Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Jack Webb’s Los Angeles based police procedural “Dragnet” often served as the moral center of a radio and television lineup that was growing more progressive every year.
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As Sergeant Joe Friday, Webb crafted the model for decades of no-nonsense police characters that are still seen on TV.
While many “Dragnet” episodes feel very dated through the lens of 2015, one episode in particular is still relevant today.
In “The Big Departure” Webb and his partner question three teenagers, who like many in the counter culture of the 1960s were looking for a different United States than the one their parents left them.
This idea of making the world a better place is by no means a unique concept to this episode. Each generation feels this way, until they ultimately look down on the generation that follows.
After the teens tell the cops that they wish to leave society and go off on their own, the two men lecture them about how they should appreciate the sacrifices of their elders.
“The fact is, more people are living better right here than anyone else ever before in history. So don’t expect us to roll over and play dead when you say you’re dissatisfied. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great deal better than when we grew up,” Friday tells the boys.
“You’re taller, stronger, healthier, and you live longer than the last generation; and we don’t think that’s altogether bad.”
Anyone who has spent a little time perusing a Facebook comments section may think that these words were ripped from something posted this morning, however the clip is almost 50-years-old.
Like older folks in 2015, the two cops think that the children of 1967 don’t appreciate the “instant” gratification they receive.
“You’ve grown up on instant orange juice. Flip a dial–instant entertainment. Dial seven digits–instant communication…Flash a card–instant money. Shove in a problem–push a few buttons–instant answers,” Webb says of lifestyles in 1967.
At the speeches end, Friday becomes filled with a sort of jingo-patriotism that fans of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump often yearn for when he tells them to make their country great again.
“Don’t try to build a new country. Make this one work,” Friday says.
“It has for over four hundred years; and by the world’s standards, that’s hardly more than yesterday.”