Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The 21st Precinct vs. Dragnet

I happen to enjoy both the 21st Precinct and Dragnet.  Both shows are in my top 10 favorites, for sure.  Dragnet lasted a lot longer than the 21st Precinct did and eventually wound up on television.  To my knowledge, the 21st Precinct never made it to the screen.

Both are police shows; Dragnet was the West Coast variety, the 21st Precinct was East Coast.  Dragnet was hard-hitting, (realistic but) monotone and somewhat violent.  The 21st Precinct was much more realistic because you always saw yourself at the same places when you listened.  The Dragnet detectives were in a different department every week.  At the 21st Precinct, you were in the muster room, the Captain's office or upstairs with the detectives.  Sure, you were on location too - and those locations are where Dragnet really gets beat.  The 21st Precinct had many foot traffic officers on the streets of New York City and much of the time while listening to the show, that's where you were.  Dragnet used no call boxes - but in almost every episode of the 21st Precinct, someone would use a call box.

Almost every crime (episode) in Dragnet is about something important.  I suppose the same can be said about the 21st Precinct.  However, take an episode where a little girl is missing in each.  The Dragnet episode is bloody and brutal while the 21st Precinct episode is much more suspenseful and the girl winds up being found, unharmed.  Yes, brutal murders do occur but in the case of the little girl, don't you "pull" for the girl to be found unharmed?

I really enjoyed the career of Jack Webb and there's something to be said about his matter-of-fact style, especially when it came to radio/TV police work.  But the actors on the 21st Precinct were not at all like their robot-like counterparts; they were realistic and human.  They showed emotions (other than anger) and they seemed to care for the welfare of the people involved.

This is truly a case of two very similar shows being very, very different.  If you listen to both shows, drop a comment and tell me how you feel.


  1. I have just started listening to 21st Precint. I am glad you open my eyes to this show (or should I say 'ears.') I still lean toward Dragnet as being better, but, I think it is because I know their characters better. The more I listen to 21st I should be more knowledgable to their characters. Part of radio listening is to recognize the voice and thus know who they are. Preston of the Yukon and Lone Ranger are examples of what I am saying. You turn it on and right away you know who they are. Same with Dragnet and its crew. I do not have the same relationship with 21st, but, I expect it will come as I listen to more shows.

  2. Thanks for your comment, BB.

    I think over time, you will appreciate the show. Look at the actors who play the parts in the show - they are all seasoned players, Everett Sloan was one of the original members of the Mercury Theater. Ken Lynch is the detective and he is always stark and gritty (in the Dragnet vein.) I haven't found an episode I don't LOVE. If the sound were better, I'm sure I'd do a website about it. It's amazing. I hope you keep listening to it.

  3. Yes, I will continue to listen. I have no thoughts of stopping.

  4. 21st Precinct is probably my favorite of the police procedurals. The absence of music, which in the 50's could be pretty bombastic gives a more serious and timeless feel. Everett Sloan is just so good, you can really tell when you hear the same stories done with James Gregory.


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