5 funny actors who got serious on Adam-12

They’re known for making people smile, but their roles on the classic police procedural are no laughing matter.

NBC/Universal

The goal of Adam-12 was to show patrol officers in as realistic a way as possible. That meant a number of dramatic shootouts and chases but also plenty of funny moments. Actors like Pat Buttram from Green Acres and Hal Smith from The Andy Griffith Show played bumbling oafs. The Dick Van Dyke Show’s Rose Marie thought she had a rattle snake in her luggage when it was really just an electric toothbrush.

But sometimes actors who we know for their ability to make us laugh played it totally straight on the classic cop show. Here are five funny performers who were anything but in Adam-12.

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1. Cloris Leachman

 NBC/Universal

Though she was equally at home in dramas and comedies, screen legend Cloris Leachman will always be remembered for her hilarious portrayal of Phyllis in The Mary Tyler Moore Show followed by her own spinoff. She also played the frighteningly funny Frau Blücher in the classic Mel Brooks film Young Frankestein. A few years before these famous roles, Leachman guest starred on Adam-12 in a part that was about as serious as it gets – a pill-addicted mother who endangers her children.

2. Jackie Coogan

 NBC/Universal

Beloved by millions as kooky Uncle Fester in The Addams Family, Jackie Coogan wore a mustache and a much more serious demeanor as a football trainer in Adam-12. Coogan’s character was attacked by a burglar raiding the team’s medicine cabinet. Though Coogan plays it straight, it’s impossible not to hear a little bit of Uncle Fester in the way Coogan indignantly rebuts Reed and Malloy’s questioning.

3. Larry Linville

 NBC/Universal

Because Larry Linville’s most famous character, Major Frank Burns in M*A*S*H, took himself so seriously, it’s not hard to imagine the actor in non-comedic roles. But make no mistake, playing the straight man takes the same comedic talent and timing as the one cracking jokes. In Adam-12, Linville plays it straight without any comedic affect as a detective who looks down on beat cops like Reed and Malloy.

4. Art Metrano

 NBC/Universal

Though he was a TV character actor for decades, Art Metrano is perhaps best known for his hilarious role in the second and third Police Academy movies. He played Mauser, a lieutenant and eventually commandant who fell victim to various pranks pulled by the officers he oversaw. In Adam-12, Metrano played a serious role on the other side of the law as a thug in sunglasses who hates cops because an officer shot his brother.

5. Donna Douglas

 NBC/Universal

Donna Douglas delighted millions for nine seasons as the sweet and funny Elly May Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies. Elly had an undeniable southern twang and brought all kinds of furry friends into the Clampett’s mansion. Two years after Hillbillies ended, Douglas appeared in Adam-12 as a woman whose only similarity to Elly May was her large house. Douglas had no hint of an accent and the silliness audiences had been accustomed to was gone as she told Reed and Malloy about a prowler in the neighborhood.

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45 Comments

BorisK 5 days ago
Jackie Coogan was actually an amazing dramatic actor.
jtkrifkan2002 5 days ago
Donna Douglas sounded so different that the first few times I saw it, I thought they had redubbed her lines. I saw her doing a commercial on a Nasville, TN station for "Outlets Limited Mall" back around 1984 when I was at Ft. Campbell and her voice was full "Elly Mae" although she wasn't supposed to be in character.
BorisK jtkrifkan2002 5 days ago
I love Donna Douglas but if I was married to her and she talked like Elly Mae all the time I'd go insane.
Blondie7 6 days ago
Hint of Elly when she talks a out living in a rich neighborhood. Felt like she was struggling to not sound southern. Note the man in her yard was frequently a judge on Perry Mason. He popped up on Adam-12 a few times. Watch this every night so realistic.
tootsieg 8 days ago
Watching the Adam-12 episode with a high society matron complaining about a prowler, I had no idea it was Donna Douglas. Without the accent and jeans with a piece of rope for a belt, she was not recognizable to me at all.
Donna Douglas on 77 Sunset Strip - "The Celluloid Cowboy" - was radiant, she never ever
looked as good again.
I didn't recognize her at first glance because her beauty overpowered the scene.
77 Sunset Strip runs on MeTV+ late Sundays.
Thanks for the heads up. I am a fan of 77 Sunset Strip and will look into MeTV+.
tootsieg 5 days ago
This comment has been removed.
Poolboy13 9 days ago
Cloris Leachman was in Kiss me deadly,The last picture show,etc- so she had some acting ability.
ElizabethBoop 9 days ago
At that time, I didn't think of Cloris Leachman as a comic actress, having seen her in everything from the Twilight Zone episode with Anthony wishing people into the cornfield, and as the original cougar from the "The Last Picture Show". There was a touch of incidental humor in her desperately randy characters on shows like 77 Sunset Strip or Mannix, but not enough to turn it into outright comedy.
AgingDisgracefully 9 days ago
Whenever I see a too familiar face on Adam-12, I assume it's a case of Supply diverging from Demand.
(Remember, The Love Boat had yet to sail.)
Bob 9 days ago
"Though Coogan plays it straight, it’s impossible not to hear a little bit of Uncle Fester in the way Coogan indignantly rebuts Reed and Malloy’s questioning."

He should have taken the lightbulb out of his mouth.
BorisK Bob 5 days ago
Are we sure it was a lightbulb?
RedSamRackham 21 months ago
* Larry Linville also appeared as cadet Sloane on Night Gallery "The Academy" episode. Jackie Coogan a great character actor who did much more than Uncle Fester! ☺
CuriousGeo 30 months ago
Although not a star, Shaaron Claridge, the RTO’s voice on Adam-12, passed away earlier this year at 82.
BorisK CuriousGeo 5 days ago
Great trivia! Thanks for sharing that.
RichLorn 30 months ago
For those of you who were all primed to take a quiz, don't despair. I'm here to save the day.

1. How many actors are highlighted in this article?
[ ] 0
[ ] 5
[ ] 462

2. What is the 3rd actor's name?
[ ] Larry Linville
[ ] Mortimer Snerd
[ ] There is no 3rd actor.

3. What do the 2 female actors have in common?
[ ] They are wearing the same dress.
[ ] They are twins.
[ ] They are not twins.

4. What TV show did they all appear on?
[ ] Adam 12
[ ] The Muppets Take Memphis.
[ ] Adam 6

5. What am I wearing?
[ ] Santa's elf costume
[ ] Pajamas
[ ] !!*^&&%($

Good luck all you trivia hounds.

MarkSpeck 30 months ago
What about Dick Sargent as one of two neighbors feuding over a boat, a feud that ultimately took a very deadly turn? Or Morey Amsterdam as a character named 'Jerry Mermaid', who'd heard all the jokes about his name?
HP11 MarkSpeck 7 days ago
And Dick Sargent's neighbor, the man he killed in that episode, was James Callahan, the dad on Charles in Charge (from the 2nd season on...)
Jon HP11 6 days ago
James Callahan also played Hawkeye's friend who died in combat on MASH during S1. Hawkeye cried when he died.
kkvegas MarkSpeck 5 days ago
I was surprised when they didn't include Morey Amsterdam. I remember that episode well.
top_cat_james_1 30 months ago
Forgot Monkee Micky Dolenz (playing a biker thug of all things) in a 1972 episode, "Dirt Duel"
BorisK top_cat_james_1 5 days ago
That one I gotta see! Guess Mick was on the ropes taking that role ....
Airs 7/1/24 on MeTV!
William386 30 months ago
I think that I done a very good job on here thanks William Brian mccloud
CoreyC 30 months ago
Donna Douglas was on the classic Twilight Zone episode Eye Of The Beholder.
wanderer2575 CoreyC 30 months ago
Only at the end and she had only one or two lines, but here is a testament to her acting ability: The plan was for Maxine Stuart (who portrayed the character whose face was bandaged and unseen for most of the episode) to dub those lines. But Donna Douglas stayed on set and observed during the filming, and when she did her speaking scene she so accurately imitated Maxine Stuart's voice that her lines were not overdubbed.
Andybandit 30 months ago
I like seeing all the different people on Adam-12, a lot of people got their start on this show. Kent McCord is a good looking guy.
Pacificsun Andybandit 30 months ago
I like it because they played it straight. The situations and the drama of them, spoke for itself. So many didn't have solutions. That was pretty brave of that series to write storylines that way!
Blondie7 Andybandit 6 days ago
Just saw the one with Ozzie Nelson directing and acting. KM got his start on Ozzie and Harriet and was a great friend of Rick's. Kristen later played his wife on show. Liked MM had his daughter in the show also KM his daughter or sister anyone know which?
OlgaBagley 30 months ago
Art Metrano he played on. Barney Miller before movies
TheDavBow3 30 months ago
Kinda used to seeing Larry in a serious role as a Mannix fan.
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Pacificsun LoveMETV22 30 months ago
Oh I think they would! Especially the 6pm timeslot on Saturday night as Sci-Fi Saturday gets underway. It was a goldmine timeslot for Wild, Wild West!
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 30 months ago
I lost my place here. So what I wanted to add is, if they reran the wonderful stories about the Shows to viewers who are discovering the schedule, they'd go and look for these shows. And the revenue would become just as valuable. DVRs are a wonderful invention.
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 30 months ago
Schedule is a keyword or their scheduling strategy. Given they choose block style programming doesn't mean the blocks can't be rearranged. Just a thought.
Outstanding point about discovering old classics because the networks late night shows suck.

The 1st episode of Mannix ran last night, I had forgotten how great it is, writing/direction/acting
/location scenery just top notch, CBS went all out for this episode.
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