Det. Frank Drebin and company are back again. No, Hollywood hasn’t rebooted the series or re-imagined it again for another Naked Gun series. The series was re-issued in April on a single-disc Blu-ray presentation. It marked the first time ever that the series had been presented on Blu-ray. The short-lived series, which ran for only six episodes in 1982 on ABC, poked nonstop fun at all of the crime procedurals that were so prominent on television at the time. Ironically, they are still big business for networks and advertisers alike even today. So having this series re-issued for the first time since 2006 (a span of more than 14 years) audiences looking for an escape from all of those over-the-top crime dramas will welcome this presentation, at least to a point. That is due in part to the work of the show’s cast. This will be discussed shortly. While the work of the show’s cast did its share to make the show worth watching, it did suffer from one fatal flaw, its writing. Despite what the late great Leslie Neilsen wanted to believe, the writing was the real reason for the show’s cancellation after just six episodes. This will be discussed a little later. Nielsen’s noted discussion, featured as one of the bonuses included with the new re-issue, is its key bonus feature. It is at least somewhat of a positive, and will be discussed later, too. When it and the trio of feature-length audio commentaries are considered along with the issues raised by the writing and the positivity of the cast’s writing, the whole of this short-lived series’ resurrection proves worth at least an occasional watch, but not much more.
Paramount Home Entertainment and CBS DVD’s latest re-issue of Police Squad!: The Complete Series is a program that will appeal to the series’ most devoted fan base. Of course even those who are less familiar with the series might find it at least somewhat appealing. That is thanks in part to the cast’s on-camera work. Led by the late, great Leslie Nielsen as Det. Frank Drebin, the cast’s deadpan, matter-of-fact approach to every script makes for its own share of laughs. The casual way in which Alan North (Capt. Ed Hocken) addresses Al (played by Ronald “Tiny Ron” Taylor) in each episode will put a smile on any viewer’s face. North’s delivery makes it seem like Hocken dealing with Al is just second nature for himself. Again that goes back to that deadpan approach. Nielsen’s reaction every time someone politely just says “yes, it is” when he asks if the characters want a cigarette is timeless in its own right, too. What’s more all of the sillines — from Drebin essentially singing karaoke as if he is so great, to Peter Lupus’ calm nature as a bunch of keys fall on him in another episode to Ed Williams’ performance as the rather sleazy cop scientist Ted Olsen – from the cast will leave audiences in stitches…at least to a point. The note “to a point” is made because after taking in the same kind of acting episode after episode, it becomes somewhat predictable, and in turn reduces the enjoyment factor. The same thing applies to the series’ writing, its one major unavoidable negative.
Much like watching the same kind of acting over and over can get real old real fast, so can watching the same sort of jokes and physical humor from one episode to the next. Even with each episode running less than half an hour (24-25 minutes to be exact) audiences still get the same sort of writing in each story line. The series premiere finds Drebin and the story’s antagonist trading gunfire at close range, in such campy fashion before eventually throwing their guns (and then more guns, inexplicably) at each other in the story’s final moments. It’s a great comic moment. On another note, the initial introduction of Johnny (William Duell) the shoeshine snitch makes for its own great laughs. That is especially as Drebin was not the only one who utilized Johnny’s knowledge. The problem here is that this moment is rehashed in every episode thereafter in different ways, eventually leading it to become less entertaining each time. It isn’t the only element that is overly used. There is also the issue of the freeze frame ending in each episode. Yes, it’s funny the first couple of times, in how it spoofs that all-too-familiar element used in TV shows of the time. That is especially as Nielsen and North’s cast mates keep going, essentially breaking that fourth wall. However, as with the scenes involving Johnny, this is used in every episode. The result is that it loses its impact very quickly. It’s like those advertisements that are funny the first couple of times, but eventually become less entertaining each time they run. The writing is good on its initial view, but after seeing it over and over again, it just gets annoying. That’s how this scenario is, except rather than getting annoying, it just gets boring and trite. This is why Police Squad! failed. It did not fail because people weren’t watching. It failed because people stopped watching when after just a few episodes, they got tired of taking in the same stylistic approach in each story.
Staying on this note, Nielsen’s comment about why the series failed in the series’ latest home release is just one of the items in which audiences will take note from his comments. He also addresses in the roughly 10-minute segment, the creation of the Naked Gun movies and how much he enjoyed the approach of Police Squad!’s creative heads, David and Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams. That should come as no surprise, of course, considering that Abrahams and the Zuckers were also the creative heads behind the hit 1980 spoof flick Airplane. The trio also worked with Nielsen in that movie, although Nielsen was more of a supporting actor in that movie. Getting back on the subject at hand, Neilsen’s interview, which was also featured in Police Squad!’s 2006 DVD re-issue, doesn’t add a lot to the presentation of the series’ home release. It does add just enough to make for some engagement, though. Keeping that in mind with the occasional laughs that the series’ writing and acting offer, the whole of these elements makes the series’ latest re-issue worth at least an occasional watch, but sadly little more.
Paramount Home Entertainment and CBS DVD’s latest home re-issue of Police Squad!: The Complete Series is an interesting new offering. The cast’s acting is entertaining to a point. The phrasing “to a point” is used because as with the writing, audiences get very much the same thing from one episode to the next, stylistically speaking from the acting and writing. At first it is entertaining, but becomes old hate very quickly. The bonus content featured with this set is the same content featured in the series’ 2006 DVD release. To that end, audiences who already own that set won’t be losing out on anything by not buying this set. At the same time, those who do not already own the previously DVD release will have the same bonus content as those who own said previously released presentation. To that end, it does have that much going for it as well as the occasional laughs generated through the acting and writing. Keeping all of that in mind, while Police Squad! might not be the most memorable series of all time, its latest re-issue reminds audiences why its run was so short, but still at least somewhat memorable. It is available now. More information on this and other titles from CBS Home Entertainment is available at http://vicaomcbsexpress.com.
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