Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Big Departure: Why I Love Dragnet

My friend John (see his Beatles blog, on the blog-list to the right) and I were traveling this weekend and to pass the time we discussed our favorite Dragnet scenes. The one quoted below, from the season two episode "The Big Departure", was not an obvious choice but quickly became a favorite as we tried to remember the very detailed dialogue. In the show, Officer Bill Gannon (Henry Morgan) and Sgt. Joe Friday (Jack Webb) of the Los Angeles Police Department are discussing a rash of robberies by painstakingly reading inventory list(s) of all the stolen items. They manage to burn off a couple minutes of screen time by literally reciting a grocery list (every writer's dream!), but it's Joe's palpable disgust at the criminals involved in the heists that elevates this to masterpiece status. AND it ends with a classic "f'ing hippies" Dragnet 1968 payoff!

BILL: Roll of bandages one inch, roll of bandages two inch, butterfly closures, adhesive tape, antiseptics… looks like mostly medicine cabinet stuff. Triangular bandages, elastic bandages, suntan lotion – case of that – aspirin, eight transistor radios, four cartons transistor batteries, twelve flashlights – two cell – four cartons D batteries, four snakebite kits… oh, here’s one. Codeine, 50 30 milligram tablets. Don’t see any hard stuff outside of that.

JOE: Yeah.

BILL: Couple antibiotics, some penicillin. Hardware store list, four axes, two shovels, two saws, six hammers, two rakes, two hoes, gardening stuff, 300 feet of quarter inch manila rope, some galvanized chain, one butcher knife, paring knives, spatula, cooking utensils, pots, pans, one kettle, one coffee pot, four frying pans, plastic plates, cups, knives, forks, spoons – sounds like they’re planning a camping trip!

JOE: Or an expedition. Vollmer’s list here. They took 200 lbs of potatoes, fifty pounds of onions, string beans, eight cases, peas, eight cases, chili, four cases, spaghetti and meatballs, four cases, canned corned beef, canned stew, fifty pounds of flour, sugar, salt, pepper, a case of shortening, rice, macaroni, tea, coffee, cocoa, canned milk, powdered milk, an assortment of prepared cake mixes and a case of canned icing.

BILL: Right here. Three cake pans, wire cooling rack, one egg-beater… what do you figure?

JOE: I wish I knew. Two cases of cookies, six cases of assorted candy, five, ten, thirteen, seventeen, twenty cartons of various kinds of soft drinks.

BILL: Just the staples, Joe. Pretty good list, they got just about everything.

JOE: No, not quite, and they’ve had two shots at it too. The drug store and the market.

BILL: What’s that?

JOE: Soap.