-of-fact and blunt style of speaking. His “just the facts ma’am” soon became a catchphrase, though it wasn’t the actual line in the show.
Friday speaks almost entirely in short sentences, unless delivering one of his “Jesus Speeches”.
He is extremely loyal toward the LAPD, and has an excellent reputation across the Department.
“My name’s Friday. I carry a badge.”
“All we want are the facts, Ma’am.”
“This is the city: Los Angeles, California.”
DC Universe Adaptation
(This section proposes ways of using this character in DC Universe stories).
Joe could easily fit into any comic book universe set in the present day, in the vein of Metropolis’s Bill Henderson. It’s easy to picture either one picking the other’s brain.
DC Heroes RPG
|Dex: 04||Str: 03||Bod: 03|
|Int: 05||Wil: 06||Min: 04|
|Inf: 04||Aur: 03||Spi: 05|
|Init: 013||HP: 030|
Artist (Actor, Writer): 04, Charisma (Interrogation): 04, Detective*: 05, Medicine (First Aid): 03, Military Science (Danger Recognition): 05*, Thief (Stealth): 04, Vehicles (Land): 04*, Weaponry (Police): 06
Area Knowledge (Los Angeles), Credentials (LAPD, Medium), Gift of Gab, Intensive Training, Leadership, Luck, Police Rank (Detective).
Los Angeles Police Department (High), City of Los Angeles (Low).
Responsibility of Power.
- Snub-nosed .38 Revolver [BODY 02, Projectile weapons: 03, Ammo: 06, Miniaturisation: 01, R#03]. In the 1951 TV series it was a Colt Detective Special, and in the 1967 one a S&W Model 10 with the 2″ barrel.
- Handcuffs (x3) [BODY 05, HP Cost: 9].
- On rare occasions Sgt. Friday checked out an Ithaca 37 Riot pump-action shotgun [BODY 04, Shotgun Blast (Range 03): 06, Ammo: 05, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, Drawback: Very Long Reload].
Source of Character: Dragnet (1951 and 1967 TV Series) Character created and played by Jack Webb.
Helper(s): Sébastien Andrivet, Pufnstuff, drphibes.
Writeup completed on the 6th of September, 2021.