Police Story

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents




Police Story is a title shared by two unrelated police anthology programs. The first Police Story aired on CBS during 1952. The live, half-hour program dramatized actual crimes lifted from the files of law enforcement agencies around the nation. The series anticipated "reality" crime programs such as Rescue 911 with its emphasis on casting actors who resembled the actual participants and use of the real names of police officers. Norman Rose narrated the series.

The better-known Police Story series ran from 1973-77 on NBC. During 1988 four made-for-television movies based on the originals script aired on ABC. Los Angeles police officer and writer Joseph Wambaugh created the series after his first two police novels "The Blue Knight" and "The New Centurions" made the best seller lists. ("The Blue Knight" was also adapted into a series for CBS.)

Airing during a network television era rife with crime dramas, Police Story distinguished itself from other programs in the genre through its anthology format and emphasis on more realistic depiction of police officers. Set in 1970s Los Angeles, Police Story focused on officers from various divisions of the Los Angeles Police Department. While the series had its share of car chases and psycho killers, Wambaugh and series producer David Gerber primarily concentrated on making police officers more three-dimensional and human. The series presented the job of police officer as challenging, dangerous and at times mundane. Undercover detectives spent their lives on stakeouts, rookie cops faced tough street educations, SWAT sharpshooters hit innocent bystanders. Problems such as corruption and racism on the police force and tensions between ethnic communities were frequently explored. The personal lives of the characters were also examined, most often in the context of the pressures police work put on all members of the cop's family.

While the visual and aural style of Police Story episodes were on the whole indistinguishable from other crime dramas of the era, the series introduced and concluded episodes with simple recurring motifs that asserted the series' verisimilitude. Each episode opened with the brief Police Story title and then leapt into its story. Episodes ended with a blurry freeze frame of the last bit of action. The audio of the scene fell silent and was replaced by the chillingly efficient voice and static of police dispatchers making a radio call, "Eleven - Mary - six, call the station. Thirteen - zero - five, John - Frank - William, eight - nine - nine."

The result of these narrative and aesthetic conventions was an at-times disturbing picture of police officers operating on the edge of society and their own personal psychology. While episodes consistently started stronger than they finished, the anthology format and the ever-present influence of documentary film conventions helped Police Story to stand out from more familiar cops-and-robbers fare. These stylistic factors suggest that the series was, in various ways, the predecessor of later police programs such as Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, and Homicide: Life on the Streets. The series received wide critical praise and Emmy nominations for Outstanding Dramatic Series every year during its 1970s run.

While most episodes in Police Story were unrelated, a few actors reprised their characters across several episodes. Don Meredith and Tony LoBianco appeared as partners or separately in six episodes from 1973 to 1975. Two Police Story episodes also served as spin-offs for the police dramas Police Woman and Joe Forrester. Gerber produced these series as well.

-Stephen Lee


Stanley Kallis, David Gerber, Liam O'Brien, Christopher Morgan, Hugh Benson, Mel Swope, Larry Broder, Carl Pingitore


84 Episodes


October 1973-September 1975   Tuesday 10:00-11:00

September 1975-October 1975   Tuesday 9:00-10:00

November 1975-August 1976   Friday 10:00-11:00

August 1976-August 1977   Tuesday 10:00-11:00


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Crew, B. Keith. "Acting Like Cops: The Social Reality of Crime and Law on TV Police Dramas." In Sanders, Clinton R., editor. Marginal Conventions: Popular Culture, Mass Media and Social Deviance. Bowling Green, Ohio: Popular Culture Press, 1990.

Grant, Judith. "Prime Time Crime: Television Portrayals of Law Enforcement." Journal of American Culture (Bowling Green, Ohio), Spring, 1992.

Inciardi, James A., and Juliet L. Dee. "From the Keystone Cops to Miami Vice: Images of Policing in American Popular Culture." Journal of Popular Culture (Bowling Green, Ohio), Fall, 1987.

Kaminsky, Stuart, and Jeffrey H. Mahan. American Television Genres. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1985.

David Gerber on producing Police Story 
Leslie Hoffman on doing stunt work for Police Story
Russell Johnson on guest-starring on Police Story
Hank Rieger on publicity for David Gerber's shows Police Story and Police Woman
David Gerber on the look and production of Police Story
Alexander Courage on scoring Gene Roddenberry's Police Story 
Who talked about this show

Alexander Courage

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Alexander Courage on scoring Gene Roddenberry's Police Story 

David Gerber

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David Gerber on producing Police Story 
David Gerber on the look and production of Police Story
David Gerber on going to work for Columbia Pictures Television and producing Police Story

Leslie Hoffman

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Leslie Hoffman on doing stunt work for Police Story

Russell Johnson

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Russell Johnson on guest-starring on Police Story

Hank Rieger

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Hank Rieger on publicity for David Gerber's shows Police Story and Police Woman

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