Telefilm Review: Dragnet: The Big Bed

For around a decade, the number of episodes of the 1950s Dragnet TV series circulating out there have remained consistent, with no new episodes to be found, and more than 200 of the 276 TV episodes still missing. Then, a few weeks ago, three of them dropped on YouTube, on the channel of a company named Movie Craft. I decided to review one of those episodes, “The Big Bed”.

“The Big Bed” was broadcast on June 5, 1958, and it was the thirty-sixth episode of Dragnet’s 7th season. In it, a woman reports her brother missing. Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and Frank Smith (Ben Alexander) investigate and find him in a scene that’s a bit intense by the standards of other existing episodes of the 1950s series. They then set about the work of finding the killer.

It has to be said that even in its seventh season, the original Dragnet TV series was still a very good television. True, it didn’t have the innovative edge of the early radio or TV series, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to say the quality of the series had declined from what we saw in season four. It managed to tell a sharp, realistic police investigation in twenty-six minutes of airtime. It had evolved to be a reliably good program and would remain so until the eighth season.

The episode did include a nod to Dragnet‘s only big attempt to build an ongoing storyline into the season, as Smith was studying for his Sergeant’s exam. The next season, Friday would become a Lieutenant and Smith a Sergeant, and it wouldn’t change much other than the opening logo. In isolation, the scene is amusing, but it’s tough to imagine anyone cared about this storyline even back then.

The episode features a guest appearance from William Boyett as Lt. Mort Geer, which is an Easter Egg, as Boyett is probably best remembered for his major role in the 1960s Dragnet spin-off Adam-12, as Sergeant MacDonald. This certainly calls to mind Webb’s 1960s productions. Yet, it wasn’t the only thing. While the series was just as good as an episode of three seasons prior, the series had changed stylistically. In many ways, Dragnet seemed to have evolved in the direction of what it would be like when it returned to TV in 1967,after a seven-and-a-half-year absence.

It really would be fascinating to see more episodes from these later seasons become available, so we can really get a feel for the evolution of the series during this era. Overall, this episode was a welcome addition to the ranks of circulating Dragnet episodes.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

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