Dragnet was the first TV ''reboot'' before they really knew what to call that

There's a good reason the studio wanted Sgt. Friday back. Money. It's always money.

The Everett Collection

Read to Me

Michael Burns was a child star most American television viewers would have recognized. He played a 13-year-old babysitting mogul on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, his first role. Later, he was an orphan living on a houseboat with other teens in the sitcom It's a Man's World, but his biggest gig came on Wagon Train. On the Western, he portrayed Barnaby West, a 13-year-old who sets off across the country in search of his father. He ended up joining the wagon train for three seasons.

Two years later, Burns was nearly unrecognizable as an altogether different "Boy." Blue and yellow paint covered his face and he experienced an acid trip gone bad in "The LSD Story," the premiere episode of Dragnet 1967. His "Blue Boy" character was the first of many warning tales that decried the moral decay of the Boomer generation, at least in the eyes of series creator Jack Webb. In the image above, you can see Burns going over the script on set with Webb and costar Harry Morgan.

"The LSD Story" was notable historically for more than its public discussion of psychedelic drugs. (Remember, LSD was not officially outlawed by the United States government until October 1968, a year and a half after "The LSD Story" aired.) The series premiere also happened to be the first major reboot in television history.

When the UPI reported on the unexpected success of the Dragnet comeback in early 1967 (the show was a midseason replacement), the writer used quotation marks to explain this bold new concept — the "remake." 

"The original was the first of its genre and the 'remake' is faithful to the concept conceived by Webb when television was still in its swaddling closes," journalist Vernon Scott wrote. "This is the first series to gain a reprise on the tube."

"The success of 'Dragnet' may be the most significant development in television this season," he declared. If only he knew how reboots would become the bread and butter of the industry.

"Webb explained how he happened to get back into the 'Dragnet' business," The Indianapolis Star wrote when Dragnet premiered in January 1967. "It seems Universal Studios has little men who constantly scan the old profit and loss sheets. And their narrow eyes happened to notice that back in the late 1950s Webb had made a feature-length film version of Dragnet which cost $500,000 and grossed $7 million." It always comes down to money.

Like most reboots, things were modernized, different. The show was in color, for starters. Sgt. Friday's old partner was gone, too. Ben Alexander, who had played the old sidekick, was tied up in a new crime show of his own, The Felony Squad. Instead, Webb hired Harry Morgan to play his new partner.

Oh, and just a quick note about Michael Burns. The "Blue Boy" actor disappeared from Hollywood in the 1970s. He later became professor emeritus of history at Mount Holyoke College, focusing his historical attention on France, in particular, publishing several books. Now that is making history.

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nightshade 11 days ago
you guys forgot the "new dragnet" and "new adam 12" that was syndicated on kttv ch 11 in the la area lat 1 pm in the early 90s after kttv lost the rights to the old batman tv show .....
Lillyrose 3 months ago
My favorite Dragnet episode is the episode with the police dog Ginger. I forgot the name of the episode. Dragnet is the best police show, and Friday and Gannon are the best detectives.
Please, MeTV, put my favorite show I Love Lucy back on the air! And thank you for still airing my second favorite show, Leave it to Beaver! Please also air Newhart! Great show from the 80s!
PaulFitzpatrick 3 months ago
DRAGNET wasn't a reboot, but rather a revival. A reboot is a starting-over as though the older series never existed, in which the characters are played by younger performers.
F5Twitster 3 months ago
"When the UPI reported on the unexpected success of the Dragnet comeback in early 1967 (the show was a midseason replacement), the writer used quotation marks to explain this bold new concept — the 'remake.'"

Its full title was actually "Dragnet, 1967" (the next year it was changed to "Dragnet, 1968"; after that the studio and NBC decided to drop the year and just make it "Dragnet"), and it replaced a sitcom called "The Hero" that starred Richard Mulligan," who would later go on to greater success on "Empty Nest." It was very funny as I recall, and I was very disappointed when it was canceled. The show that preceded it, at 7:30 on Thursdays, was something called "Star Trek." I dont know what happened to that.

"Universal Studios'...little men...happened to notice that back in the late 1950s Webb had made a feature-length film version of Dragnet which cost $500,000 and grossed $7 million." It always comes down to money."

Webb's "Dragnet" feature was actually released in the EARLY 1950s -- 1954 -- not by Universal but by WARNER BROS. Why Universal's bean-counters shuld have been looking at the books from another studio's film is something of a mystery.


"Michael Burns's...biggest gig came on Wagon Train. On the Western, he portrayed Barnaby West, a 13-year-old who sets off across the country in search of his father. He ended up joining the wagon train for three seasons."

I wonder if Barnaby ever ran into Jamie McPheeters. if so, they could have compared notes.
dan57man F5Twitster 3 months ago
I have seen episodes of Dragnet, 1969, & 1970.
DocForbin 3 months ago
I always liked the scene where Blue Boy says "You're the dirty disbelievers! The evil disbelievers! Evil! Evil! EEEEEEEEEE-VILLLLLLLLLL!", then he proceeds to tear the sleeve off Officer Gannon's jacket. It kind of sums up how I feel about Craigslist.
DocForbin DocForbin 3 months ago
In fact, I made a meme about that:
JustJayne 3 months ago
I'd love to see MeTV add some of the great variety shows to their lineup. It's great to see Carol Burnett and The Ed Sullivan Show. Is it possible to add episodes of the Sonny & Cher show and The Flip Wilson show to the lineup somewhere? There was so many great television programs back in the 70's, and it'd be great if MeTV could be the go-to for retro programs (Family, One Day at a Time, The Rockford Files, Hazel, Manix, 77 Sunset Strip, and the list can go on and on. Thanks for listening!
PaulTakeo JustJayne 3 months ago
Mannix is already shown on MeTV. One Day at a Time and Hazel I think are shown on FeTV (Family Entertainment TV)
AnnieM JustJayne 3 months ago
Sonny & Cher's show (both versions!) were airing on GetTV on Sundays for quite awhile; even had a few episodes of Cher's solo variety show. Only weird thing is they must have had the rights to only certain episodes, as they seemed to keep repeating the same dozen or so episodes over and over. Most of them were from their original Comedy Hour, and a handful of them were from their post-divorce, post-solo shows reboot. Of Cher's solo program, they had only 4 or 5 episodes, I think. None of Sonny's, though. Lol. I do wish they would/could show the entire run of all of them.
Lillyrose JustJayne 3 months ago
Hazel is a great show! I also like The Partridge Family, Eight is Enough, and The Lawrence Welk Show. I hope that MeTV will air them.
JustJayne 3 months ago
I would love for MeTV to add Dragnet to another timeslot. I enjoy watching Dragnet in the mornings when I'm getting ready for work in the 4-5am hour, but it would be great to see it on in another timeslot as well. I love that Perry Mason is on in the morning and then again at night. I would love to see a similar viewing option for Dragnet ... fingers crossed!
VanessaTara 3 months ago
actually lsd was outlawed october 1966: https://timeline.com/the-history-of-psychedelics-and-psychotherapy-fe70f72557aa
Michael VanessaTara 3 months ago
October 6, 1966 is when the Love Pageant Rally took place, because LSD became illegal that day.

But I think it was specifically California. I recall reading that distinction long ago. A check says in June 1966, California and Nevada made it illegal, New Jersey about to. I assume the law kicked i n a bit later.

I do see a 1968 date for US federal law making it illegal. That does seem late, but maybe the states all.made it illegal first.
rhindle 3 months ago
The only problem with this article is that the new 'Dragnet' show was not a reboot as it is generally defined. A reboot starts over, this was a revival; a continuation of the show as it was.

So, we still shouldn't call 'Dragnet' a reboot, because it wasn't one. (For a 'Dragnet' reboot, see the one starring Ed O'Neill.)
GaryGoltz 3 months ago
I wish MeTV would show the original Dragnets from the 50's too. There are over 200 of them and they are terrific, even better then the ones from the late 60's!
bumples GaryGoltz 3 months ago
There are some on dvd but I'm not sure if all are are on dvd
PaulTakeo GaryGoltz 3 months ago
You can watch some of these on YouTube.
DoubleNaughtSpy bumples 3 months ago
Just the episodes which lapsed into "public domain" status (i.e., the owner of the original copyright allowed it to expire).
MikefromJersey GaryGoltz 3 months ago
Are you THE Gary Goltz, author of "Broderick Crawford starring in Highway Patrol"? Plus you
have a site dedicated to Highway Patrol?
If so, the MeTV people should interview you, you are the cat's pajamas. By the way, if you are
THE Gary, the comments section at your Highway Patrol site has lately gotten a lot of spam
you might want to delete.
Otherwise it is terrific, I highly recommend it to everyone here.
MeTV guys, you should interview Gary and see his classic police cruiser, you could get
a great commercial to use promoting Highway Patrol.
dan57man GaryGoltz 3 months ago
Someone is showing them, I have watched 5-6 episodes.
GaryGoltz 3 months ago
From your lips to God's Ear!
GaryGoltz 2 months ago
I second that emotion!
WordsmithWorks 3 months ago
I love behind the scenes pictures like that one.
WordsmithWorks 3 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Fuming 3 months ago
It would have been cool to have blue boy as a professor.
Fuming 3 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Michael Fuming 3 months ago
Howard Hessman was on a panel on Dragnet, I can't remember if he played a professor.
dan57man Michael 3 months ago
I think the subject of the panel show was something like "The Police, Who Needs Them?"
stephaniestavr5 Michael 3 months ago
I think he was the moderator.
I have a question: the story mentions "swaddling closes." What are swaddling closes?" Is this METV slang for something? An inside joke that only folks that work at the station would understand the humor and get a chuckle from?
They meant “Swaddling Clothes”, but Because they don’t proofread, they spelled it wrong.
CelticTwilight 3 months ago
"the first of many warning tales that decried the moral decay of the Boomer generation, at least in the eyes of series creator Jack Webb"

And now the old boomers decry the moral decay of the current younger generations.

The more things change...
JonP CelticTwilight 3 months ago
Actually, the "younger" generations are blaming the Boomers for the moral decay we see today.
CelticTwilight JonP 3 months ago
Not on this site. 😉
Barry22 3 months ago
Dragnet was a good show, and that was a good episode. Made me think, though. What tv show was considered the first spin-off? Because I don't know.
RickCuster Barry22 3 months ago
The Adventures of Champion was spun off from The Gene Autry Show in 1955. It is considered the first TV spinoff. In radio, The Great Gildersleeve is the first spinoff, having come from Fibber McGee and Molly in 1941.
daDoctah 3 months ago
Did they ever explain why Joe, who had been a lieutenant for the entire last season of the black-and-white series, was mysteriously demoted to sergeant again when the color series started?

I have a theory that "bad guys get no breaks from me" Friday "forgot" too many times to read some low-life his rights after the Miranda case, and his higher-ups had no choice but to knock him down in rank until he could demonstrate that he'd consistently play by the rules.
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ncadams27 daDoctah 3 months ago
During the last season of the original Dragnet, Jack Webb wanted less screen time so he “promoted” himself to Lieutenant and made Officer Smith a Sergeant. Then the show ended. During the reboot, Jack Webb wanted the “original” ranks.
justjeff Fuming 3 months ago
But, during the radio years, Jack Webb did [supposedly] smoke his sponsor's Fatima cigarettes...
Hopped up on that nicotine!
dan57man WordsmithWorks 3 months ago
That is the reason.
Raymond1983 3 months ago
I just love the history of these actors. Even though I wasn’t even alive when these people were making these shows. I feel like I been watching them since and enjoying them since they started. And even though I was born in 1983 I have such passion for these kind of shows because it shows a time in History that I would of love to live in. And because of the morals and the way people were like back in time. But anyway every time I watch one of these old shows it lets me dream of a time that had more respect for life and family and are Country then we as a country can say that we have now! To me it’s a shame to see what this country has come from and to see what it’s came from and to see what a difference it is now in are present time now in 2021. I wish we as a people could go back in time and live and love like we did 80 years ago. Thank you MeTV for such a wonderful collection of tv shows that has inspired me and has changed me for the rest of my life! Thank you Raymond R , North Carolina
CaptainDunsel 3 months ago
My kind of article MeTV Staff. Just the facts.
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