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Thank God It's Friday: 7 Reasons to Love Dragnet

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Many of today's crime dramas owe a debt to Dragnet and its creator, Jack Webb. This week, let's take a closer look at the man, the legend.

1. It started with a documentary (sort of)

John Rudolph "Jack" Webb became fascinated by the intricate, behind-the-scenes details of police investigations while working on the 1948 film-noir He Walked by Night. The movie was based on a real-life murder case, and Webb was cast as a crime lab technician. The quasi-documentary style of the film gave him an idea for a police drama series with a similar feel. With the cooperation of Chief William H. Parker of the Los Angeles Police Department, he created Dragnet and its protagonist, Sergeant Joe Friday.

2. There was no time to memorize lines

Have you ever wondered why nearly every Dragnet actor recited their dialog in the same clipped, rat-a-tat fashion? As producer of the series, Webb cut costs where he could, and one of those money-saving measures was limited rehearsal time. He preferred to just have his actors read their lines off teleprompters rather than memorizing them. Of course, in scenes where Sgt. Friday is questioning a witness, this robotic delivery of lines made the show more authentic; wouldn't you have a deer-in-the-headlights expression while being interrogated by Joe?

3. Jack Webb turned down Animal House

Jack Webb was the first choice for the role of Dean Wormer in the 1978 film Animal House, but he turned it down because he thought it poked fun at authority. That's not to say that ol' Jack didn't have a sense of humor about himself and the character that he had created. Check out the skit he did with Johnny Carson below.

Johnny Carson - Copper Clappers

4. There were visual punches (without special effects)

Jack Webb didn't need a myriad of special effects to create a gruesome scenario. His matter-of-fact narration and a series of black-and-white photos succinctly paint a picture of what happens during the first second of a head-on auto collision. It still makes the viewer cringe in pain, even in these days of airbags and shoulder restraints. And if this analysis of one fatal second doesn't prompt you to buckle up while behind the wheel, nothing will.

5. The first color version of the show tackled LSD

Dragnet actually had two different runs on television. The color version that is syndicated today is the second incarnation of the series, and it took full advantage of the medium by premiering in 1967 with the deliciously campy "Blue Boy" episode. Modern viewers should keep in mind that LSD was still legal in the early part of 1967, and its effects weren't completely understood. Of course, history has since shown us that acid can make you pretty high and far out. In 1997, TV Guide ranked the "Blue Boy" episode of Dragnet at number 85 on its "100 Greatest Episodes of All Time" list.

6. The strange prevalence of cigarettes

It's interesting to watch Dragnet from a 21st century viewpoint and note the cultural differences between "then and now." Sure, the clothes, the hairstyles, and even the cars are hopelessly dated, but one aspect that truly stands out is the prevalence of smoking. No one ever bothers to ask "mind if I smoke?" before lighting up, and both airports and hospitals came equipped with pedestal ashtrays in their corridors. Jack Webb promoted cigarettes in both TV commercials and print advertisments, first for L&M, and then Chesterfield. Sadly, his three-pack-a-day habit most likely contributed to his fatal heart attack at age 62.

7. America learned what it meant to be a cop

No one ever summarized the pitfalls of the profession as well as Webb:

It's awkward having a policeman around the house. Friends drop in, a man with a badge answers the door, the temperature drops 20 degrees. You throw a party and that badge gets in the way. All of a sudden there isn't a straight man in the crowd. Everybody's a comedian. "Don't drink too much," somebody says, "or the man with a badge'll run you in." Or "How's it going, Dick Tracy? How many jaywalkers did you pinch today?" All at once you've lost your first name. You're a cop, a flatfoot, a bull, a dick, John Law. You're the fuzz, the heat; you're poison, you're trouble, you're bad news. They call you everything, but never a policeman.

A BUNCH OF OTHER FACTS YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY KNOW:

  • Even though it has become a cliché, Sgt. Friday never actually said "Just the Facts, M'am" on an episode of Dragnet.
  • Before video teleprompters became standard, dialog was offered to TV actors using a decidely ancient technique: it was handwritten on paper scrolls.
  • In 1997, TV Guide ranked the "Blue Boy" episode of Dragnet as number 85 on its "100 Greatest Episodes of All Time" list.
  • Friday and Gannon wore the same color suits, shirts and ties in every episode of Dragnet for continuity purposes, per Webb's direction. Establishing camera shots could thus be used from one episode to another.
  • Jack Webb was the first civilian buried with full police honors. Upon his death, his badge number (714) was officially retired by the LAPD.
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    5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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    Netflix

    Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

    1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

    The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

    "Madmax"
    "The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
    "The Pumpkin Patch"
    "The Palace"
    "The Storm"
    "The Pollywog"
    "The Secret Cabin"
    "The Brain"
    "The Lost Brother"

    There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

    2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

    Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

    3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

    A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

    "I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

    4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

    When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

    "There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

    Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

    5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

    Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

    So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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    NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
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    Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in October
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    NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

    Netflix subscribers are already counting down the days until the premiere of the new season of Stranger Things. But, as always, in order to make room for the near-90 new titles making their way to the streaming site, some of your favorite titles—including all of 30 Rock, The Wonder Years, and Malcolm in the Middle—must go. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in October ... binge ‘em while you can!

    October 1

    30 Rock (Seasons 1-7)

    A Love in Times of Selfies

    Across the Universe

    Barton Fink

    Bella

    Big Daddy

    Carousel

    Cradle 2 the Grave

    Crafting a Nation

    Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest

    Daddy’s Little Girls

    Dark Was the Night

    David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates (Season 1)

    Day of the Kamikaze

    Death Beach

    Dowry Law

    Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief

    Friday Night Lights (Seasons 1-5)

    Happy Feet

    Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

    Hellboy

    Kagemusha

    Laura

    Love Actually

    Malcolm in the Middle (Seasons 1-7)

    Max Dugan Returns

    Millennium 

    Million Dollar Baby

    Mortal Combat

    Mr. 3000

    Mulholland Dr.

    My Father the Hero

    My Name Is Earl (Seasons 1-4)

    One Tree Hill (Seasons 1-9)

    Patton

    Picture This

    Prison Break (Seasons 1-4)

    The Bernie Mac Show (Seasons 1-5)

    The Shining

    The Wonder Years (Seasons 1-6)

    Titanic

    October 19

    The Cleveland Show (Seasons 1-4)

    October 21

    Bones (Seasons 5-11)

    October 27

    Lie to Me (Seasons 2-3)

    Louie (Seasons 1-5)

    Hot Transylvania 2

    October 29

    Family Guy (Seasons 9-14)

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