Friday, 13 November 2020

Police Story: Dangerous Games


Who loves ya baby? I have been romping through seventies US detective shows. Several seasons of Kojak (you will of course notice the great resemblance), and this show which I have just discovered. Coming from one to the other I notice a tendency in this show for people to address each other as 'baby', and I wonder whether it was a seventies thing. I had assumed it was a Kojak peculiarity.

Joseph Wamburgh who wrote this show has been credited with turning police shows in a more realistic direction, and so it is possible that this show is the US 'hinge' between the dreamy TV (which survives that is) and the gritty realism of shows like The Sweeney. Despite this and apparently consistent good reviews on t'internet, there is comparatively little about this show online. I myself literally only discovered it by chance this week. I would like to speculate about why this is but I won't because it would be pure speculation. I know how good you all are at filling in gaps in my ramblings.


My only qualm would be that it is an anthology show, which I don't always take to. I'm rather ashamed saying that because this one is solidly set in the Los Angeles police department so in reality the episodes represent part of a whole which surely shouldn't be such hard work, but I am finding it a little confusing. All reviews mention the show's heavy use of guest stars (some I do recognise) and so I wonder whether a slight showbiz feel could militate against the criminal realism.

In this episode the realism is based around pimping. I do love the way the detectives pose as wanting to buy some girls! The pimp in question is too careful to be caught and is played by Fred Williamson, a former professional American footballer who went on to a career as an actor. Strangely enough I am thinking of a post about Ricki Starr, who combined careers as wrestler, ballet dancer, singer and actor, so actors with multiple careers are in my mind at the moment.

This show is sooo seventies however has dated very well indeed. The attitudes to the girls unfortunately probably haven't changed since then, they are treated as property, basically and subjected to what would nowadays be called coercion and control. 

Another way it has dated very well is in the authentic seventies look and atmosphere. The interiors, cars and clothes are all outrageous. Especially the clothes, of which some examples decorate this article. The actor in the trousers so revealing they show his willy and even the seams of his underpants. Only in the seventies would anyone have had the gall to call a character dressed like that Snake McKay!

The show does have a serious side because it is unflinching in showing what it is like to be on the game. It is also interesting that the woman drawn on by the detectives to catch her pimp, has fallen in love and is disappointed when she realises what has been done to her. The moral position suggests that they aren't really that different from the pimp himself.

I don't really have any immediate criticism. 

I like this show and would hope to be posting again about it.

2 comments:

Mike Doran said...

Chicago Calling:

About Police Story:
The creator, Joseph WAMBAUGH (pronounced wom-baw - it's Irish), was an active detective sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department when he began writing novels about the cops; several had become best-sellers, and a couple had been made into movies.
Wambaugh hadn't much cared for the changes that the moviemakers had done to his stories;
his deal with Columbia Pictures TV gave him some content control over the series.
Even then, Wambaugh still remained an active LA cop for most of the series's run: he solicited stories from his fellow cops to use on the show, which is why he insisted on an anthology format.
Wambaugh had some battles with the Columbia-TV producer, David Gerber, who had a notion that certain of the characters could be spun off into their own series; indeed, there were two such spin-offs, Police Woman, with Angie Dickinson, and Joe Forrester, with Lloyd Bridges - but Joe Wambaugh kicked and screamed all the way (but that's another story ...).
A number of actors turned up multiple times, sometimes in different roles, but occasionally as recurring cop characters: the most frequent repeaters were Tony LoBianco and Don Meredith as partners who would turn up a couple of times a season (Mr. Meredith was a former star quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys (NFL) who had some success at TV acting after his football days).
By the way, the guy in your screen grab is James Farentino, another frequent Police Story flyer, occasionally (but not always) in the same role.
I don't know how big your stockpile is, but Police Story ran for four seasons as a weekly hour, and for parts of two more as a series of two-hour "special movies" (American TV networks were sort of flexible like that in those days).

That's what I have so far; any questions, you know where to find me.
Bon voyage!

John said...

Thanks! I'm literally just starting series 1 so this show may well reappear here.