Remember when we discussed the authenticity of David Simon’s report of what he saw while observing Baltimore’s homicide unit? We had discussed whether or not the detectives altered their actions since they knew that Simon was observing them. I would like to bring that same discussion to Dragnet from Mitell’s reading to this post.
Besides the obvious difference in style, casting, and video techniques between Homicide and Dragnet, I think that Dragnet was filtered much more than Homicide. Mitell writes that Web created a system with LAPD Chief William Parker to provide stories for the series. Although the show was suppose to be a realistic interpretation of policemen in the 50’s, the LAPD had control on how they would be presented. Mitell explicitly states that the LAPD would make changes to the script before shopping that would create “positive images” of the LAPD (134). Even after the approval of the scripts, the LAPD continue to mold the series to represent them in the best way possible by having a representative of their field on set during filming. It does seem a bit ridiculous that the LAPD has so much amount for developing the direction and style of Dragnet. While I understand that they do have a right to have some say about their portrayal, all of the edits they are allowed to make diminishes some authenticity to the amount of realism produced in the series. The LAPD was seen in a good manner that they even used Dragnet episodes during their training for new officers. Even though the series is praised for being one of the most realistic portrayals of a police unit, it seems as if the LAPD had too much power to sugar coat the series.
Mitell’s explanation of the amount of power the LAPD had in their relationship with Webb reinforces the notion that Simon broke many boundaries by reporting as truthfully as possible what he had observed in Baltimore. This reading has convinced me to appreciate the guts that the producers and writers of Homicide had to stay true to Simon’s observations.