Thursday, July 5, 2007

Where's The Dvd? (The Mod Squad Television Series)


Chief among my most wanted dvd releases is the fantastic MOD SQUAD tv series that originally ran on ABC from 1968-1973. This Emmy and Golden Globe award winning series was a hugely popular show in its original run and its unavailability has frustrated fans for years.
The show follows the adventures of Pete, Linc and Julie, three former small time criminals who have been taken under the wing of wise Police Captain Adam Greer. Their 'Mod Squad' is an unofficial undercover squad and each week we would find them fighting crime, looking at various social causes, dressing sharp and just being incredibly cool. THE MOD SQUAD was an instant hit when it premiered in 1968, especially with younger people, although ABC would, from the very beginning, attempt to market the show in a way that would draw in not only the expected younger audience but also more conservative older viewers.


This influential Aaron Spelling and Danny Thomas produced show featured one of the brightest and most talented casts of the sixties including Tige Andrews as the Captain, Michael Cole as Pete, Clarence Williams 111 as Linc and the lovely Peggy Lipton as Julie. The show also had many out of sight guest stars throughout its run ranging from Richard Pryor to Margot Kidder and Andy Griffith to an unforgettable Sammy Davis Jr.
I must admit that I am a total sucker for any youth oriented shows and films from the late sixties and early seventies. THE MOD SQUAD in particular stands out to me as the coolest example of a show that managed to combine high octane thrills as well as raising the social awareness of many young people who tuned in each week.
My favorite thing about the show, along with the clothes and guest stars, is the friendship between Pete, Julie and Linc. I think THE MOD SQUAD is often overlooked culturally as being one of the first shows to have a totally integrated cast that not only tolerated each other but most importantly actually loved one another.

THE MOD SQUAD was hugely popular in its initial run and spawned everything from lunch boxes to comic books and novelizations to trading cards. My MOD SQUAD view master reels are chief among my favorite television collectible and any pin up photo of Peggy Lipton from the time still makes me feel light headed.
I liked how the series ended up giving equal time to all four leads with each getting their own character based programs occasionally. Highlights of these included the great Vincent Price episode A TIME OF HYACINTHS which showcased Julie and TO LINC WITH LOVE which obviously gave Linc his chance to shine. Still even though these episodes stood out, it was really the episodes that focused on our squad as a group that really played the best.
Probably my favorite episode is the early show KEEP THE FAITH, BABY guest starring my man Sammy Davis Jr as hip a young priest whose radical ideas are getting him in trouble with the older order and the mob. Everything I love about the series is encapsulated in this groovy episode from the classic dialogue (SOLID!!!), cool music and out of this world fashions. THE MOD SQUAD always had a lot of heart too and beneath this episode's cool exterior rests one of the best performances the great Davis ever gave.
THE MOD SQUAD appeared in syndication throughout the seventies and eighties but by the nineties it became harder and harder to see. A series of videos were released in the early nineties, as well as a box set and two laserdiscs but for the most part the show has essentially been out of circulation for almost two decades.
The show had a disappointing spin off tv movie in the late seventies and an even more disappointing big screen adaptation in the late nineties. I have to admit that the film version is a slight guilty pleasure of mine as I like the cast very much and at the very least it had a great soundtrack. The original show though has never been touched for coolness in my eyes though and it remains one of the most important tv series that came out of the sixties.


Of course for many people THE MOD SQUAD will look very dated but the so called trappings of the period are some of what I love best about it. It is very much a show of its time but that doesn't make many of the issues it looked at, from race relations to the role of women in society, any less relevant today. If anything I think our society is getting, worriedly, further and further away from the values of togetherness and love that were always at the heart of THE MOD SQUAD.
A couple of months back Tv Shows On DVD announced a rumor that Season One of THE MOD SQUAD would be out on DVD by the end of the year but unfortunately it is still just a rumor. There is a splendid fan site keeping the dream alive at:
www.chezgrae.com/modsquad/
and grey market copies of the series pop up on Ebay all the time.
A series box set would be ideal for this show and the cast has never shied away from discussing it so some substantial extras are a major possibility. Unfortunately, the talented Tige Andrews sadly passed away this past January and a release of the show would be a nice tribute to his memory.
With a landslide of classic tv series coming out on DVD this year, isn't it time for the return of possibly the coolest trio in television history? THE MOD SQUAD had a major impact on the people who grew up with it and a DVD release is way over due.

6 comments:

Rogue Spy 007 said...

What a great tribute this was to one of my fav shows I remember watching in reruns as a kid. This is what a cool and hip show should be like. Sometimes shows that have a diverse cast seem more like a gimmick. The diversity is just there for PC reasons. It never seemed like that with "The Mod Squad." You really felt like this group would fight together well as a unit and also would care about each other. They worked so well together. I had a crush on Peggy Lipton as a kid when I saw this show. I loved seeing her again on "Twin Peaks" years later. Clarence Williams III was one of the first black actors I really remember seeing as a kid, and I thought he was so cool. I'm not a big fan of the big screen movie. While I have liked all three actors in other roles, I just couldn't get into the movie. It is a disgrace that this show isn't on DVD. We've got so much crap on DVD, so why is one of the best shows of the 60's/70's not out yet I'll never know. This show does capture a pretty interesting time in our history. Maybe it does seem dated, but you can't tell me that 25 years from now people won't think "Friends" or some other show is dated as well. I'm not sure what my favorite episodes are. I do like the ones though that feature all of them together. The show did have a lot of great guest appearrances by some of my favorites, such as Vincent Price and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks for the nice comments Keith...good hearing your thoughts on this great show. I really do hope that it hits dvd soon...it is crazy that it isn't already available....thanks again for the nice comments.

possum said...

I'm with you 100%! The Mod Squad had a huge impact on me as a teen. While it was an important show, issue-wise, and was filled with the most exciting adventures, the most affecting aspect was that you had three very wounded strangers who came together and essentially created their own family... that was so amazing to me! I loved that show so much.

To the powers that be: please put The Mod Squad on dvd!!

Jeremy Richey said...

I agree completely possum...thanks for the thoughtful words and for stopping by...much appreciated.

Malia'sMama said...

OMG!!! I love the Mod Squad!! :)

The Rush Blog said...

I just purchased the Season 1/Vol. 1 box set and watched the series' pilot. It was pretty damn good and I was really impressed by the chemistry between Michael Cole, Clarence Williams III and Peggy Lipton. I also enjoyed Tige Andrews' performance, as well. And the episode was pretty good.