POLICE SQUAD! - THE COMPLETE SERIES (1982)
Label: Via Vision Entertainment
Region Code: Region-Free
Duration: 150 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Video: 1080p HD (1.33:1) Full Frame
Director: David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, Joe Dante, Reza Badiyi
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Alan North, Peter Lupus, Ed Williams, William Duell
Police Squad! (1982) was a very short-lived parody of police procedural TV shows created by the team behind the blockbuster comedy Airplane! (1980), utilizing the same sort of sight gags, wordplay and non-sequitur humor, starring Leslie Neilsen (Forbidden Planet) as straight-faced Detective Lieutenant Frank Drebin, who for six episodes investigated just a select few of the eight-million stories in the Naked City. Every second of this series is jam-packed with tasty farce, goofy gags and rib-tickling lampooning of vintage detective TV series, some long forgotten (M Squad). Each episode started off with the killing of a guest star who expired before the credits even finished, theses guests including crooner Robert Goulet, and actors Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch) and William Shatner (Star Trek) among them.
Through the six episode run the straight-faced Detective investigated a murder for profit in "A Substantial Gift (The Broken Promise)", corruption in the boxing ring in "Ring of Fear (A Dangerous Assignment)", a protection racket in "Rendezvous at Big Gulch (Terror in the Neighborhood)", a mad bomber in "Revenge and Remorse (The Guilty Alibi)", a kidnapping plot in "The Butler Did It (A Bird in the Hand)", and the suspicious death of a stand-up comic in "Testimony of Evil (Dead Men Don't Laugh)".
If you loved the aesthetic of Airplane!, or most of the Zucker Bros. zany offerings, you're gonna love this gag-tastic series, each episode crammed to the rafters with tasty visual puns, farce aplenty and clever bits of wordplay that I still find absolutely delightful. We get a cast of reoccurring
characters like Captain Ed Hocken (Alan North, Highlander), Officer Norberg (Peter Lupus, Mission: Impossible), forensic scientist Mr. Ted Olson (Ed Williams, Carnosaur), and a shoeshine guy named Johnny (William Duell, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark) who always seems to have the skinny on everyone, which is why he's sought out not only by Det. Drebin, but also by celebrity advice columnist Dr. Joyce Brothers, baseball manager Tommy Lasorda, and even Dick Clark.
In hindsight O sort of had to wonder why such a flip and funny show didn't make it's mark at the time of it's original airings, but it's some relief to know that the idea was resurrected for three feature length Naked Gun films starring Leslie Nielsen in the late eighties and early nineties, the formula worked, but it seems the series was just a bit too far ahead of it's time. It's aged fairly well, some of the series it's lampooning may be lost to static filled channels of time, but the humor, wit and comic acting still packs in the laughs.
Audio/Video: All six episodes of Police Squad! - The Complete Series arrives on a single disc region-free Blu-ray from Via Vision Entertainment in the original full frame 1.33:1 broadcast aspect ratio in 1080p HD. There's some minor age-related wear by way of scratches and white speckling, but I thought it looked great overall for a forty year-old TV show. The colors are solid, black levels are strong, and there's appreciable film grain throughout.
Audio comes by way of original mono in Dolby Digital or an uncompressed DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that adds to the the offbeat humor with some off-the-wall foley sound effects that had added punch to it. Unfortunately there are no subtitles on this release, and it would have been nice to have an uncompressed mono audio option, but otherwise I was quite happy with the presentation.
All the extras are of the archival variety, we get three audio commentaries spread across three episodes. A pair with Producers David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abraham's, and Robert K. Weiss on episodes one and three, plus a commentary on episode six with writer Robert Wuhl. The producer commentaries are solid, fun and informative, though you can tell they didn't do a whole lot of prep beforehand and get caught up in watching and reacting to the episodes from time to time, sort of the way I tell the same joke ten different times and still laugh at myself while I'm telling it.
We also get an 8-min interview with star Leslie Neilsen who discusses filming the show, and why he thinks it failed to find an audience during it's initial run. There are also two casting tests with actors Alan North and Ed Williams, a fun 5-min gag reel, plus a collection of memos detailing edits requested by standards and practices and the cancellation memo. We also get a brief producer's photo gallery, and a list of potential celebrity deaths that would have occurred at the start of each episode. Another cool extra is the inclusion of a 5-min freeze frame gag with audio commentary.
- Audio Commentaries by Producers David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Robert K. Weiss
- Audio Commentary with Writer Robert Wuhl
- Leslie Nielsen Interview (9 min)
- Casting Test – Ed Williams (3 min)
- Casting Test – Alan North (6 min)
- Producers’ Photo Gallery (1 min)
- List of Celebrity Death Shots
- Production Memo Highlights
- Behind the Freeze Frames (5 min)
- Gag Reel (5 min)
Via Vision entertainment's release of Police Squad - The Complete Series (1982)is a must-have for comedy fans. It's chock full of gags, farce and send-ups of police procedural TV shows, some of them long forgotten, but the writing and acting are sharp and the humor still delivers the funny time and time again. If you're a fan of the Naked Gun films and are unaware of this, or just have not yet checked it out yet, I suggest you get at it, you're missing out, this is funny stuff.