Monday, September 06, 2010

Killed in the Ratings: “Joe Forrester”

(The third entry in a month-long series about American TV crime dramas that debuted with fanfare, but are now largely forgotten.)

Title: Joe Forrester

Starring: Lloyd Bridges

Original Run: 1975-1976 (22 episodes), NBC-TV

Premise: This is one of three spin-offs from the highly acclaimed NBC crime-drama anthology series, Police Story (Police Woman and the far less memorable David Cassidy: Man Undercover being the other two). In a special 90-minute episode of Police Story, titled “The Return of Joe Forrester” and shown in May 1975, former Sea Hunt hunk Bridges was introduced as plainclothes policeman Forrester, a man chary of advancement to a desk job, who returned to uniform duty on his old Los Angeles beat after a gang of robber-rapists began terrorizing that area. The series kept Forrester in snappy uniform blues, walking--and frequently running--the mean streets he’d known so well for so long as he struggled to maintain peace in abundant cheap hotels, groggeries, and pawnshops, and pursue arsonists, runaways, bank robbers, and drug pushers. Committed to helping the people along his beat, he sometimes overlooked minor infractions of the law, and it wasn’t uncommon to find him attracting trouble to himself as he sought to bail others out of danger. Fortunately, Forrester could call on his police buddy, watch commander Sergeant Bernie Vincent (Eddie Egan), and his girlfriend, cocktail-lounge hostess Georgia Cameron (Pat Crowley), when he needed assistance.

Developed for television by E. Jack Neuman

Additional Notes: It seems that opinions of Joe Forrester have improved somewhat over time. At the start of that program’s run, in September 1975, New York Times TV critic John J. O’Connor remarked that the show “is competently put together. It is not particularly memorable, but it is also not blatantly insulting. Joe Forrester prompts only one question: Does TV, at this stage, need another cop show?” After just one year, NBC decided the answer was “no,” and relieved Bridges of his badge and night stick, leading the disgruntled star to state that he’d never again return to series TV. (A promise he didn’t keep.) Since then, though, Joe Forrester has often been compared favorably with programs such as Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, and classed as a slightly different kind of police drama, boasting greater personality and heart than was common of such small-screen series at the time. It has also been applauded for its uncommon authenticity. In a Web forum called The Firing Line (“The leading online forum for firearms enthusiasts”), one poster wrote, “I liked Joe Forrester for the reality of equipment. I still remember his LAPD clamshell holster. In one episode Joe was in foot pursuit and his revolver fell out. Reality.” Given that its series source, the more popular and longer-running Police Story, isn’t yet available in DVD format, it’s anybody’s guess how much more time will have to pass before Joe Forrester itself reaches the market.

Above: Joe Forrester’s write-up in the September 6-12, 1975, Fall Preview edition of TV Guide. (Click to enlarge the image.) Below: The program’s opening title sequence. Sorry for the Portuguese dubbing, but this is the only version I could find on YouTube.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have about 8 episodes of JOE FORRESTER -- would like to trade with others for more.