Saturday, February 1, 2014

Narcotics DR-16 - Smarteens!

Tonight's classic rolled optimistically off of the typewriter of Dragnet writer Burt Prelutsky.

I've spent over a year terrified of the time in which my day would come - I, Suzy Dragnet, am up against an episode so classic that there are links at the end of the post because some folks just can't get enough.

Actor-wise, if you can't get enough Howard Culver - and don't you dare try and joke around with yourself, fooling yourself that there is such a thing as enough Howard Culver, just hold on to your hat.

By episode eleven of season three, Dragnet - "the fuzz industrial" - is codified. This is the show. This is television. This is our medium. Art Director John E. Chilberg, II is in effect, per usual.

The voice that reads the title cards at the end of the episode before, and then as, everyone nods, is Chuck Bowman, right? The same Chuck Bowman that surfs around in the background of episodes?
The Speak Your Mind Show Show credits him as he has a moment of screen time before The Handsomest Dragnet Villain dashes by him replete with judge's robes and love beads.

Let's Dragnet!!

"This is the city-- Los Angeles, California. I work here. I carry a badge."

That was quick! - and just a little footage of the Fairlane rounding a corner downtown near 150 Los Angeles street. 

The color temperatures and the film stock make the colors so different.

Oh jeez, we don't even get to check in at Parker Center or Georgia Street Juvenile, Van Nuys, Hollywood, Rampart - no - We are whisked directly to Universal Studios where a fire truck has now assembled, along with a large quantity of extras. At first blush, I thought that they were clustered in front of Colonial Mansion (The Clover Club); but now I'm not so sure?


I hope this only took one take.
That fussing about snakes is really annoying.

Gannon's hand is finally featured and he fakes us out with artificial sugar:

Cute bit, right!?

We are about to spend FOREVER there with Howard Culver.
Good. Gracious.

Yes, Here sits Jack Webb on the Parker Center set. The wiggly lines behind the file drawers seem more like window dressing and less like the steady rigidity such as we observed in many other episodes, as far back as that time we were trapped in a room with Kent McCord.

 Gannon says, "Pot, speed, LSD; why the devil do the kids mess with that garbage? It's like they've got a grudge against themselves. I mean it, Joe. What's really going on with these young people? That boy today - Where's the kick in going out of your head?"

Joe counters with, "You see it over in Juvenile. 8 and 9 year old glue sniffers.
10 year old acid freaks. They keep telling us that our society's more sophisticated. Looks like we've got the drugs to go along with it, doesn't it?"

Just so we're all on the same page, here comes Clark Howat with Howard Culver.
He's going to talk forever. Let's cut the chat (unless it's amusing) and just enjoy the visual style.

Vincent Dee still has Clark Howat in that nice aubergine tie. His jacket is a little kicky, too.

I don't care for any of Howard Culver's one-shots during this take, so here is his one from the first Smarteens meeting:

What does Howard Culver smell like?

Seriously. Any guesses?

Ditto for this location:

I think it looks better warmer. Which do you prefer? A or B?

Next, the gang took a location shot of Disney's studio (is it?) to show how by way of TV magic, we could really believe that Thomas Bellin is really using that magic marker, too!

Here is an adjusted level version of the next shot:

The color temperature is subtle; which do you like better, A or B?

What a charming workplace. Just charming. Like Sal Romano's "fArt" department at Sterling Cooper.

It's just too spare to be a real cartoonist's workplace!

Check out these shots of Al's hands:

Good times!

This actor is styled by Vincent Dee in an ensemble appealing to …kind of a few of my ex-boyfriends.


Plus, I don't know that we'll see this Faux Bertino again, so there.

We start to see some of the finished work:

This is a first iteration. Thank you, design school.

This feels like school. Let's watch the clock.

Wow. Remember how much time we spent looking at that thing in class growing up?

And over here:

and falling asleep

and jostling awake - No, I wasn't sleeping.

What's that, Howard?

Teenage Anti-Drug Fashion Show!

Brown leather jacket.

Ribbon pigtails and puffy polka-dot sleeves? She gets to carry a clutch purse, though.

And they get summer school credit.


The blue dress lady we just saw is now coming back through the door trailed by yellow-oxford-shirt, but this time he has the v-neck sweater and she has a pretty cardigan.

All eyes on you, Vincent Dee.

Here's our first glimpse of the designs for the Smarteens posters:

Orange roll-neck knit sweater.

Green and white button-up with button-down collar.

Either reasonable and cotton or miserable and polyester. It's one of those not quite-gray/not quite blue non-colors.

I bet Vincent put vertical stripes on this dude so he would look taller on TV?

This show was airing in December, so it't not off the wall to put a character into a V-neck sweater.

Here is some generalized craziness on behalf of the background players:

Dragnet has come a long way in its classroom settings. 
This one has neat hanging lights, an American flag, and even a piano.

It seems like a souped-up version of the school room from The Susan Seaforth episode.

That seems to wrap it up.

See you next week for some surprises.

And, at long last, here is our close-up view of Al Bertino's poster designs.
Charming stuff; personally I appreciate the "white space" and the cute typography:

Pot and Pills - Trip or Trap?

Stupidity starts with the first drag, pop, pill, or fix.

Jeez, too much text is a drag. I like the skull made out of negative space over the character's head.
His feet look like funny bars of soap.
Is he sitting on the curb?
He is sporting a George Jetson-sort of nose.

Other than the terrifying flower-face and the aggressive visual strength of the BE A SMARTEEN ! portion, It's cute.

The slogan, "When Flower Children go to pot

This is a nice example of how to fit a lot of text into the poster without making it seem like a drag (previous).

SPEED KILLS! Don't "METH" around!

So cute, don't you adore a pun?

Methamphwhatever in a needle? UGH! And this is before such things as needle exchange services existed. People can cook it (smoke it?) with some sort of bubble-pipe, sniff it up their noses, and I don't even want to know anymore about that stuff. Meth is just too freaky.

Then, there is "old reliable" - 
Everything about this poster is classic late modern graphic design.
It is primarily text except for the "stamp out stupidity" logo centered at the bottom.

It's font-heavy, the pink is a polite pairing which aids the readability of the black letters - i.e. 'pay more attention, just this once.'

The font is hippyish and reminds me of the logotype of a certain regional record store chain.

(and, thereafter, anything and everything that had to do with a turtle. Forever.)

SOS - are you ready to stamp out stupidity? Be a Smarteen.

You can even be a Smartgrownup. It's never to late to make informed decisions about things.

I say go "Leslie Knope" and do a "pros and cons list."

 ::: The Establishment :::
Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday
Harry Morgan as Officer Bill Gannon
Howard Culver as Robert Squire
Thomas Bellin as Al Bertino
Clark Howat as Captain Trembly
Alex Wilson as First Patrolman
 ::: The Kids :::
Heather Menzies as Ann Flynn
Russ Caldwell as Stanley Sorel
Judy Jenson as Martha
Wink Roberts as Bob

Additional cast:
______ as "The Snakes Are Eating My Legs. Kill The Snakes"-man
______ as uncredited extras (help!)

Additional Notes:
*The Haunted Closet featured Smarteens! in 2010.
*Rather than anyone nodding and looking about, we are treated to cute anti-drug posters from 1967.
*In real life, Al Bertino is in this photograph, second from the right.
*Twice they mention "chromosome damage" - As I understand it, that's not a real thing.
*Mysterynet has this to say about the episode:
     "Dragnet is remembered by many as a quaint, nostalgic glimpse at the way life used to be. One such episode is "Narcotics," in which the "Smarteen Club" is launched with the motto "SOS: Stamp Out Stupidity." The organization's goal is to work as hard reaching vulnerable youths as drug dealers do."
*There is an archival bit at NBC-Universal featuring the Smarteen program itself, but you can't watch it yet. "CS 1 - A young woman tells teenagers about a bad experience she had with hallucinatory drugs. She claims "you don't know what hell is until something like this is given to you." Teens look at display of anti-drug posters. S.O.S. ("Stamp Out Stupidity") bumper stickers are handed out. Police officer addresses teens. CS 2 - View from back of room as film is projected. Policeman says in interview that the natural curiosity of teenagers about drugs is coupled with a real social pressure from their peers. He says what the Smarteens program tries to do is apply converse social pressure and hit teens in the ego."
*I thought that The Onion A.V. Club had covered this episode somewhere along the line. Alas.

Despite it all, you have found it. Suzy Dragnet's least favorite episode of Dragnet. When I saw it as a kid, I thought, (in my Clinton-era youth) that it was unironic, but cloying and silly. What drug problem? But I didn't know the half of it. When a problem seems to be so out of hand that a TV show give it an episode, it might also be campy, historic, and even endearing.

Art Director - John E. Chilberg, II
Set Decor - John McCarthy & John Sturtevant
Costumes - Vincent Dee

Written by Burt Prelutsky

Aired 5 December 1968

Coffee and refreshments are to be served in the comments area,
Suzy Dragnet

Here is a nice piece by Burt Prelutsky about writing on the show from Badge 714. It's a wonderful piece. I hope you enjoy it.


  1. Suzy: There is a LOT of nodding going on in this episode. The Bobblehead episode. Everyone Nods. And the kid who admits smoking grass looks a little hinky when he sees Joe and Bill back there. Possibly will show up in the future, maybe. Bill thinks the face looks familiar but can't "pull up" the name. Joe "makes" him though when they get a report of a stolen '68 Mustang GT. A little trip to "juvy" at Georgia Street along with his girlfriend Jill Banner. Policewoman Dorothy Miller is along to keep Jill company in a separate room. She tries to soften her up with oatmeal and honey cookies her daughter made. (Joe, she's only 9." "I'll wait," squints Friday.) They are questioned individually (divide and conquer) and finally cop a plea. Both are sentenced to community service: cleaning the median of the Hollywood Freeway at rush hour. Policewoman Dorothy Miller (Dot to the fellas) brings along her daughters cookies and soft drinks. A Mark VII production. Kenny P

    1. Oh, Hi KennyP!
      I mean the sequence specific to the ending of each episode of the show. I see what you mean about the meaningful glances, though.
      After that, you lost me. Is that a fan-fiction? It was fun to read.
      Suzy Dragnet

    2. Yes, I was just doing a little free flow plot construction in a free flow kind of way. I love the word "hinky." Kenny

    3. Hinky is a good one. I still can't believe that autocorrect doesn't think it's a word. 1968 wasn't that long ago.
      Anyway, I understand. Having fun on the internet :)
      Suzy Dragnet

    4. This episode aired again on Friday night. I was just telling my co-worker that they must have been scraping the bottom of the barrel for this one. The thing that really freaked me out was the unibrow kid in the blue V-Neck sweater. As first glance, he looks giant and like he's about 25 years old. But, when he get's up to leave, he looks like the ventriloquist dummy from "Magic" who has somehow eerily left Anthony Hopkins's knee and enrolled in Junior High. And what's up with the pleather skirts? Awfully racy for 1969.

  2. Yes,that shot IS the Walt Disney Studios,a place I sort of know well since I am there a lot for work.Dragnet was filmed at Disney on Stage 2 from May 1952 till April 1955.Walt needed some extra money and rented the un used stage to Webb.The extra money for his "cartoon theme park".And Webb and Disney were close friends.

    1. Raul! Nice to see you again!
      I knew you would know about "Walt Disney's!"
      Thanks so much. Hope all is well.
      Suzy Dragnet

  3. I just watched this episode on Netflix and was so intrigued by the "Smarteen" concept I decided to Google it out of curiosity. Maybe I'm just becoming an "old fart", but as one who has never done any kind of illicit substance in my entire life, I fear for our society that seems to be way to comfortable and accepting of the use of marijuana and drugs. I'm not a total prude, so if my neighbor wants to smoke a bowl in their garage, AWAY from the kids, I really couldn't care less. But the more marijuana and drugs become "acceptable", the more I can see the value of something like this "smarteen" concept to lend credibility to the point of view that it can be just as smart and cool not to do drugs as it is to do them. If I were back in school, I'd join the group!

  4. Gak - what an awful episode! Even back in 1969 I'd have wondered, "Is this for real?"

    Note: the clock is made in the USA. Back then, we had a manufacturing base.

    "What does Howard Culver smell like?" It's 1969 and the selection is rather limited: 1.) Brut, 2.) Old Spice, 3.) English Leather, 4.) Canoe, 5. Some barbershoppy thing by Avon. But, most of all, cigarettes - like many adults in 1969.

    1. Don't forget Aqua Velva or my dad's favorite..... Hai Karate!

    2. Not cigarettes. If anyone was ever the type to smoke a pipe, it's Culver.

  5. I read somewhere (Wikipedia?) that Howard Culver's hobby was knitting. Not bones. Stuff like sweaters and socks. I don't think this was ever featured on Dragnet.

  6. Howard Culver's scent of choice?,.. Williams' Lectric Shave, I suspect; after all, he did make a lot of money in Business, finding more practical ways to do things, and solutions to problems the average businessman couldn't figure out,.. so I suspect, he could afford one of those new-fangled Portable Electric Razors,.. and uses 'the right' shave lotion to go with it, exactly as prescribed in the directions, 'Natch!

  7. God this is funny. Kind of a precursor to the "Just Say No" movement in the 80s, when I was a teen. The "don't meth around" poster....very true...that stuff will destroy you.

  8. Hmm a quick Google and LSD does not cause birth defects, nice try Jack.

    POT in California now stands for Plenty Of Taxes.
    MJ has been legal for a few days now, haven't seen any signs that people are leaving their babies in the bathtub unattended.

    Jack Webb would probably still be alive if he gave up cigs and smoked weed instead. We also see and hear very little of how damaging the effects of alcohol are, drunk driving, domestic abuse, etc.. But like Mad Men, everyone was drinking.