Adam-12

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Police Procedural, featuring Martin Milner as Officer Peter J. Malloy and Kent McCord as Officer James A. Reed, two Los Angeles cops partnered in a patrol car with the call sign "Adam-12". Produced by Jack Webb of Dragnet fame (and arguably a Spiritual Successor to that show), Adam-12 was scrupulously accurate about police procedures of the period, to the point that several episodes were used in police academies as instructional films. The sense of realism was aided by casting actual L.A. police dispatcher Shaaron Claridge as the never-seen voice whose frequent calls of "One Adam Twelve! One Adam Twelve!" were virtually emblematic of the show.

The series ran 174 episodes on NBC between 1968 and 1975. There was a failed Revival in 1990-91.

The first four seasons can currently be enjoyed on Hulu, assuming one is in the United States. As of October of 2011, the show (along with the 60s/70s Dragnet) can be found Saturday nights on Digital Cable system Antenna T.V.


Tropes used in Adam-12 include:
  • Affectionate Parody: "Boredom-12", in Mad Magazine.
  • The Alleged Car: Malloy and Reed are assigned "The Beast," a patrol car only a few hundred miles away from its mandatory retirement, in the episode of the same title. It's so awful, Malloy even "lets" Reed drive for one of only a handful of times during the course of the series.
  • Always on Duty: Webb did his best to avert this. It is made clear that our main characters are one team out of many working one shift out of many and that just as much happens off-camera as on.
  • Author Avatar: Malloy seems to be one for Jack Webb in the pilot, especially when he slips into Joe Friday's talking style during the Info Dump listed below (Webb directed the pilot).
  • Bad Cop, Incompetent Cop: Several episodes dealt with officers who were ill-suited for the job or made major mistakes that put others (if not innocent bystanders, Reed and Malloy) in jeopardy. Other episodes – for example, "Pressure Point" – have rookie officers with various handicaps, and even though they are by all accounts good officers, it is their shortcomings (not necessarily through any fault of their own) that lead to trouble.
  • Big Brother Mentor: At least one episode paid homage to Big Brothers Big Sisters, with both Malloy and Reed serving as mentors. The other usage is Malloy (the senior officer) serving as training officer for Reed in the early episodes.
  • Bottle Episode: The season two episode "Light Duty" takes place entirely within the police department, as Reed and Malloy man the front desk for a night while a riot brews elsewhere in the city.
  • Brand X: In the pilot there is one quick insert shot of the radio (one that doesn't quite match the radio usually shown in the car) that has tape over the Motorola name but leaves the M logo intact.
  • Buddy Cop Show
  • By-The-Book Cop: Most of the officers are reasonable. Malloy is completely willing to bend the nitpicky rules, particularly in an episode like "Suspended" where Reed's job is at stake. The obnoxiously by-the-book officers are figures of humor, often Obstructive Bureaucrats in uniform...including the cop that replaces Reed in "Suspended".
  • Camp Gay: The occasional run-ins with "out there" types. While Reed's reactions can sometimes stray toward Licensed Homophobe, Malloy and the show as a whole are non-judgmental.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Reed. He spends a good portion of the finale of season one trying to tell Malloy a joke about ... a dog... and paint... or something, suffering constant interruptions from calls (not his fault) and his own disjointed retelling (totally his fault), and then he's crushed when Malloy doesn't laugh.
  • Cool Car: Webb set out to make the patrol car the third star of the show, featuring it and its functions as much as possible.
  • Media Research Failure: The car's name is sort of Adam-12; that's the unit's call sign. It's not exactly a "KITT from Knight Rider" deal. And neither of the two fellows pictured at the top of the page are named Adam.
  • Cowboy Cop: A big no in Jack Webb land (not that sort of Big No). In the episode "A Dead Cop Can't Help Anyone", recurring officer Ed Wells is characterized as a cop of the cowboy variety. He learns his lesson... Via shotgun. He lives and is reeled in a bit, but he's still an almighty Jerkass.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: In the first episode, Malloy preforms CPR on a suffocated infant, who is fine and dandy seconds later.
  • Crossover: with several other Jack Webb productions: Emergency!, Dragnet, and the short-lived Robert Conrad vehicle, The D.A..
  • Deadpan Snarker: Malloy.
  • Dead Sidekick:
    • Malloy's previous partner, who was about Reed's age. His death was Malloy's greatest failure, over which he almost quits the force. Malloy is a bit of a Failure Knight in the first episode, but as Reed gains more experience he mellows.
    • Early in the third season, there was an episode titled "Elegy for a Pig", where another of Malloy's closest friends both on and off the force was shot to death while trying to capture an armed robber. Officer Tom Porter is NOT the same policeman that was gunned down shortly before Reed joins the force, but another officer that went through the police academy at the same time that Malloy did. The episode itself showed Porter as he and Malloy became fast friends in the academy, and Porter's role as not just a police officer but a family man and friend (Reed also grows close to Porter), and Porter's finest moment as an officer -- helping to catch an escaped mental patient who had escaped gotten away and was about to go on a deadly rampage. The episode ends with Porter's funeral and showing his grieving wife and children.
  • Death Glare: An integral part of Malloy's repertoire.
  • Dirty Cop: As with Bad Cop, Incompetent Cop, a few officers thought that their badge allowed them to operate outside the law; it was always Reed and/or Malloy who made them see otherwise. The most notable example was "Internal Affairs – Blackmail", where one of Malloy's best friends had secretly been blackmailing witnesses.
  • Expy: Picture Joe Friday in his uniform days. That's Malloy. Also, the team dynamic of happily-married X/confirmed-bachelor-playboy X is a typical feature of many other Jack Webb shows, including Emergency and Dragnet.
  • Female Gaze: Reasonably attractive actors in tight cop uniforms. It's a Cop Show, fair enough. But then there are Anvilicious seat-belt buckling scenes (because all good, socially responsible people buckle their seat-belts) and the camera likes to focus directly on Reed or Malloy's crotch while they perform the maneuver. Remember kids, buckle your seat-belts, and let it not be said, ladies, that Jack Webb never pandered to your interests.
  • Happily Married: Jim and Jean Reed.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: For the first three seasons, episode titles followed a "Log #: Descriptive Phrase" convention.
  • Info Dump: Pretty common in all Jack Webb shows. Here's Malloy in the first episode, running down the specs of Adam-12:

Malloy: You know what this is?
Reed: (smiling) Yes sir, it's a police car.
Malloy: This black and white patrol car has an overhead valve V8 engine. It develops 325 horsepower at 4800 RPM's. It accelerates from 0 to 60 in seven seconds; it has a top speed of 120 miles an hour. It's equipped with a multi-channeled DFE radio and an electronic siren capable of admitting three variables: wail, yelp, and alert. It also serves as an outside radio speaker and public address system. The automobile has two shotgun racks - one attached to the bottom portion of the front seat, one in the vehicle trunk. Attached to the middle of the dash, illuminated by a single bulb, is a hot sheet desk, fastened to which you will always make sure is the latest one off the teletype before you ever roll.
Reed: Yes, sir.
Malloy: It's your life insurance...and mine. You take care of it, and it'll take care of you.
Reed: Yes, sir. You want me to drive?
Malloy: (Death Glare)

  • Instrumental Theme Tune
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold / Jerkass Facade: Malloy early on, particularly in episode one. Once he defrosts he's more just The Stoic.
    • And then there's Ed Wells, who is a jerk along the lines of a schoolyard bully, but isn't all bad deep down.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: A few examples:
    • To a point, Officer Wells; although a very good officer, along with his jerky behavior he often acts before he thinks, along the lines that his way is the way to handle a given situation ... only for the situation to be incorrectly handled.
    • In the episode "Training Division", Wells was actually saddled with a "know-nothing know-it-all" rookie officer. Naturally, the rookie officer didn't last long on the force (several other episodes dealt with "know-nothing know-it-all" rookies and the consequences of their mistakes).
  • Lampshade Hanging: In the pilot episode, Reed gives Malloy a reason to take the wheel. After that, Malloy always drives (continuity edits being easier that way).
    • And in "Vice Versa" Malloy is physically unsettled that Reed is driving. It's some sort of meta-lampshading. Or maybe it's just funny.
  • Large Ham: Studiously averted by the regular cast, but fairly common among guest stars, often in "eccentric citizen" or "funny drunk" roles. Known Large Hams appearing in more than one episode include Foster Brooks, Norm Crosby, and Rose Marie.
  • Naive Newcomer: Reed (in the first two seasons). A few one-off characters throughout the series.
  • Only Sane Man: Frequently both Reed and Malloy, when they're interacting with the odder elements of society. Malloy often feels this way among even his fellow officers.
    • "The world is full of squirrels."
  • Police Brutality:
    • In 1972's "Badge Heavy", we meet a rogue cop who thinks that criminals should be dealt with severely. Reed witnesses once such incident and tries to flush him from the department, but his complaint is determined to be unfounded (after the cop and the suspect lie about the incident, the officer claiming it was retaliation from another officer who was tired of his (unfunny) practical jokes). In the end, the officer's rant about asserting authority over suspects with brutal force leads to his downfall.
    • While Malloy and Reed were both professional about their duties and kept their cool, Malloy blows it once in the 1974 episode "X-Force", where he is accused of roughing up a child molester he just arrested (after the creep had made a snide remark); Malloy is suspended for four days without pay for his mistake.
    • Another episode – "Good Cop, Handle With Care" – has two freelance journalists trying to make Malloy and Reed out to be bad cops out to beat up people and arrest others at random. They seem to have found their catch after taking a seemingly incriminating photo of a drugged-out suspect with a broken nose (obtained by hitting his head against the seat frame of the police car, after he had gone into a seizure), but in the end the two rogue journalists end up (indirectly) causing a tragedy.
  • Police Procedural
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: Season 6, Episode 24's "A Clinic on 18th Street" is the pilot for a show featuring Fraud Division. The cast of the pilot (including future Switch/Cagney and Lacey star Sharon Gless who gets the Welcome Episode treatment), are all listed in the opening credits as "Special Guest Stars". Reed and Malloy only appear in the very beginning and very ending of this story of a Doctor peddling electronic health belts to diabetics and fake blindness cures to little girls. Jack Webb directed, but not in his trademark Dragnet style.
  • Precious Puppies:
    • In one episode Reed tries to give away his dog Queenie's "All American" puppies.
    • In another episode, Reed and Malloy return to the squad car after having lunch only to find Reed had forgotten to roll up his window....allowing a German Shepherd named Luger to jump into Reed's seat.

Reed: Well....he is a police dog....

  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The raison d'être of several of Jack Webb's productions is to portray the police and other avatars of the Establishment in this light.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: At least in the pilot, but subverted by the nature of Jack Webb procedurals. As the more learned and world-weary Malloy (Blue) starts to mold the impulsive, eager Reed (Red), they converge into a sort of Purple Oni. Adherence to reality - job codes, paperwork, procedure - is required at all times by the script and show philosophy, meaning the two never get to burn very brightly in their respective colors.
  • Roman à Clef: Occasionally drifts into 'loose interpretation' territory.
  • The Seventies: What happened to your hair, Reed? Ah.
  • Shout-Out: All non regular, non-corrupt background officers are named after actual LAPD policemen Webb had gotten to know all the way back to Dragnet's Radio days.
  • Shown Their Work: As mentioned in the main description.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The innocuous variety. An attractive young blonde begins showing up at the precinct, sends suggestive photos, and even tries to follow Malloy home. It's okay because the stalker is a woman and Malloy is a man.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Wells. He never stops complaining about the female officer who rides patrol with Malloy in one episode, though it does get toned down a little after she proves herself during a concert riot and even has to save him.
  • Team Dad - Malloy, who in his stern way sometimes chides other officers in the division that they should "listen to daddy." He's also of a rank and seniority that is "almost as good as a sergeant."
  • Title Drop: Constantly. Probably sets some sort of record.
  • Totally Radical: "Helicopters? That's dirty pool, man."
  • The Voice: Real-life LAPD dispatcher Shaaron Claridge.
  • Welcome Episode: Malloy shows Reed the ropes.