The Mod Squad – images and impressions

“The Mod Squad” is a great old American TV show from the late ’60s and early ’70s. It started in 1969. It doesn’t have a lot to do with mods (although some of Julie’s outfits in the first season are very mod indeed), but it’s still an awesome show. I started watching the first season a while ago. So, today, I’m going to put up some general impressions on the show and characters, reviews of episodes on the disc I just finished (season 1 volume 1 disc 3) and lots of screencaps. So be warned, the rest of the post is image-heavy.

The Premise

3 teens get in trouble with the law for various reasons, but instead of throwing them in juvie, the cops offer

them the chance to work with the police…using their youth, hipness, and non-cop-like looks to stop various crimes around the Los Angeles area. So, who are they?

The Characters

Pete is a rich kid from Beverly Hills who was being oppressed by the man and his parents, so he left. Not exactly sure why he got in trouble with the law, though. I like to think he was arrested for leading massive protests. Well, anyway, he’s easily the worst-acted character of the group, and he tends to start speaking through his teeth when he gets angry. And he gets angry more often than the other two, because he’s the resident hothead. He’s my least favorite of the three.

Linc grew up in the inner city and was in a gang, which is why he got in trouble with the law. I guess you could call him the token black character. As far as token black characters go, I think Linc was a big step forward. Despite being a thug or whatever, he is the most intelligent of the group. He likes jazz. He is the “voice of reason.” He has a killer ‘fro too. Although someone I know told me that “the quiet black person who speaks the truth” has practically become another stereotype by now, I still think that Linc was a well-developed and unique character.

Julie is a blonde hippie girl from San Francisco. She ran away from home. I can’t remember the exact details of why she got in trouble with the law, though. She is relatively soft-spoken and often leaves the bulk of the “action” to the guys in the group. Her job is usually (1) seducing male character X to get information or (2) getting all buddy-buddy with female character Z to get information. This is why I didn’t like her very much at first. She’s no Emma Peel. It occurred to me a few episodes ago that this may not be due to sexism, but more likely the unavailability of female stuntpeople (but then again, Honor Blackman did her own stunts in the early Avengers episodes). Anyway, Julie’s all right for being the token girl character, I suppose, and she does have some pretty cool outfits.

Impressions of Episodes 8, 9, & 10.

Episode 8: “The Price of Terror”

This involves the gang trying to stop some kind of bombing plot to kill their boss, Captain Greer. The bombs are put in garage door handles, and are activated when someone touches them. Yes, obviously this episode was made in the days before automatic garage door openers. The episode itself was pretty mediocre, but it had some gorgeous scenes shot in front of the Los Angeles Art Museum, full of people with awesome outfits:

modsquad-museum

We also get to see some nice shots of Julie’s groovy apartment:

julie's pad!

And television programs don’t have to be artless! I really liked the framing in this shot, it’s very Hitchcock:

DUN DUN DUN!!!!

This episode disappointed me, though. In the beginning, it had jokes about how girls can’t bowl (which I don’t really mind), but then…..at the end of the episode……

Greer: How about Chinese food? I know a good place me and my wife used to go to.

Julie: (in corny Asian accent) Ah, soohhhh?

Yeah. And the other thing is….I’m pretty sure that’s a Japanese joke.

Episode 9: “A Quiet Weekend in the Country”

The gang has to investigate some goings-on at a trailer park. Linc poses as a handyman and Julie and Pete pose as newlyweds moving into a trailer. Some of the funniest things in the episode revolve around this situation. When the trailer park boss comes in one day, Julie and Pete start making out to cover up the fact that they were having a police-related conversation a second ago. (*’80s studio audience noises* OooooOOOoooo!) And they come off as quite the couple of hippie trailer folk:

So this episode was pretty interesting. And the actual crime (which I won’t reveal any details about) was pretty intense. There were some nice fight scenes too.

Sure, just let the black guy do all the work.

And finally, last but not least…..

Episode 10: “Love”

This episode was also good, with quite a bit of excitement. Theft, kidnapping, rich kids gone bad, high-speed hippie van chases…..

We also get to see Pete’s old neighborhood, and his cousin. And boy oh boy, Pete’s house is the height of ’70s luxury kitsch:

I really like the framing in that shot – it was a nice touch considering that we see that same part of the room about 6 times in the episode – it’s good when they don’t use the same angle over and over.

This was definitely my favorite episode on the disc, but I’ve seen better ones in the series. I’ve been renting the discs off Netflix, and I can definitely say that this series in general is better to rent than buy, especially when you consider that it’s only sold as box sets. Only Season 1 is available right now (split into 2 box sets, volume 1 and volume 2, each with 4 discs). All discs of season 1 are on Netflix. The entire show is 5 seasons (123 episodes).

—Recca 6/08

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