Yeah, you got it. The Mod Squad (1968-1972).
Now, I have to put out a disclaimer here: I was only a wee tike of a wino when the show arrived. All my love for the show, and my reverence, comes from watching it in repeats. When I first watched the show as a young, pubescent wino it was all about Julie, played by Peggy Lipton.
I interviewed a friend of mine, one well versed in the show. This is what she had to say:
ME: So, what do you feel was the best part of the show?
ME: Do you have any favorite episodes?
HER: Yes. The ones with Linc in them.
ME: But he’s in all of them, isn’t he?
HER: And your point is?
ME: So, if Linc were a stamp, you’d lick him?
HER: Damn straight.
I’ve pretty much always thought of the show as Monterey Pop meets cop: Three hippie kids work undercover in the counterculture world solving crimes. The show did its most to show that we could all get along. White with Black, men with women… even that the generation gap could be crossed (Captain Greer, played by Tige Andrews).
And don’t even get me started on the 1950 Mercury Woody that they drove around in. That car is as iconic as Starsky’s tomato red Gran Torino or Columbo’s Peugeot Cabriolet.
There are so many things to dig on regarding how groovy this show was. First on the list would be how strongly the stories were written. Next would be how totally fleshed out the characters of Pete, Linc, and Julie were (thanks to those quiet, little soliloquy-like moments each character got every few episodes.).
Also on that list would be the way the show was filmed. Gone are the static shots from shows like Dragnet or One-Adam Twelve. We now have camera angles from a much more dynamic camera. Really changed things up. Even the way every episode ended, with a pull-back shot of the three of them walking away, was different from all other shows of the time.
The only negative thing I can say about the show was how sexist it could be. I mean, we can have white people and black people working together with no issues, right? However, throw a woman into the mix? Do that, and then a VERY clear pecking order is exposed, cast in concrete:
If the stuff in an episode hits the fan, it’s “we better take Julie home first.” If it’s not that, then it’s Julie getting in trouble; trouble that involves a man attacking her and the other two having to come to her rescue. (You can even see it in the title sequence below.) I don’t think Julie and Linc ever teamed up to save Pete. And if they did? Then it was Linc that threw the punch.
Oh, and let me just mention here the awesomely ubiquitous use of Peter Max flower stickers in the show. All over the place! Cars. Motorcycles. Walls. You name it. Really brought me back to my sister’s 1964 Corvair COVERED with Peter Max stickers. Hahaha… at the time I thought that it was the ugliest car on the road.
I asked my friend that if she could recast the show today, who would she choose. She immediately said Gweneth Paltrow as Julie Barnes, Josh Lucas as Pete Cochran, and Idris Elba as Linc.
ME: So you really dig Linc that much? You think it all starts and ends with Linc?
HER: Let me put it this way, bozo. Would you REALLY choose Julie over Linc? Really?
ME: Well, come on! That’s not fair! I’m a guy. He’s a guy! I would nev-… um, erm… well… hmmm.
HER: I rest my case.
Gotta love this show, people. Go and get the first season and watch it. You won’t be sorry, trust me.
Bay Area resident Robert K. Lewis has been a painter, printmaker, and a produced screenwriter. Lewis is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the International Thriller Writers. Released earlier this year, Untold Damage is the first novel in his Mark Mallen series. Visit him online at RobertKLewis.com and at needlecity.wordpress.com.