The first time I heard the Dragnet radio show was when I was about 10 or 12 years old, and traveling across the country with my dad on a road trip to see many of our wonderful national parks and other beautiful sites in our country. He had episodes of the radio show on cassette tape along with some other old time radio shows and dramas that he would play as we were driving through the night to get to our next destination. For whatever reason, I don’t seem to have a lot of vivid memories from my childhood, but there are times like this that have stuck with me throughout the years. I remember very well laying down in the back seat, listening to the shows and visualizing the scenes as they were impeccably described by Jack Webb (who I was unaware of at the time). The only person I knew was Joe Friday, the lead character in these wonderful crime dramas.
Everything about the stories intrigued me from the very beginning. From the overall architecture of the story, to the character development, all the way down to the smallest of details like sound effects of shoes clapping on the ground as they were walking through the halls of the police station. Every part of the story felt perfectly laid out and you could tell the creators were meticulous in the way they put the shows together. I have no way of proving or disproving this, but I do think that parts of my life, and who I have grown to be, were shaped by the series Dragnet.
It wasn’t until a good number of years later in my adult life that I would begin to research Dragnet and Jack Webb to learn the great story and time line of my favorite old time radio show. Beginning in my early teens, I always had an appreciation for “old” TV shows. I always preferred channels like TV Land, that played shows from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. When I found out that Dragnet also had a television series I was beside myself with happiness. Getting to see these great stories acted out by great actors was amazing to see. Seeing some of the same episodes that had previously been radio shows really was a testiment to the level of detail and thought that was put into the shows.
The character Jack Webb portrayed, Joe Friday, was a “stand up and do the right thing” kind of guy. He followed the rules and made sure everyone else followed the letter of the law. He was never interested in what was the easy way or the quick way, he wanted to do things the right way. Between Jack Webb’s attention to detail in the creation of each episode of Dragnet, and Joe Friday’s sense of doing what was right, overall it was a massively positive influene in my life.
I can’t even fathom the number of times I have watched and rewatched every episode of the televsion show and listened to each of the radio broadcasts. This is a testiment to the quality of the product. When something is done right, it is timeless. When I look at things in my own life that I touch, I strive to create things that are done right, just like those who created these wonderful shows that I love. I don’t like the “just get it done” or “good enough” mentality. I know there are always going to be wars regarding how best to complete a project or task, but I don’t think anyone can ever be faulted for doing what is right.
My wife and I went to Los Angeles last year, and during the visit we took some time to go to the Los Angeles Police Musuem where they have a section of the museum dedicated to Jack Webb and Dragnet, and I was extatic! It was by far one of my favorite museum visits of all time. Being in LA, we also went down the Star Walk and looked around for one of Jack Webb’s stars, and as you can see in the photo, we found it! I never did get to meet Jack Webb, as he passed away a mere 5 days after I was born (which I still think is very interesting), but that trip to LA did somehow close that loop for me personally.