Looking at the first season of dragnet, and the wierdness that characterized it, this pilot episode isn’t too far off from those in later seasons. One notable difference is chief ed backstrand. His deep and emotional voice may make for a good drama, but it’s a little over the top for the mundane police procedure show that Jack Webb envisioned.
The season opened to the hard hitting crime of a cop being killed. The interview with the surviving cop is a little on the dramatic side, but how does joe friday respond? He seems less concerned for the cop than the lack of interest of the onlookers, until we hear him in voice over.
One technique that still is used in police dramas today is to super impose the event of the crime, into the eye witness account of what happened. It’s a little on the dramatic side, and a little out of character with the show as it would eventually become. However, it’s a good technique in using the victim oor witness to provide voiceover for what they saw.
It’s not all dramatics. A scene of discussing the murder weapon might be from another and later episode, other the addition of that deep, emotional voice of the chief. Don’t you just love that command voice? The chief commands, and expectes his men to jump. And the feet of our two detectives dutifully step over to watch him draw out his plans for canvassing the area.
There can be drama in the interrogation room in later episodes. More often the bad guy stays level headed, right up to the end, then makes some deadpan comment about the near miss with getting away with it. Only to have Friday toss back his own dead pan remark to take any sympathy from the criminal, and put it back on the side of justice.
Something to note in this first episode is that it was Friday who gave the final report on the sentencing of the criminals, rather than the announcer. Also, though this is numbered episode 2, it’s actually the first show. The pilot was the same show, and apparently given the designation as the first episode. Finally, the musical score isn’t quite the same as what we know as the theme to dragnet. Don’t worry, that shows up next episode, and the story gets weirder.