The Line Up

Listen to “The Great Detectives Present the Line Up” on Spreaker.

With the smash success of Dragnet, many networks and producers began to play follow the leader. On NBC, Dragnet was followed up with Tales of the Texas Rangers which dramatized real life tales from the Texas Rangers. CBS countered with The Line Up and later 21st Precinct,  and then Nightwatch which while following an actual policeman in the field was as realistic as it got in a show that was pre-cursor to modern police reality dramas like Cops.

The Line Up was a hard boiled drama of police action. Like Dragnet, it realistically showed police doing their jobs. Unlike Dragnet, it was not based on “cases taken from police files.” Rather The Line Up made its fictional cases seem realistic, from kidnappings and murders to thefts and obscene phone calls. The Line Up radio show was not set in any particular city. However, when the series moved to television, it was set in San Francisco.

The Line Up, as the title indicates, centered around the police line up. The show always began with one. The Sergeant in charge of line would say, “May I have your attention please? You people  on the other side of the wire in the audience room, may I have your attention please.” He would then give his name and say, “I’ll explain the line up to you. Each of the suspects you will see will be numbered.  I’ll call of their number, their name, and charge.  If you have any questions or identifications, please remember the number assigned to the prisoner as I call his name. At the end of each line when I ask for questions or identifications, call out the number.  If you’re sure or not too sure of the suspect, have him held.   The officers who took your name will assist you, they’re seated among you. Please be prompt with your questions or identifications. When the prisoners leave here,  they are sent to the washroom and dressed back into their jail clothes. It makes it quite difficult to bring them back after they leave here. The questions I ask these suspects are merely to get a natural tone of voice so do not pay too much attention to their answers as they often lie. Bring on the line.”

While the line up was rarely the key to solving the case, it did give the show a rhythm and it also allowed for humor in the interrogation of the suspects by the sergeant. The series began as a Summer Replacement for The FBI in Peace and War in 1950, but quickly got its own time slot and would remain on radio until the Spring of 1953 before becoming TV only.

About the Stars:

William JohnstoneWilliam Johnstone (1908-96)  is best known as the second voice of the shadow beginning in 1938 a. However, Johnstone’s radio career goes far beyond that. Johnstone was also a solid and indispensable character actor appearing regularly on a wide variety of programs from Cavalcade of America to Yours Truly Johnny Dollar. In 1950, he got his second starring role for CBS in The Line Up playing Lieutenant Ben Guthrie for 3 seasons.

Wally Maher (1908-51): Maher was the consumate radio character actor. He was probably best known for playing policemen,  playing the police foil to George Valentine in the first several seasons of Let George Do It and then later as Sergeant Matt Groebs on The Line Up.  Maher also starred in Mutual’s  Private Detective Michael Shayne from 1944-48.

Program Log:

Log information courtesy of the Digital Deli’s fine Line Up log.

*Played out of order

**Played out of Order, Original commentary indicates title incorrectly as Pitiful Patricide Case.

***Played Out of Order, Original commentary indicates title incorrectly as The Luger Lugging Laddie.

End of Log.

  3 comments for “The Line Up”

  1. Stewart
    February 19, 2013 at 6:19 am

    On this page, you mention
    “. . . CBS countered with The Line Up and later Precinct 21 and then Nightwatch . . .”
    Actually, correct title of the 1953-56 CBS series is “21st Precinct.” An extensive “21st Precinct” series broadcast log can be found at:

  2. August 15, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    A new broadcast log is available for THE LINE UP can be found at the above URL.

    The research for my THE LINE UP broadcast log included the ACTUAL EXAMINATION of the series scripts and other network documentation and a separate collection containing scripts written by and comments made by E. Jack Neuman.

    There are many Incorrectly Dated and/or Titled shows for THE LINE UP in circulation. As of July 31, 2013, a total of 201 shows have been found and are actually 73 episodes out of the 118 from the CBS run of the series and the 1 audition show.

    Copies of all shows in circulation have been listened to and assigned their Correct Broadcast Dates and Titles using episode-specific information I have compiled from the series scripts, network and series documentation, and other sources listed in the SOURCES CONSULTED portion of the log. Common collector-assigned titles are listed following each correct Broadcast Date and Episode Title.

    My broadcast logs are updated as new information on a series is found. The next update of THE LINE UP broadcast log is scheduled for October 31, 2013.

  3. Gerald Cantor
    May 18, 2021 at 1:49 am

    I hope to never hear howard mcnair again unless i absolutely MUST likelistening tho Gunsmoke. I was not aware of it before but 1)he’s a one-note-only actor with the same old zane&twang&tril off at end of sentences SHTICK 2) He dies something that most if not all actors despise- ge trys to upstage everyone else, “show off”. Oh my GOD he’s dreadful. And there he was in this episode of The Lineup. Episode “Bushy bungling “somehing or other that Adam said he dug up from somewhere. Uh, “don’t do me any favors”.. spare me from McNair

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