The Mod Squad
Mod Squad: Episode 70 part 5 of 6
The Mod Squad was the enormously successful groundbreaking “hippie” undercover cop show that ran on ABC from September 24, 1968, until August 23, 1973. It starred Michael Cole as Pete Cochren, Peggy Lipton as Julie Barnes, Clarence Williams III as Linc Hayes, and Tige Andrews as Captain Adam Greer. The executive producers of the series were Aaron Spelling andDanny Thomas.
The iconic counter-culture police series earned six Emmy nominations, four Golden Globe nominations plus one win for Peggy Lipton, one Directors Guild of America award, and four Logies. In 1997 the episode “Mother of Sorrow” was ranked #95 on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.
They were The Mod Squad (“One black, one white, one blond”), the hippest and first young undercover cops on TV. Each of these characters represented mainstream culture’s principal fears regarding youth in the era: Long-haired rebel Pete Cochran was kicked out of his parents’ Beverly Hills home, then arrested and put on probation after he stole a car; African American Linc Hayes was from a family of 13 children and was arrested in the Watts riots, one of the longest and most violent actual riots in Los Angeles history; beautiful flower child Julie Barnes, the “canary with a broken wing,” was arrested for vagrancy after running away from her prostitute mother’s San Francisco home; and Captain Adam Greer was a tough but sympathetic mentor and father figure who convinced them to form the squad.
The concept was to take three rebellious, disaffected young social outcasts and convince them to work as unarmed undercover detectives as an alternative to being incarcerated themselves. Their youthful, hippie personas would enable them to get close to the criminals they investigated. “The times are changing,” said Captain Greer. “They can get into places we can’t.” Examples include infiltrating a high school to solve a teacher’s murder, an underground newspaper to find a bomber, and an acting class to look for a strangler that preys on blonde actresses.
More than a year before the release of the film Easy Rider, the Mod Squad was one of the earliest attempts to deal with the counterculture. Groundbreaking in the realm of socially relevant drama, it dealt with issues such as abortion, spousal abuse, college protest, child neglect, illiteracy, slum lords, the anti-war movement, soldiers returning from war, racial issues, and drug use. Spelling intended the show to be about the characters’ relationships and promised that the Squad “would never arrest kids… or carry a gun or use one.
The show was loosely based on creator Bud Ruskin’s experiences in the late 1950’s as a squad leader for young undercover narcotics cops, though it took almost 10 years after he wrote a script for the idea to be given the greenlight by ABC television studios.
The shows Star Trek (1965–68), I Spy (1965–68), The Bill Cosby Show (1969–71), Julia (1968–71), The Flip Wilson Show (1970–74), and The Mod Squad (1968–73) were among the first programs to feature African Americans as stars since the stereotyped roles of Amos ’n’ Andy and Beulah (ABC, 1950–53). The Mod Squad presented an African-American character (Linc) as being equal to the Caucasian characters (Barnes and Cochran). In one Mod Squad episode the script called for Linc to give Barnes a “friendly kiss.” Since the first African-American interracial kiss on a television show was in 1968 (on Star Trek, episode “Plato’s Stepchildren“), this was still fairly new territory. The studio was frightened of a negative reaction, so they asked Spelling to cut it:
“You can’t do that,” I was told, “You can’t have a black man kissing a white girl.” I won and ABC agreed to let it in, but they warned me I’d receive thousands of complaint letters. I didn’t get one.”
The show boasted many famous guest stars including Vincent Price, Ed Asner, Sammy Davis Jr., Andy Griffith, Richard Pryor, Lee Grant, Richard Dreyfuss, Tom Bosley, Danny Thomas, Tyne Daly, Martin Sheen, Louis Gosset, Jr., and Sugar Ray Robinson.
A pilot film was shot in 1968, running time 74 minutes, but it was never aired in its entirety. The film was edited and aired as the series first episode.
A TV reunion movie, The Return of Mod Squad, aired on ABC May 18, 1979, featuring the entire original cast.
On August 20, 2013, it was announced that Visual Entertainment had acquired the rights to the series (under license from Paramount) and will be releasing season 3 on DVD on September 24, 2013. Season 4 will be released on October 1, 2013. In Canada, season 3 will be released on DVD a week earlier, on September 17, 2013, and season 4 will be released a day earlier on September 30, 2013. Season 5 will be released in Canada on November 12, 2013, but the US release date has not yet been announced. A complete series set will be released also on November 12, 2013, in both the US and Canada.