Jack Webb: Joe Friday didn't ''require great dramatic ability''

Acting the part was the easiest job on set.

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There are few who have ever held as many jobs in Hollywood as Jack Webb. The writer/producer/actor/director was at the helm of several hit television series throughout the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. Sometimes, the shows even ran concurrently! To say that Webb was stretched thin would be an understatement. Shows like Dragnet, Adam-12 and Emergency! demanded a full schedule for everyone involved, including the man in charge of it all. 

Webb was in a class of his own. No other name in Hollywood at the time had such a Swiss Army Knife of a résumé. Sure, there were other multi-hyphenates in show business, but there wasn't really anybody else with the same kind of one-stop-shop approach to production. He was a one-man team, and even he recognized himself as in a league of his own. Webb gave his thoughts in a 1967 interview in the Greensboro, North Carolina News and Record.

"No, I guess there's only one other whoever did it well—and that was Orson Welles."

While the comparison is apt regarding just how many roles each man had in a given project, Webb quickly clarifies that he couldn't hold a candle to Welles in one particular field. "But you've got to remember," said Webb, "that this part I'm doing doesn't require any great dramatic ability."

Whether Joe Friday was flat out of necessity or because of ability, it seems at least that his real-life counterpart was aware of the shortcoming. So, too, was Webb aware that his true talent was choosing his co-stars. By surrounding himself with more talented actors, Webb was able to focus his efforts on other responsibilities in producing the show.

"When I sit in the projection room, I don't see myself up there," he said. "I see Friday, and I think of him as Friday. I don't really care for all of this 'I' and 'me' business. If I had wanted a starring vehicle, I would have called the show Sgt. Joe Friday."

No amount of false modesty or comparison to more accomplished Hollywood icons, though, could spare Dragnet from unfavorable publicity in the '60s. "Say, you know," said Webb, "We've got a free paper out here called the Free Press that really kicks us around. I knew we had achieved success when The Daily Worker said we were the worst program on television." He hoped to course correct by concentrating on story elements. "We've gotten away from the cut-and-dry, A-to-Z police story. We hope to have many more in-depth stories about the police."


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48 Comments

Mark 5 months ago
My favorite Joe Friday moment...when he took down the crazy kid with the hand grenade that was holding those other kids at bay.
SusanTammy 8 months ago
Dragnet is one of my favorite shows! I watch it every weekday.
Adamtwelvia SusanTammy 26 days ago
I DVR it. It comes on too early for me.
Runeshaper 8 months ago
"...a Swiss Army Knife of a résumé." I'm totally using that phrase in the future lol
LoveMETV22 Runeshaper 8 months ago
They do come up with some catchy or witty phrases in some Stories and Quizzes.
WordsmithWorks 8 months ago
Maybe the greatest homage to Webb and the character of Joe Friday was from another pop culture icon, Seinfeld. If there is anybody who hasn't, watch "the Library Cop" episode with Lt. Bookman.
To me it was the 'Mathnet' segments from Squsre One TV
Bapa1 8 months ago
Whenever Webb was lecturing somebody on Dragnet, we would say "You've been Friday(ed)!"
Adamtwelvia Bapa1 26 days ago
I like that!
CreepyCrawly 8 months ago
I love these shows. Loved watching them with my parents as a kid and the reruns as well. These shows even taught some moral values.
Lantern 8 months ago
It's fun to watch Jack Webb's character in "Sunset Boulevard" - completely different from Joe Friday.
Adamtwelvia Lantern 26 days ago
I gotta rewatch that movie!
Andybandit 8 months ago
Jack Webb produced good shows. Dragnet, Adam-12, and Emergency which is on Cozi TV.
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I only know five of them. I stopped watching after a few years.
The Happy Days clip of Moose played by Barry Greenberg dancingwoth the girl played by
Carey Williams is the last comment on Christopher Knight
Did not want to do The Brady Bunch Variety Hour from
June 23 2023

My Favorite Cast Members of
Happy Days are Bag and Chuck.
Moose l by Barry Greenberg is also
A great Cast member of Happy Days
Bag Zombroski was played by
Neil J Schwartz on HAPPY DAYS

Also do you remember
Wally Plumstead played by Skip Young on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet ??
harlow1313 8 months ago
I dig, and have always dug Joe Friday, in those fantastic sixties episodes. For me, he straddles a line between comedy and drama. Joe has a rigid view of how the world should work, which sadly, could never reality.

As I have said before, I love those knowing looks that Friday and Gannon exchange, right before a Friday speech or zinger. Cue stinger music. ZING!

When I'm up early, I usually watch the morning showing.
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Adamtwelvia daDoctah 26 days ago
I liked that too.
I liked the parole ep where Bill points out the similaritoes between a police officer that recently passed and Joe himself.
LoveMETV22 Adamtwelvia 26 days ago
There was user, think about a year or so ago that visited the website. He/She had a username of MartinMilnerfan or something similar.
Adamtwelvia LoveMETV22 26 days ago
It wasn't me, though I am a fan of his. I just joined here a few months ago.
Adamtwelvia KJExpress 11 days ago
As unbelieveable as almost all the doctors on 'Grey's Anatomy' having spontanious unprotected sex with each other! Do they not remember where STDs come from?!
Dario 8 months ago
It's amazing how humble Jack Webb was during the time he was in both radio and television producing Dragnet. 🙂
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