Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review: Night Watch

Night Watch is perhaps the most-unusual radio show you will ever hear.  It's much like the television show, Cops, except it's done via the radio and it was recorded live in the early 1950's

Things that would bypass most policemen today seem to draw a lot of attention then.  For instance, an older boy in his car follows two girls in their car.  They call the police and the word, "molested" is used twice - yet he never even got out of his car, according to his accusers.  He was simply following them.  Is it illegal to follow someone?  Is he a "molester" for doing so?  He didn't get arrested but was talked to sternly by officers.

Alcohol seems to have been the biggest problem then - much as it is now - as far as being the instigator for illegal activity.  So some things never change.

The horrors of marijuana are ramped up on the show,  A marijuana user is a 'dope addict;'  I guess they didn't know then that marijuana is about 10 times safer than alcohol and you can't get addicted to the evil weed.  I don't suggest anyone use marijuana but anyone who thinks marijuana is evil should at least say that 10 times when speaking of alcohol.  There is no comparison in my opinion.

But that's the early 1950's for you.  While shows like Dragnet and The 21st Precinct deal with the same manner of crimes and do in an orderly and exciting fashion, Night Watch bumbles along in the live format where something might or might not happen.  Sometimes the most exciting event is hearing the squeaking of the cop car door (and I'm not exaggerating) while other times the show is fascinating beyond words.  

The show was the first of it's kind and even had a later imitator (the show, Unit 99) and of course I already mentioned Cops which has been running to more than 20 years on television.

One thing for sure, the show is edited to go at a slow pace, with both the recorder (Donn Reed) and the cops being rather unexcited at all times.  The personalities of all the cops involved in the recording are rather bland.  This does not make the show boring but it makes it slow - and slow is not not a word you really want to use when describing entertainment.  With just one unit with a tape recorder, the action can be rare, so much so that one episode might just deal with a confession of an alcoholic pouring his heart out looking for help or a long argument between a mother and daughter.  Neither to me are as exciting as catching a couple of hoods red-handed breaking into a filling station, something which seems to happen often during the series.

For the most part, the sound is at least passable but I wouldn't go so far as to say the sound is great.  Interesting stuff usually: 2 and a half stars.

©Jimbo 2010/2011


  1. Nice review! There are some episodes where Donn Reed seems to take his life in his hands. A couple of episodes get Reed stabbed and shot.

  2. Hi Gary!

    Ooh I haven't heard those episodes yet... Thanks for the heads up!


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