Release Date(s)1982 (March 18, 2020)
Studio(s)ABC/Paramount Television (CBS Blu-ray/Via Vision Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
[Editor's Note: Despite being labeled as a Region B release, it's actually Region Free.]
“Who are you and how did you get in here?” “I’m a locksmith. And, I’m a locksmith.”
There was nothing quite like Police Squad! when it aired on ABC in March of 1982 (finishing its six episode run later that July). Essentially Airplane! for the small screen, it spoofed the police procedural genre—notably Dragnet and M Squad—but also further established the Zucker/Zucker/Abrahams style of humor for the small screen. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, and the show was cancelled due to a lack of viewers. It later spawned the much more successful Naked Gun series, but is looked upon today as a TV show that seemed to be ahead of its time.
Another possible reason that Police Squad! didn’t do well, as noted by Leslie Nielsen, is that it was a show you actually had to watch. You couldn’t iron your clothes or read a book while it was on and expect to understand everything or get all of the jokes. You had to be laser-focused on it, and unfortunately viewers in 1982 might not have understood that. It was a disappointing blow for the people working on it as everybody expected it to be a hit. There was talk of stringing the episodes together and releasing them as a movie, even filming an extra ending to achieve it. It never came to be, but getting The Naked Gun and its subsequent sequels was a much better trade-off. It’s also worth noting that Joe Dante directed two episodes of the show, even tossing his good buddy Dick Miller into one episode for good measure.
The six episodes were as follows:
A Substantial Gift (The Broken Promise)
Ring of Fear (A Dangerous Assignment)
The Butler Did It (A Bird in the Hand)
Revenge and Remorse (The Guilty Alibi)
Rendezvous at Big Gulch (Terror in the Neighborhood)
Testimony of Evil (Dead Men Don’t Laugh)
CBS and Via Vision Entertainment (who you can check out on Facebook here) have upgraded Police Squad! to Blu-ray from its very memorable DVD release. It retains its full frame aspect ratio and is in nice condition, on par with its Region A counterpart. Granted there are age-related film element issues that only a full restoration could possibly repair, such as flicker and staining, but it looks natural with much more clarity and sharpness in the image. The color palette doesn’t always match from scene to scene, though how much of that is intentional or simply a product of its era is uncertain. Black levels are fairly deep while brightness and contrast levels are ideal. A few scratches and occasional speckling pop up now and again, but it’s quite stable and free of any other overt damage.
The audio is included in English 5.1 DTS-HD and English 2.0 LPCM with no subtitles (the US Paramount Blu-ray release featured an English 2.0 mono Dolby Digital track with optional subtitles in English SDH). The 5.1 track is sparse in its attempt at building on the original soundtrack. The music gets the most attention, filling out the other channels quite boisterously. Dialogue exchanges are clear, and occasional gunfire and explosion sounds are the original selections and haven’t been replaced or remixed. It’s a clean track overall, free of any overt hiss or crackle, nor are there any dropouts or instances of distortion—at least nothing that isn’t inherent in the original mix of the show. The 2.0 track offers a nice remix of the original mono, spreading out the sound effects, ambient activity, and score, but leaving the majority of the dialogue in the center. It’s a nice alternative, but the lack of subtitles is a bummer.
The following extras are included and have been carried over from the DVD:
- Audio Commentary on Episodes 1 and 3 with David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Robert K. Weiss
- Audio Commentary on Episode 6 with Robert Wuhl
- Leslie Nielsen Interview (SD – 8:41)
- Behind the Freeze Frames (SD – 4:31)
- Gag Reel (SD – 4:57)
- Casting Test: Ed Williams (SD – 2:50)
- Casting Test: Alan North (SD – 6:03)
- Producer’s Photo Gallery (SD – 46 in all – 0:58)
The audio commentaries are as lively and informative as you would imagine, but it’s too bad that every episode doesn’t have one to accompany in it. The Leslie Nielsen interview is short, but he speaks very positively of the experience and the show. Behind the Freeze Frames shows the aforementioned additional ending that was to be tacked onto a proposed movie version of the show, with non-optional audio commentary by Zucker, Zucker, Abrahams, and Weiss. The gag reel is great, seeing jokes in progress that broke the actors up in a show where laughing was off limits is a treat. The casting tapes are interesting as the actors play their scenes to an off-camera woman feeding them lines. The animated photo gallery, which appears to be 46 continuity photographs, zooms by and doesn’t allow for close-ups of the pictures being shown. Not included from the DVD release are the List of Celebrity Death Shots and Production Memo Highlights.
Be sure to also check out our review of the US Blu-ray release for a clearer look at the differences between the two releases.
As with a lot of great TV shows that were not appreciated during their original run, Police Squad! was cut down far too soon, leaving us with only six half hour episodes. Thankfully, they’re all intact and their jump to Blu-ray is a welcome one indeed. Frank Drebin’s nutty adventures on the mean streets Somewhere, USA is just the kind of silly distraction we all need.
– Tim Salmons