''Police Story'' is an anthology television crime drama that aired on NBC from 1973 through 1978. The show was the brainchild of author and former policeman Joseph Wambaugh and was described by ''The Complete Directory of Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows'' as "one of the more realistic police series to be seen on television." It was produced by David Gerber and Mel Swope.
Although it was an anthology, there were certain things that all episodes had in common; for instance, the main character in each episode was, obviously, always a police officer. The setting was always Los Angeles and the characters always worked for some branch of the LAPD. Notwithstanding the anthology format, there were recurring characters. Scott Brady appeared in more than a dozen episodes as "Vinnie," a former cop who, upon retirement, had opened a bar catering to police officers, and who acted as a sort of Greek chorus during the run of the series, commenting on the characters and plots. Tony Lo Bianco and Don Meredith made several appearances as Robbery-Homicide Division partners Tony Calabrese and Bert Jameson. Other recurring characters included surveillance specialist Joe LaFrieda, played by Vic Morrow, and vice officer turned homicide detective Charlie Czonka, played by James Farentino. Chuck Connors also starred in various episodes, as different characters on both sides of the law.
The anthology format allowed the series to depict a wider variety of police activities and experiences than was usual in police dramas. In addition to detectives investigating major crimes, or patrol officers patrolling high crime beats, the show depicted newly-hired cadets trying to make it through the academy, woman officers trying to fit into a male-dominated profession, traffic officers investigating accidents, officers dealing with marital difficulties or alcohol dependence, fingerprint techs trying to develop suspects from a single print, high ranking administrators dealing with the stresses of command in a major metropolitan police force, officers adjusting to permanent physical disabilities caused by on-duty injuries, and officers trying to juggle two different jobs to make enough money to support their families.
The anthology format also allowed the show to try out characters and settings for series development, and, during its broadcast run, ''Police Story'' generated three spin-offs. A first-season episode, "The Gamble," starring Angie Dickinson, became the pilot for the successful ''Police Woman'', which ran from 1974-1978. "The Return of Joe Forrester," a second-season episode starring Lloyd Bridges, was developed into the weekly series ''Joe Forrester'', which lasted a full season. Finally, "A Chance to Live," a special episode from the fifth season starring David Cassidy, was spun off into the series ''Man Undercover''. That series didn't do as well, and lasted only ten episodes.
In later seasons, perhaps because of the expense of maintaining the anthology format on a weekly basis, ''Police Story'' became a series of irregularly scheduled TV movies.
''Police Story'' was a precursor to later shows such as NBC's ''Hill Street Blues'' (1981-1987), ''Law & Order'' (1990-2010), ABC's ''NYPD Blue'' and NBC's ''Homicide: Life on the Street'' (both latters started in 1993).
Numerous actors, musicians, sports figures, radio personalities and former real-life cops who were familiar to audiences in the 1960s and 1970s made appearances on the series, including Danny Bonaduce, Ed Asner, Eve McVeagh, Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., David Janssen, Claude Akins, Robert Stack, Brock Peters, Tige Andrews, Michael Anderson, Jr., Jim Brown, David Birney, Herb Edelman, Darren McGavin, Tony Lo Bianco, Glenn Corbett, Ahna Capri, Jackie Cooper, Mike Connors, Alex Cord, Sean Garrison, Stuart Whitman, Lenore Kasdorf, David Cassidy, James Cromwell, Robert Forster, Smokey Robinson, John Saxon, Kurt Russell, Kaz Garas, Cameron Mitchell, Martin Milner, Noah Beery, Jr., Vince Edwards, Robert Forster, William Shatner, Dean Stockwell, Jan-Michael Vincent, Larry Hagman, John Astin, George Maharis, Wayne Maunder, Howard Duff, Chad Everett, Casey Kasem, Steve Lawrence, Gabe Kaplan, Lou Gossett, Jr., James McEachin, Don 'Red' Berry, Robert Goulet, Sylvester Stallone, Joseph Campanella, Michael Cole (2 episodes), Clifton Davis, Joe Garagiola, Stephen McNally, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bert Convy, Pernell Roberts, Robert Alda, Don Meredith, Bernie Casey, Denise Nicholas, Cleavon Little, Pedro Armendariz, Jr., John Amos, Marjoe Gortner, Chuck Connors, Felton Perry, Fred Williamson, Cliff Gorman, Don Murray, Frank Converse, Christopher George, Tony Musante, Harold Gould, Cheryl Ladd, David Groh, Godfrey Cambridge, Steve Kanaly, Lana Wood, Dick Butkus, Eddie Egan.
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