If one is a cop TV aficionado of at least middle age, you have to know who Jack Webb is. (I know, I know, “just the facts.”) Webb was an actor and producer of three versions of the biggest police media franchise until “Law & Order” came along — “Dragnet,” first on radio …
… and then on black and white TV …
… and then in a movie …
… and then on color TV ..
… with another movie (which was filmed before the color series but released afterward):
The subject of this blog came up because of a second Webb cop series, “Adam-12” …
… which has its own fan group on Facebook.
I’m not sure if I saw “Dragnet” or “Adam-12” first, but I know I watched “Adam-12” religiously once I was allowed to stay up to watch it. (It usually was on at 8 Eastern, 7 Central.) I just missed a chance to meet the stars of “Adam-12” because Martin Milner and Kent McCord appeared at a telethon the NBC station in Madison carried. Unfortunately, they were claimed to be in the shower when the opportunity came to meet them, so I didn’t get the chance.
Webb also produced the definitive fire and rescue TV series, “Emergency!” But this blog is about neither “Adam-12” nor “Emergency!” (Nor “Sierra” nor “Project UFO, two more Webb series.)
On said Facebook group I brought up another Webb series that came and went toward the end of “Adam-12.” The Internet Movie Database describes “Chase” as containing “Adventures of an unconventional police unit led by Capt. Chase Reddick” (hence the series name). More completely …
Captain Chase Reddick is the leader of an undercover investigative unit of the Los Angeles Police Department that uses unorthodox methods in solving crimes. Reddick’s men are specialists: MacCray trains police dogs, Sing is an expert motorcycle rider, Hamilton flies choppers and Baker is an expert behind the wheel of a car. Chase’s unit answers only to the top brass in the department.
Chase was a Jack Webb-produced series which ran from September 1973 to August of 1974. Mitchell Ryan starred as the head of a special police unit assigned to cases that no one else would touch with a ten-foot pole. Ryan‘s staff included Wayne Maunder, Reid Smith, Michael Richardson and Brian Fong; surprisingly, there was no female Chase Squad member (three of the above-mentioned actors would be replaced in mid-season; among the replacements was old reliable Jack Webb cohort Gary Crosby). In the Chase 60-minute pilot, telecast on September 11, 1973, the Chase gang goes after an auto-theft ring. They catch them…or haven’t you tumbled to that fact?
The title character was played by actor Mitchell Ryan, who had played a cop in the second “Dirty Harry” movie, “The Enforcer,” and later played Greg’s father in “Dharma and Greg.” I’m not sure how a police captain gets to have only four people answer to him while also getting all these cool toys, but given Webb’s mania about accuracy, the idea must have come from somewhere.
The details of Ryan and Maunder’s careers were less interesting to an eight-year-old viewer than what else was on the series — to wit, the K-9 dog (named Fuzz, of course), the motorcycle, the helicopter (a Hughes 500 similar to what Thomas Magnum’s buddy flew on “Magnum, P.I.”) and the car, a silver Plymouth Satellite (possibly a police model) with mag wheels.
The series therefore already had half of my formula for worthwhile TV watching — wheels. (And rotors, too.) The other half is, of course, the right theme music. The opening contained the Satellite, the helicopter and the motorcycle racing toward the camera out of the sun, with a jazzy theme from composer Oliver Nelson. (Webb was a huge jazz aficionado.)
I found the theme music on a TV theme website some years ago. (In fact, two versions — the version that opened the show, and a version that combined the open with the close for one piece.) So, inspired for some reason earlier this week, and being unable to find the actual open on YouTube, I put together a crude one myself:
The series was reportedly based on the Special Investigation Section of the Los Angeles Police Department. This was the during a wave of “special” police series, preceded by “Hawaii Five-O” and “The Mod Squad” and followed by “SWAT” and “Police Woman.” Forty years later, “special” police investigators are far more subdivided than they were in the 1970s.
Similar to many series of the ’70s, the series featured actors you heard from since then, such as Tom Bosley (Mr. C on “Happy Days”), Sharon Gless (half of “Cagney and Lacey”), Harold Gould (too many roles to count, but particularly the second of the three Vachons on “Hawaii Five-O”), Pat Harrington Jr. (Schneider on “One Day at a Time”), Steve Kanaly (later to go to “Dallas” — ironically, his one-episode character name was “Jock,” the name of, as “Dallas” viewers know, the patriarch of the Ewing clan, and his character’s father), Larry Manetti (later another of Magnum’s buddies), John Mitchum (Robert’s brother and Dirty Harry’s partner), Del Monroe (who fans of sci-fi know as Kowalski on “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”), Cesar Romero (Batman’s Joker, of course), Robert Reed (father and stepfather of the Brady Bunch, of course), Craig Stevens (previously “Peter Gunn”), and various members of what could be called the Jack Webb Players, a group of actors that appeared interchangeably on Webb’s shows.
I remember only snippets of the series, which was carried one summer on USA Network a decade later. I remember the start of an episode where Fuzz got shot, but survived. There was another where a truck got hijacked by “police officers” who afterward took the light bar out of their “squad car” and put it in their trunk, then peeled off the door logos. Another Facebook group member recalled an episode where MacCray went undercover to try to get someone to try to steal Fuzz. Two men did steal Fuzz, only to regret it moments later when Fuzz turned on them.
The series was on for one season, About two-thirds of the way through, Webb fired everyone but Ryan and Maunder and replaced three actors with two, Gary Crosby (who was in most Webb series in one role or another) and Craig Gardner. The latter went on to be a writer. The series ended after the one season, probably for the reasons Wikipedia details:
NBC first scheduled the show on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern, opposite CBS‘ hit series Maude and Hawaii Five-O. At about the same time as the casting change, the network moved Chase to Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. against the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. Despite the declining appeal and ratings of the latter (and the couple’s forthcoming divorce), Chase did no better there and ended after a one-season run.
The career of its creator did not end, however. Webb had one of his “Adam-12” writers create “Chase.” His name was Stephen J. Cannell, and he did pretty well thereafter, as Jim Rockford and the A-Team would attest.
Somewhat to my surprise, between Facebook and a web search, I have found the 14 people who actually watched the series:
- being an avid crime-drama fan in the 70s and 80s, I am STILL a diehard Chase fan. I too, liked Norm Hamilton, got interested in helicopters, collected books, built models and work at an aviation museum because of that show. I always wanted to tell Mr. Mitch Ryan that….
- I remember this series when it first came on in Fall ’73. Sadly, I missed the pilot, but heard it was a flash!. When they added Wayne Maunder, the show was even hotter. This show show excellent potential had it not been for the cast chenge. I really think this was a great portrayal of a hip-snadbag team. My favorite (only slight) character was Officer Norm Hamilton-the fascination of a former combat helicopter ace. But I was also attracted at the partnership of Sgt McCray and Steve Baker (BTW what type of car was his hot rod). Those two were very much like a “Pre-Starsky & Hutch”. In fact it was because of Chase, I kept watching Starsky & Hutch. And then there was MCray’s Dog–FUZZ (a typical name for a cop-dog of the time). That dog put rin-tin-tin to shame–a very intelligent dog. This show (even if short-lived) needs to get out on DVD 5 years ago. I hope you consider this show for release!!!!!!!
The series is supposedly available on (probably homemade) DVD. Our two sons might watch it, which is amusing to contemplate since I watched it when I was younger than they are now.
This being the era of remade old TV series (“Hawaii Five-0,” the three-episode “Ironside” and a brief remake of “Dragnet”) or TV series made into movies (“Starsky and Hutch,” “Miami Vice,” “SWAT”), the logical question to ask is how “Chase” would fare as a remake. TNT had a series, “Wanted,” of (stop me if you’ve read this before) an elite police unit detailed to catch the jurisdiction’s 100 most wanted criminals. To me, it felt somewhat like “Chase,” except that the hostility level among the main characters was much more than you’d ever see on any Jack Webb production. I doubt “Chase” would work now merely because the concept of an elite police unit isn’t novel anymore, although one episode idea would be how this answerable-to-only-the-top-brass unit was able to procure a hot car, helicopter and police dog. (Likely answer today: Drug-dealer seizures.) On the other hand, TV series creators love mavericks, and my hazy memory of the series is that at least the younger officers were not wanted where they previously had been stationed for some reason.
There is only one way to end a blog that involves Jack Webb: