The Mod Squad
The Mod Squad is an American crime drama series that ran on ABC from September 24, 1968 to August 23, 1973. It stars Michael Cole as Peter "Pete" Cochran, Peggy Lipton as Julie Barnes, Clarence Williams III as Lincoln "Linc" Hayes, and Tige Andrews as Captain Adam Greer. The executive producers of the series were Aaron Spelling and Danny Thomas.
The iconic counterculture police series earned six Emmy Award nominations, four Golden Globe nominations plus one win for Peggy Lipton, one Directors Guild of America Award, and four Logies. In 1997, a 1970 episode "Mother of Sorrow" was ranked #95 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.
They were The Mod Squad ("One black, one white, one blonde"), the hippest and first young undercover cops on TV. Each of these characters represented mainstream culture's principal fears regarding youth in the era: Long-haired rebel Pete Cochran was evicted from his wealthy parents's Beverly Hills home, then arrested and put on probation after he stole a car; Lincoln Hayes, who came from a family of 13 children, was arrested in the Watts riots, one of the longest and most violent actual riots in Los Angeles history; flower child Julie Barnes, the "canary with a broken wing,":64 was arrested for vagrancy after running away from her prostitute mother's San Francisco home; and Captain Adam Greer was a tough but sympathetic mentor and father figure who convinced them to form the squad.
The concept was to take three rebellious, disaffected young social outcasts and convince them to work as unarmed undercover detectives as an alternative to being incarcerated themselves. Their youthful, hippie personas would enable them to get close to the criminals they investigated. "The times are changing," said Captain Greer. "They can get into places we can't." Examples included infiltrations of a high school to solve a teacher's murder, of an underground newspaper to find a bomber, and of an acting class to look for a strangler who was preying on blonde actresses.
More than a year before the release of the film Easy Rider, The Mod Squad was one of the earliest attempts to deal with the counterculture. Groundbreaking in the realm of socially relevant drama, it dealt with issues such as abortion, domestic violence, student protest, child neglect, illiteracy, slumlords, the anti-war movement, soldiers returning from Vietnam, racism, and the illegal drug trade. Spelling intended the show to be about the characters's relationships and promised that the Squad "would never arrest kids...or carry a gun or use one.":63
The show was loosely based on creator Bud "Buddy" Ruskin's experiences in the late 1950s as a squad leader for young undercover narcotics cops, though it took almost 10 years after he wrote a script for the idea to be given the greenlight by ABC Television Studios.
The shows Star Trek (1966–69), I Spy (1965–68), The Bill Cosby Show (1969–71), Julia (1968–71), The Flip Wilson Show (1970–74), and The Mod Squad (1968–73) were among the first programs to feature African-Americans as stars since the stereotyped roles of Amos ’n’ Andy and Beulah (ABC, 1950–53). Significantly, The Mod Squad presented an African-American character (Linc) as being on an equal footing, as roles went, to the Caucasian characters (Barnes and Cochran). In one Mod Squad episode, the script called for Linc to give Barnes a "friendly kiss." Since the first interracial kiss on an American television show was in 1967, this was still fairly new territory in popular culture. The studio was frightened of a negative public reaction, so they asked Spelling to cut it::67–68
"You can't do that," I was told. "You can't have a black man kissing a white girl." I won and ABC agreed to let it in, but they warned me I'd receive thousands of complaint letters. I didn't get one.:68
Linc's famous "solid" and "keep the faith" were among the current-day slang used on the show, which included "pad," "dig it" and "groovy."
Among the series guest stars were Aaron's ex-wife Carolyn Jones, Leslie Nielsen, William Windom, Ed Asner, Vincent Price, Sammy Davis Jr., Andy Griffith, Richard Pryor, Lee Grant, Richard Dreyfuss, Jo Van Fleet, Tom Bosley, Danny Thomas, Tyne Daly, Martin Sheen, Louis Gossett, Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson, Billy Dee Williams, Cleavon Little, Barbara McNair and Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., in three episodes.
NOTE: The highest average rating for the series is in bold text.
|1968–1969||#28||20.5 (Tied with The Lawrence Welk Show)|
|1972–1973||Not in the Top 30|
In the U.S., MeTV reran the series from May 26, 2014 to August 29, 2014. MeTV now airs the Mod Squad Sunday afternoons (began January 4, 2015).
A television pilot was shot in 1968, with a running time of 74 minutes, but it was never aired in its entirety. The film was edited and aired as the show's first episode.
A TV reunion movie, The Return of Mod Squad, aired on ABC May 18, 1979, featuring the entire original cast.
On August 20, 2013, it was announced that Visual Entertainment had acquired the rights to the series (under license from Paramount) and would release season 3 on DVD on September 24, 2013. Season 4 would be released on October 1, 2013. In Canada, Season 3 was released on DVD a week earlier, on September 17, 2013, and Season 4 was released on October 8, 2013. Season 5 was released in Canada on November 19, 2013 and in the US on December 17, 2013. A complete series set was released in Canada and the US on November 12, 2013.
|DVD name||Ep #||Release date|
|Season 1, Volume 1||13||December 18, 2007 (US & Canada)|
|Season 1, Volume 2||13||March 11, 2008 (US & Canada)|
|Season 2, Volume 1||13||November 25, 2008 (US & Canada)|
|Season 2, Volume 2||13||May 26, 2009 (US & Canada)|
|Season 3, Volume 1||12||September 24, 2013 (US) September 17, 2013 (Canada)|
|Season 3, Volume 2||12||September 24, 2013 (US) September 17, 2013 (Canada)|
|Season 4, Volume 1||12||October 1, 2013 (US) October 8, 2013 (Canada)|
|Season 4, Volume 2||12||October 1, 2013 (US) October 8, 2013 (Canada)|
|Season 5, Volume 1||12||December 17, 2013 (US) November 19, 2013 (Canada)|
|Season 5, Volume 2||12||December 17, 2013 (US) November 19, 2013 (Canada)|
|Complete Series||124||November 12, 2013 (US & Canada)|
Referenced in other popular culture
The Mod Squad is referenced by The Thing in "Chapter Three: Through The Negative Zone!" of Deadpool, Vol. 4 Issue #20: "’Hey, who wants a clobbering? I'm watching The Mod Squad.’ **Ed's Note: The Mod Squad was a popular TV show. TV was what people called YouTube in 1968."
The Mod Squad was parodied during its debut season as "The Odd Squad" by Mort Drucker in MAD Magazine #127 (June 1969), and at the height of its third season by Marie Severin as "The Clod Squad" in Marvel Comics' SPOOF #1 (October 1970).
In 1990 on the TV series Twin Peaks, in which Lipton was a regular, Williams appeared in two episodes.