Dragnet, just the facts... or not
ABC has put on an update to Jack Webb's classic LA police drama "Dragnet", with Ed O'Neill as Sgt Joe Friday. The show airs Sundays after "Alias" and was developed by the "Law & Order" franchise's Dick Wolf. O'Neill, who is no stranger to TV crime dramas having acted in many of them before, during, and after he got the role that made him most famous (that of "Married... with Children"'s Al Bundy) brings a seething hatred of crime to this new role as well as a sense of believability of being a robbery/homicide detective whose entire life is his job. However, where the last, and possibly most famous, partner of the Jack Webb character was kindly old Harry Morgan as Bill Gannon, this new series partners Sgt Friday with a younger partner played by 24-year-old Ethan Embry (who at 12-years-old starred with Ed O'Neill in the 1991 comedy-drama "Dutch") which changes the dynamic and removes the personal feeling the original series had by Gannon relating tales of his home life with the all-cop all-the-time Friday. Where the original Jack Webb series (there were several incarnations) put forth a very specific style of cop show narrated by the lead character, this new series feels more like a Law & Order retread with Ed O'Neill's voiceovers in place of the "bumm-bumm" music and location text of the L&O series. Does that make it bad? No, but it doesn't make it "Dragnet" - this new series lacks the original's serious-yet-calm and authoritative tone, it uses the L&O style of jerking the camera around instead of holding a still shot on a character for intensity; however, what this series does have is an adult tone that almost no cop drama has matched of late, it's serious and doesn't hold back.
Ultimately, the series rests on O'Neill's shoulders and while Al Bundy certainly is no Jack Webb, perhaps Ed O'Neill can make this series his own thus creating a new rendition of the Joe Friday character; but he has to watch out for pitfalls on either side of him, fall too far towards one side and you end up being "Law & Order LA" without anything that made the original Dragnet great, too far towards the other side and you end up being another parody similar to Dan Akroyd's 1987 version.
Anyway, despite ABC's ridiculous "the badge is back" catchphrase which is insulting to the audience and the series, the holder of LAPD shield# 714 is definitely worth watching every weekend and hopefully ABC will keep it alive long enough to create a name and audience for itself.