Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión
Adam-12: “Venice Division”
Needless to say, Venice in this case refers to Venice, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, not Venice, Italy. After all, the jurisdiction of the LAPD may be large but it is not that
was created by producer Jack Webb to do for uniformed police officers what Dragnet
did for police detectives: give the public some idea of what people in law enforcement have to put up with in real life. In a way, Adam-12
could be seen as forerunners of the Law & Order
series. Only Jack Webb's shows tend to concentrate more on the police side of the equation and not on the prosecutors.
Moreover, since Adam-12
was created in 1968 -- a time when many liberals still equated police with the Chicago cops who beat up demonstrators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention
and the Southern lawmen who harassed and persecuted members of the African-American Civil Rights Movement
-- the show was never considered quite as fashionable as later cop shows such as Hill Street Blues
or NYPD Blue
. If that was not unflattering enough, the show came in for special criticism when author Joseph Wambaugh -- a former member of the LAPD -- was doing interviews for the Wambaugh-inspired TV series Police Story
and saw fit to note that the cops in Adam-12
were so unreal that they never even went to the bathroom. Yet more recently, author Connie Fletcher noted in a preface to her nonfiction book What Cops Know
that the one TV show that consistently got praised from real-life police officers for showing what police work was really like was not Adam-12
but rather the 1970s sitcom Barney Miller
In any event, Adam-12
was rarely seemed to me to be as memorable as its much-parodied-but-still-memorable predecessor Dragnet
. For all their faults, Jack Webb's Sgt. Joe Friday and his partner, Officer Bill Gannon (played by Harry Morgan), still seemed more interesting to my younger self than Adam-12
's Officers Pete Malloy and Jim Reed (played by Martin Milner and Kent McCord).
One of the more memorable exceptions was the “Venice Division” episode which aired in 1973. This was a rather gimmicky episode in which the most interesting event takes place shortly after the opening credits and then never gets mentioned again. Instead, Malloy and Reed got involved with trying to track down a maniac who preyed on young women when they were not exchanging jests with a hotshot motorcycle cop and solving relatively minor cases such as a runaway giant pumpkin.
The incident that opened the episode involved a young actress named Tammy Warren (played by Edy Williams) who had apparently confused her birthday suit with her bathing suit. When Malloy and Reed caught up with her, she had already attracted quite a crowd of eager onlookers who thought her version of the “natural look” was just fine. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the law, it was also indecent exposure.
Malloy and Reed first covered Ms. Warren with a conveniently available blanket and then managed to talk her into redonning her white bikini. However, they also chose not to arrest her for indecent exposure, electing to pass that decision on to the DA. This annoyed the heck out of Ms. Warren's agent, who just happened to be conveniently located nearby. As it turned out, the whole incident was a publicity stunt cooked up by him. Given some of the celebrities who have recently received major media coverage for their willingness to “accidentally” uncover certain body parts -- Janet Jackson
, Britney Spears
, etc. -- you could argue that such an agent was ahead of his time. Indeed, some celebrities like Miley Cyrus
and Lady Gaga
have almost made a career out of such stunts. Unfortunately, Ms. Warren was not so lucky, which is what you get for being a fictional TV character in the 1970s. Instead she became one of the few women to actually get insulted at the prospect of not
getting arrested for indecent exposure.
As for the rest of the show, nothing much happened that has not been already mentioned save for a lecture given by Malloy and Reed to a young dancer who supposedly attracted the unwanted attention of a would-be rapist by practicing yoga in her leotard. Ironically, the leotard that Malloy and Reed found so morally objectionable seemed quite conservative compared to much of the clothing worn by some of today's young women. (Of course, it was also very conservative compared to what Ms. Warren had been wearing at the beginning of the episode.) And did I mention that said young woman was wearing said leotard in the privacy of her own apartment? True, it was also in front of an uncovered window, but still the cops' warning seemed a bit much -- even by the standards of 1973.
Then again, Adam-12
was a conservative show -- which makes the Tammy Warren incident seem all that much more peculiar. Granted, it was filmed in a very conservative fashion. You initially heard more of the naked Ms. Warren than you saw of her thanks to a shot that conveniently placed her off-screen, and thanks to the blanket Malloy and Reed gave her, you never saw much of the undressed Ms. Warren save for her head and limbs. Indeed, the sight of her unoccupied swimsuit was the most serious visual clue you got that Ms. Warren had been showing a lot more than she told before the cops arrived.
It says something about how much times have changed since 1973 that I suspect most of today's less chivalrous male teenagers might consider this particular episode to be yawnworthy thanks to the abundance of female nudity available on cable TV, R-rated movies and the Internet. Compared to that, a woman covered by little more than a blanket might seem like small potatoes. Then again, if this same episode were to be remade for one of today's cable shows, I suspect we would have seen a lot more of Ms. Warren and a lot less of giant pumpkins.
Labels: Adam-12, California, Connie Fletcher, Desnudez, Edy Williams, Jack Webb, Joseph Wambaugh, Kent McCord, Martin Milner, Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión X, Policía