Adam-12 worked in a clever little easter egg for fans of helicopters
Did you catch this call back to one of Lucille Ball's earliest hits?
Image: The Everett Collection
The Adam-12 episode "Log 34: Astro" is not, alas, a story in which the Jetsons' pet joins the K-9 unit. The "Astro Division" of the LAPD fights crime with helicopters. But "Log 34" still manages to work in a nifty reference to television's past, albeit a much deeper one.
At the start of the episode, Ed Wells (Gary Crosby) struts into the lounge wearing a baseball cap. Reed (Kent McCord) and Malloy (Martin Milner) razz him about his headwear. "Looks like you're gonna play little league," they tease. Wells brags that he is actually now part of the Astro unit. It takes "a keen, keen eye," he notes, what with the flying high above the streets part of the gig.
Later, at roll call, Sgt. MacDonald introduces the boys in blue to Lt. King, the head of the helicopter unit. When Adam-12 premiered on TV in 1968, the actual LAPD could count its copters on one hand. So this plot was certainly an exciting development to audiences. Today, the whirr of helicopter blades is part of the ambient noise to citizens of Los Angeles.
Anyway, there's something important to note about Lt. King. Kenneth Tobey plays the role! Get it?
No? We're here to explain the cool reference. From 1957–60, Tobey portrayed a character named Chuck Martin on Whirlybirds, an action series about helicopters. Desilu (yes, Lucille Ball's Desilu) produced the syndicated show that explored all the exciting adventures that could be had in helicoptering. You can see Tobey in the cockpit in the image up top.
The helicopter seen hovering later in the episode, a Bell 47G, was even a newer model of the Bell 47G seen on Whirlybirds.
Lucy herself would help popularize the aircraft. Lucy Ricardo hops aboard a Bell 47G in the I Love Lucy episode "Bon Voyage." That episode would lead to the idea to create a TV series about helicopters. And, thus, Whirlybirds was born.