Listen to a Dragnet Radio Show episode by clicking on a link below:
The Dragnet radio show was a police action series that ran for 382 episodes over 7 1/2 years from June 3, 1949 to February 26, 1957 on the NBC radio network! It was the first police series that detailed every single step involved in police work. The street cops would often discover a crime, then the detectives would investigate and gather evidence. The questioning of witnesses and suspects was typically included. The show even went so far as to show the mundane tasks involved in police work like filling out paperwork.
For the first time, the audience got a feel for what a real cops job was like, not the glorified hollywood version. And yet, the stories were intense and definitely held the interest of the audience. The show’s creator, director and main star, Jack Webb, insisted on realism and accuracy in portraying the cops and detectives in the series. Episodes were based on real cases from the Los Angeles Police Department’s files. Dragnet also broke some (at the time) taboos by occasionally depicting sexual crimes and episodes where children were murdered.
As stated, Jack Webb played the main character (Detective Sergeant Joe Friday). Joe always had a partner, but they changed throughout the series from Barton Yarborough as Sergeant Ben Romero to Barney Phillips as Officer Ed Jacobs and lastly to Ben Alexander as Officer Frank Smith. There were two announcers; George Fenneman and Hal Gibney. The show was produced by Bill Rousseau. Writers included Frank Burt, James E. Moser, and John Robinson. Those terrific sound effects were done by Wayne Kenworthy and Bud Tollefson. The series theme music was titled, “Dragnet March” and was written by Walter Schumann. The show’s sponsor was Fatima Cigarettes through September 14, 1952 and then Chesterfield Cigarettes supported paid the way.
The Dragnet radio show was the inspiration for a Dragnet TV Show, also starring Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday. Ben Alexander, Barton Yarborough, and Barney Phillips all also came over to television in their same roles for a period of time. The TV series ran for another 275 episodes over eight seasons. The radio show and its TV version were even on the air at the same time from December 16, 1951 to February 26, 1957! The TV series went on for another 2 1/2 years after that, ending with its final episode on August 16, 1959. There was a Dragnet movie in 1987 and then another attempt at bringing it back to television in 1989 but that version starred two unknowns and didn’t even have a character named Joe Friday! Another attempt was made in 2003 with the, “L.A. Dragnet TV Show” (starring Ed O’Neill as Lieutenant Joe Friday). It lasted for a brief 20 episodes.
First Episode: June 3, 1949
Last Episode: February 26, 1957
Number of Episodes: 318 Original Episodes, 64 repeats (starting 9-27-1955), 382 total broadcasts
Network: NBC Radio Network
Cast Members: Jack Webb, Barton Yarborough
Producers/Directors: Bill Rousseau, Jack Webb
Announcers: George Fenneman, Hal Gibney
Sound Effects: Wayne Kenworthy, Bud Tollefson
Theme Music: “Dragnet March” scored by Walter Schumann
Writers: Frank Burt, James E. Moser, John Robinson
Sponsor: Fatima Cigarettes (10/06/1949 thru 9/11/1952), Chesterfield Cigarettes (9/14/1952 to show end)
Typical Episode Length: 30 Minutes
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