The funniest cop show ever

It doesn’t take long to watch Police Squad!: The Complete Series (newly out on DVD), because the 1982 TV sitcom was canceled after only six 30-minute episodes. A creation of the Zucker brothers — the team behind the Airplane! movies — Squad passed almost immediately into cult status, prompting a big-screen reincarnation as Naked Gun and its sequels.

The show, which starred Leslie Nielsen as Detective Frank Drebin, was simultaneously too dopey and too smart for television. There were the rat-a-tat groaner gags, such as Drebin offering a smoke to a crime witness with “Cigarette?” and the witness saying, “Yes, I know.” But Police Squad was also a TV show about other TV shows — well before half of TV became ironically self-referential.

Squad deftly deflated cop-show clichés with Egyptian hieroglyphic chalk outlines, guest stars killed off in the opening credits, and end-credit freeze frames that weren’t actually freeze frames, but Nielsen and other cast members awkwardly, barely holding still while, say, a criminal dashed away in the background.

In fact, the sight gags are what made this seminal bit of TV silliness especially grand — and you’ll be wanting to hit the rewind button a lot to appreciate them fully.

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The funniest cop show ever