Dragnet (2003): A Case Study in the Evolution of American Television’s Police Procedural

Posted in Earlier to 2006 Journal


During the 2003 season, American television viewers had the rare opportunity to witness a merger of works by two influential creators of police procedurals. That year, Law and Order creator Dick Wolf resurrected the classic Dragnet, originally created by Jack Webb. Both men have had a great deal of influence in the television industry through their technological, aesthetic and ideological innovations. Their programs have impacted not only television industry, but American culture. Familiar codes, such as musical cues, character names, and plot features have transitioned into popular culture references, demonstrating their impact.
This paper, Dragnet (2003): A Case Study in the Evolution of American Television’s Police Procedural, analyzes the groundbreaking efforts of both men and their programs and examines their individual and joined impact on the final product of Dragnet (2003). The work also analyzes the evolution of the genre over the past 50 years, emphasizing the impact both Webb and Wolf have had on the police procedural. While both creators sought to retain elements of reality within their aesthetics — both believed it was important to the stories and messages they were conveying — changes have occurred. The largest shift occurred ideologically; this included the aesthetic transition from the traditional, black and white content of the original Dragnet to the various shades of gray introduced by Law and Order. Dragnet (2003) provides an interesting blend of styles and techniques of these powerful creators, while at the same time reflecting changes within television’s culture.
Full Article (PDF):application/pdf iconMegan-Gala-Dragnet-2003.pdf