Created and produced by a post Dragnet Jack Webb, NBC's long running police drama Adam-12 debuted in 1968 and remained on the air and in production until 1975.
The show followed the on the job (and to a lesser extent, off the job) adventures of a seasoned veteran cop named Pete Malloy (Martin Milner) who gets teamed up with a twenty three year old rookie fresh out of the academy named Jim Reed (Kent McCord). At first Malloy is hesitent to get a new partner after what happened to his last one, and he and Reed get off to a rocky start. Malloy likes to be in charge and has trouble acknowledging that Reed knows more than he might want to recognize. After awhile though, the two cops start to grow on one another and they soon become friends as well as partners.
The show took its name from the call number of the squad car that they drove as the two cruised around the streets of Los Angeles, California upholding the law and serving the public trust. Compared to later cop shows that would hit during the seventies like Starsky And Hutch and Baretta, Adam-12's officers were pretty clean cut but they were not presented as flawless. Reed would periodically let his job get to him only to have Malloy scold him for cracking under pressure. Malloy in turn would sometimes take out his anger on his partner without any real reason for it. The relationship between the two officers and how it begrudgingly progresses over time is what makes the series tick – that and the realistic pacing. One of the more interesting aspects of their relationship was the fact that they were both able to learn from one another. Malloy was able to teach Reed because of his experience on the field while Reed was able to open Malloy's eyes to alternate methods of police work and give him a few different prespectives on life in general (Reed was married, Malloy was a crumudgeony bachelor). Together they reported to Sgt. MacDonald (William Boyett) who kept them in line and kept them busy.
The show always moved at a good click and it wasn't uncommon for Reed and Malloy to take on three or four crimes in each half hour episode – sometimes it was as simple as responding to a rescue call and administering CPR, other times they'd be trying to crack a drug peddling ring or catch a burgler specializing in hot color television sets. There was a lot of attention paid to detail and a lot of attention paid to the human element of the incidents that the two cops would deal with which made Adam-12 almost documentary like in its tone and feel – which in turn put it a few notches above your average cop drama. The fact that the series was produced with the complete cooperation of the Los Angeles Police Department assured that it had a realism that was unprecedented at the time, from the badges to the uniforms to the patrol cars to the stations where the episodes were filmed.
The twenty six episodes (or, in the case of this series, 'logs' – referring to the police case files) that make up the complete first season of Adam-12 are presented across two double sided DVDs as follows:
Disc One – Side A:
Disc One – Side B:
Disc Two – Side A:
Disc Two – Side B:
Highlights of the first season include the pilot episode (Log 1) in which we're introduced to Reed and Malloy and see their first day on the job together – it could have gone better, but it also could have gone worse and it's interesting to see the dynamic between the two opposites develop even in its infancy. The second episode, Log 141 features a guest appearance from Cloris Leachman who plays a strange woman who thinks she has a salamander crawling on her somewhere who creates a small domestic disturbance. In the third episode, Log 11, Reed commits his first real screw up when he dents the front of the squad car. Look for a young Zalman King who would later go on to star in Blue Sunshine and more recently The Red Shoe Diaries to show up here. Reed gets a bit of a shock when they respond to an officer down call in Log 91 when he finds that the man who has been shot is an old friend of his from the academy. Watch for Tim Matheson of Animal House to show up in Log 61 and Barry Williams of The Brady Bunch in Log 152 where Reed and Malloy try and stop a man with a gun from killing his wife.
Each of the episodes in this set are presented in fullframe, which is how it should be seeing as that's their original aspect ratio. In terms of overall quality, wow, Adam-12 looks really nice. The image isn't perfect, here's some heavy shimmering and mild grain present throughout but the overall level of detail is surprisingly high and the colors come through looking almost perfect. The black levels stay strong and stable and the nighttime scenes look quite good. Flesh tones look lifelike and natural, not too pink, and there really aren't any issues in terms of print damage or distracting or noticeable debris on the picture.
Each of the episodes is presented in its original Dolby Digital Mono sound mix. An alternate Spanish language dub is also supplied, again in Dolby Digital Mono, and there are English closed captions available as well. As far as the quality goes, while the mix is a little flat in some spots, overall the quality is actually pretty good. You can't expect the range that you'd hear in a newer mix but for an older show there aren't really any unexpected problems with Adam-12. The dialogue sounds clean and clear and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion. The soundtrack and opening theme music sound pretty lively and the sound effects are clear and audible without being too over bearing or drowning out the performers. The quality on the Spanish mix is about the same and for the most part, it's on par with the English mix in terms of how it sounds.
There is a montage of clips for other 'classic television' releases available from Universal that plays at the beginning of the first disc, though you can skip past this straight to the menu if you want. Once you get to the menu, you'll find chapter selection options and a play all feature. That's it.
While it's a shame that Universal didn't put any effort at all into supplying some extra features for this set, the episodes sound decent enough and look better than I think most of us would have expected. With that in mind, Adam-12 – The Complete First Season, with its excellent blend of action, drama and suspense, comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.