Sunday, October 22, 2017 from 2pm to 8pm
From the Files of Police Squad!

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Curated by Nellie Killian

Hot off the blockbuster success of Airplane!, the filmmaking trio of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker followed up with the ABC television series Police Squad!, an anarchic spoof of 60s police procedurals like M Squad and Dragnet that hit screens on March 4, 1982. With Airplane!, the trio had found not only an audience, but an unlikely leading man in Leslie Nielsen, whom they cast as Police Squad’s protagonist, Lt. Frank Drebin. Before Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker, Neilsen had primarily been known as a minor dramatic actor, most famous for appearing in films like Forbidden Planet, Tammy and the Bachelor, and The Poseidon Adventure, but had a breakout turn in Airplane! as the absurdly literal-minded Dr. Rumack. With Police Squad!, Nielsen proved the ideal vessel for ZAZ’s humor, endowing the lunatic goings-on with a serene obliviousness and tossed-off movie star presence. For Nielsen, the role was a dream come true; he characterized Drebin as “King Lear, Everyman, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Mr. Potato Head all rolled into one.”

According to the creators, they may have unintentionally signed their own death warrant by violating an unwritten rule of TV: you had to actually watch it to enjoy it. Though Police Squad! was canceled before the month was out, leaving a mere six episodes, through reruns and home video it would nonetheless become one of the most beloved cult television shows of all time, spawning ZAZ’s Naked Gun movie franchise, and influencing the likes of the Farrelly Brothers, Matt Groening, and P.T. Anderson.

For our presentation at Light Industry, we will present a marathon screening of the entire run of the series alongside key influences and spiritual predecessors, as well as the very targets of the show's send-ups. With its nonstop barrage of verbal and visual gags—non sequitur title cards (“Act II: Bruté”), conversations over never-ending gurneys, weekly check-ins with an encyclopedically in-the-know shoeshine—Police Squad! delivered broad comedy of an intricately detailed sort, and in the most inhospitable place: network television.

Coffee and donuts will be served.

(All Police Squad! synopses taken from original TV Guide listings.)


Police Squad!: "A Substantial Gift (The Broken Promise)," 1982, digital projection, 24 mins
“Det. Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) probes the murder of a credit-union manager (Terry Wills).”

Followed by an episode of M Squad, a gritty, Chicago-set police drama featuring Lee Marvin as the hardboiled Det. Frank Ballenger.


Police Squad!: "Ring of Fear (A Dangerous Assignment)," 1982, digital projection, 24 mins
“Drebin goes undercover to corner a boxing promoter who's fixing fights.”

Followed by “United Appeal for the Dead”, a sketch from ZAZ’s first feature, Kentucky Fried Movie.


Police Squad!: "The Butler Did It (A Bird in the Hand)," 1982, digital projection, 24 mins
“A note tied to a window and thrown into a rock garden reveals the kidnapping of an heiress (Lilibet Stern).”

Followed by

Saturday Color Carnival aka Silent Show, Ernie Kovacs, 1957, digital projection, 30 mins
An experiment in wordless programming by TV innovator and proto-video artist Kovacs, featuring Tati-esque set pieces and a performance by The Nairobi Trio.

Introduced by Rebecca Cleman


Police Squad!: "Revenge and Remorse (The Guilty Alibi)," 1982, digital projection, 24 mins
“The law is everywhere—thanks to a mad bomber who is blowing judges and lawyers sky high.”

Followed by

Duck Dodgers In The 24½th Century, Chuck Jones, 1953, digital projection, 7 mins
A Looney Tunes take on Buck Rogers, featuring a partnership as iconic as Drebin and Norberg: Daffy and Porky.


Police Squad!: "Rendezvous at Big Gulch (Terror in the Neighborhood)," 1982, digital projection, 24 mins
“Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) poses as a locksmith so he can 'throw away the key' on thugs running a protection racket.”

Followed by a collection of late-19th and early-20th century sight gags and trick films.

Introduced by R. Emmet Sweeney


Police Squad!: "Testimony of Evil (Dead Men Don’t Laugh)," digital projection, 24 mins
“Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) poses as a stand-up comic to break up a dope ring.”