Tomorrow’s the 4th of July and you probably have the day off. Normally, holiday weekends mean it’s time to kick back with some good bingeable TV. There’s just one problem; since July 4th is a Wednesday this year, you likely have to go back to work Thursday. That leaves you with no time at all to really dig in to a nice long show. But we here at Devise are happy to help with a very quick binge recommendation: The brilliant and quickly cancelled 1982 sitcom Police Squad!
Police Squad! is the brain child of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker, the trio of lunatics responsible for Airplane! The show stars Leslie Nielsen as Sergeant Frank Drebin, a Detective Lieutenant with Los Angeles’ Police Squad. If that name and ridiculous rank sounds familiar, it’s because the Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker team later adapted Police Squad! into The Naked Gun film series. Just like those movies, Police Squad is jam packed with jokes. The gags start in the opening credits, where actor Rex Hamilton appears as a gun toting Abraham Lincoln. The credits also introduce the episode’s special guest star, who is immediately killed off.
So yeah, it’s chock full of smart-dumb visual gags that sometimes mess with our understanding of language and film techniques: When one character invites another into a Japanese garden, we see a bunch of Japanese people standing in pots. When Drebin drives around Los Angeles investigating a case, the rear projection will show weird scenes like the streets of Rome.
Of course, this joke density was too much for ABC, the network that aired Police Squad! When ABC entertainment president Tony Thomopoulos cancelled the show after just six episodes, he explained it was because “the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it.” TV Guide justifiably called this “the most stupid reason a network ever gave for ending a series.”
However, there is one upside to Police Squad!‘s untimely cancellation; you can watch the whole series in less than two and a half hours. That’s shorter than a Marvel movie! But where can you watch it, you ask? You’re in luck, several enterprising people have put Police Squad! on YouTube. Here’s a playlist with the whole series, and below is the first episode, “A Substantial Gift (The Broken Promise).” Yes, every Police Squad! episode had two titles.