Baby boomers will most likely remember this hip 1968-1973 ABC crime drama produced by Aaron Spelling and Danny Thomas. The creator, Bud “Buddy” Ruskin, loosely based this ground-breaking cop drama storyline plot with his actual experience in the late 1950s as a police squad leader involved with young undercover narcotic agents.
“The Mod Squad” consisted of three young undercover cops—one black, one white, and one blonde. Each of the three characters represented people involved with the counterculture youths of the Vietnam War era.
Michael Cole played long-haired Beverly Hills brat Pete Cochran. His wealthy parents evicted him from their home when he was arrested for stealing a car and put on probation. From a black family of 13 kids, Lincoln “Linc” Hayes (Clarence Williams III) was arrested at the Watts riots in Los Angeles. And finally, Julie Barnes (Peggy Lipton) was a flower child who ran away from her prostitute mother’s home in San Francisco and was picked up for vagrancy.
As part of their probation, the outcast trio must report to police captain Adam Greer (Tige Andrews) and investigate criminal activity. Greer was responsible for forming the squad. He was a tough, but sympathetic, mentor to his unconventional unit. In return, they looked up to him as a father figure.
In many ways, this television program broke racial barriers between white culture and African-American. One white male, one black male, and a white blonde working together in the Los Angeles police department would’ve been considered taboo a decade earlier, with television programs like “Amos ‘n’ Andy” and “Beulah” that depicted African-American characters with racial stereotype. This one brought ways to expanding our consciousness to new horizons about TV black characters into our living rooms at night.
In 1958, Bud “Buddy” Ruskin was given the green light by ABC Television Studios to write the script for “The Mod Squad.” A decade later, the 74-minute pilot, “The Teeth of the Barracuda,” was aired in the 1968 fall season, but it was edited to 50 minutes. However, the original unaired pilot has been fully restored and you can watch it in first season of the television crime drama series on DVD.
The three kids traveled around in Pete Cochran’s old green Mercury Woody station wagon. At the end of the second season finale episode, “The Death of Wild Bill Hannachek,” the old Woody was burned up in a crash when the vehicle went over a cliff in a chase scene.
Weekly episodes dealt with counterculture issues. Soldiers returning from Vietnam with PTSD, abortion, student protest, illegal drug trade, racism, and other social issues brought the viewers back to watch the TV program each Tuesday night, then later it to changed to Thursday night.
Spelling intended the show to be about the relationship three young undercover agents shared with each other and Captain Greer. He promised viewers that the squad would never arrest a teenager or carry a gun.
In a particular scene, the script called for the black officer, Linc, to give a friendly kiss on the cheek of his Caucasian female partner, Julie Barnes. ABC Network executives were uptight about the scene and asked Spelling to cut it. He refused on the ground that an interracial kiss on television had already been seen by viewers in 1967 and fought them on the issue.
When push came to shove, he won. However, he was warned by the studio that he’d receive angry letters from TV viewers. No letters came for Spelling on the kiss scene.
You may remember some famous slang words that came from the counterculture show. “Keep the faith”and “solid” were used by Linc. Other slang words from the program included: pad, dig it, or groovy.
“The Mod Squad” ran for five seasons, and earned six Emmy Award nominations. Four Golden Globe Award nominations also went to the ground-breaking police series. For her role as Barnes, Lipton won a Golden Globe nomination. A Directors Guild of American Award and four Logies were also given to the TV program.
On May 18, 1979, the ABC Network aired the TV reunion movie, “The Return of Mod Squad,” with the original cast. Lipton would act again with former “Mod Squad” cast member Williams III in another hit TV series. She was a regular on the short-lived 1990-91 “Twin Peaks” when she was reunited with Williams in two full episodes.