cover of book
 

Only the Names Have Been Changed: Dragnet, the Police Procedural, and Postwar Culture
by Claudia Calhoun
University of Texas Press, 2022
eISBN: 978-1-4773-2541-4 | Cloth: 978-1-4773-2538-4
Library of Congress Classification PN1992.77.D736C35 2022
Dewey Decimal Classification 791.4572

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | REVIEWS | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK

Among shifting politics, tastes, and technology in television history, one genre has been remarkably persistent: the cop show. Claudia Calhoun returns to Dragnet, the pioneering police procedural and an early transmedia franchise, appearing on radio in 1949, on TV and in film in the 1950s, and in later revivals. More than a popular entertainment, Dragnet was a signifier of America’s postwar confidence in government institutions—and a publicity vehicle for the Los Angeles Police Department.


Only the Names Have Been Changed shows how Dragnet’s “realistic” storytelling resonated across postwar culture. Calhoun traces Dragnet’s “semi-documentary” predecessors, and shows how Jack Webb, Dragnet’s creator, worked directly with the LAPD as he produced a series that would likewise inspire public trust by presenting day-to-day procedural justice, rather than shootouts and wild capers. Yet this realism also set aside the seething racial tensions of Los Angeles as it was. Dragnet emerges as a foundational text, one that taught audiences to see police as everyday heroes not only on TV but also in daily life, a lesson that has come under scrutiny as Americans increasingly seek to redefine the relationship between policing and public safety.

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