Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jack Webb, The Beatles and Charles Manson

I just plowed through the entire second season of 'Dragnet' on DVD. What a weird, freaky show that was. When I was a kid, I watched it but didn't consider myself a 'fan'. But looking at them now, I am fascinated with the strange world Jack Webb created.

Part of its weirdness is born from the uninteresting fact that Webb made the show as cheaply and quickly as possible. But there are a lot of 'cheap' shows out there that are boring or unwatchable. Somehow Jack Webb, like the B-movie oddball Ed Wood, made something that was unique and wonderful in its brevity, low-budget and tone.

The sets are spartan, the plots incredibly simple and he uses the same stable of actors over and over. The color has that nice bright 1960's look (you never see shows lit like 'Dragnet', 'Star Trek' or any multitude of shows from that era). And the opening scenes of LA ('This is the city..') are funny because of the amount of smog in the air. It's like the opening of some post-apocalypse sci-fi flick.

There's one episode ('The Big Departure') where Friday and Gannon bust some teenagers who have stolen a bunch of camping gear and supplies that they plan on using to create their own 'society'. Kind of like a commune or a benign Manson Family. One of kids is even called 'Charlie' and sort of resembles a young Manson.

What's strange is that around the same time, The Beatles began working on the 'White Album' which would 'inspire' the Manson Family and their 'Helter Skelter' rampage.

I wonder if, along with hearing the 'White Album', Manson saw that 'Dragnet' episode? Afterall, with only three TV channels, a lot of people also saw 'Dragnet' every week. I know I was exposed to both The Beatles and Jack Webb. And so were all of my friends. Was Manson, or members of his 'family', inspired by the 'Dragnet' kids who wanted to depart the establishment and start their own world?

Either way, it's a great example of how the media of the 60's, while extremely limited compared to today, gave us such diverse offerings as 'Dragnet' and the 'White Album'. And as different as they are, at the same time they are alike in their 'weirdness'. 'Dragnet', a surreal two-dimensional look at law-and-order and the 'White Album', the Beatles' only LP you could call 'spooky'. A total departure from their 'mop-top' persona.

And in a subliminal way they both would, or could, inspire and speak to someone like Charles Manson and his followers, as well as a regular kid in the sixth grade. Like me.


Blogger Unknown said...

i saw it

8:40 AM  

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