15) The Big Break
Original Air Date: November 14, 1950 (Radio)
Original Air Date: March 19, 1953 (Television)
For me, while this episode first aired on radio, the TV version was probably the best. When you see it, Friday and Smith are carrying Tommy Guns to go and get this suspect. You know right off that he’s dangerous and as the episode shows, he never will be taken “the easy way” like most Dragnet criminals. And he’s incredibly resourceful with a clever jailbreak, and then after another escape, he showed more nerve than probably any other Dragnet criminal. The show does include a scene of monotony as Friday and Smith wait in vain for the guy to come back to his room to provide some realism and balance to the program’s action high points.
Original Air Date: February 9, 1967 (Television)
Friday and Gannon are working out of Internal Affairs and they bring in a rookie undercover cop (a young Kent McCord) who has been accused of armed robbery. The young cop is outraged at his treatment and gets to a point where regardless of the investigation’s outcome, he’s ready to leave the force. It’s at this point that Joe Friday delivers perhaps his best speech ever-“To Be a Cop.” It details the hardships a policeman faces in a way that’s as moving today as when Webb delivered it in 1967. It’s at times rhythmic in its cadences, “And the heartbreak– underfed kids, beaten kids, molested kids, lost kids, crying kids, homeless kids, hit-and-run kids, broken-arm kids, broken-leg kids, broken-head kids, sick kids, dying kids, dead kids.” The speech was a tribute to the sacrifices police officers made every day, and one of the most powerful of Webb’s speech and a reminder for the young officer of what the job was all about.
Original Air Date: January 19, 1967 (Television)
This episode is a great thriller. It’s scary enough when on a typical day working in burglary divisions, Friday and Gannon learn that high velocity gelatin dynamite has been stolen. However, it becomes even more scary when they find the perpetrator is a man whose house is dedicated with Nazi paraphernalia and a large amount of dynamite is gone. The stakes don’t get much higher and the episode ends memorably.
12) The Big Knife
Original Air Date: May 11, 1950 (Radio)
21 girls have been injured in knifing at a local high school. It’s obviously the work of a very disturbed person and that makes for a very chilling episode. The mood in the episode is perfect, and the scene where they finally discover who the criminal is also brilliantly executed.
11) The Big Thief
Original Air Date: December 17, 1953 (Television)
This episodes back to a time when doctors made housecalls for patients even ones they didn’t know. It also shows one reason why that practice has gone the way of the dodo. A young couple pretending that they’re pregnant lure doctors there in order to beat them and rob them of the drugs in their doctor’s bags. In this episode, Friday and shoots and kills a young armed suspect in self defense, setting up a scene of uncharacteristic vulnerability as he struggles with what he had to do. His then-girlfriend does her best to offer comfort. In later years, Friday would become more of an iconic figure representing police everywhere. This story on a far more human note that makes you wonder how the show might have been different had Webb gone this direction with the series.
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