Mod Squad: Season 1, Volume 2 – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

The key to The Mod Squad‘s success was that nearly half the episodes were normal cop thrillers while the others focused on the headlines of 1969. After a show about a draft resistor, the next week featured a homicidal maniac on a bus. The series explored contemporary issues without alienating the folks who enjoyed a conventional cop drama. Linc (Clarence Williams III), Pete (Michael Cole) and Julie (Peggy Lipton) were assigned to any case that Capt. Greer (Tige Andrews) felt needed their youthful undercover action. The Mod Squad: Season 1, Volume 2 has the trio tackling radical priests, crooked cops, lynching townspeople, a bigot militia, baby scammers and folk singers. For a trio of newbies, they were kept extra busy with major cases.

“Hello Mother, My Name Is Julie” introduces us to Julie’s irresponsible mom. While they don’t call mom a whore, through flashbacks we learn that she was a cheap date for plenty of men. Mom swears she’s fallen in love and is fixing to marry. Problem is that her new boyfriend is under investigation by the Mod Squad. Linc and Peter don’t have the heart to tell Julie about her future stepfather’s real job. “Flight Five Doesn’t Answer” has Pete and Linc working undercover on an airplane to provide extra security for a high profile prisoner. Things go bad and the plane crashes in the desert. Can they be rescued or will we get “Julie Barnes: Undercover Fashion Model” next week? “Fear Is the Bucking Horse” has the squad go undercover to protect a TV cowboy star at a Wild West festival. Linc draws the short straw and gets stuck in the dangerous yet ridiculous position of rodeo clown. Why does he get stuck distracting bulls from clumsy cowboys? Perhaps his time in clown makeup inspired the Crunk dance craze?

Captain Greer goes missing while on a fishing vacation in “An Uptight Town.” The Mod Squad follow his trail, but can’t get any help from the small town citizens. They fear the worse. The strange thing is Lou Gossett, Jr. plays the local gas station mechanic only a mere 15 episodes after he starred in “When Smitty Comes Marching Home.” Did the viewers of ‘69 wonder why Smitty didn’t remember Linc? The stars really come out for “Child of Sorrow, Child of Light.” Screen legend Ida Lupino and Daniel J. Travanti (Hill Street Blues) run a baby adoption racket. Drunk comic icon Foster Brooks sobers up to be a motel owner that badly wants a child for his wife. Julie has to go undercover as an unwed pregnant gal to get the skinny on the scam.

The must watch of this boxset is “Keep the Faith, Baby.” Sammy Davis Jr. plays a radical black Catholic priest. Can you dig it? Father Sammy has problems with his Church not appreciating his urban outreach. He has a worse trouble than his church’s pastor wanting him to maintain a low profile. When Father Sammy was a prison priest, he took a confession from Robert Duvall. Turns out Duvall is up for a retrial and fears Father Sammy might turn state’s evidence. He’s decides to bring Father Sammy closer to the Lord. The Mod Squad are assigned to be his angels. Sammy gives a extremely sincere performance in the role. He holds his own when faced with future Oscar winner Duvall. This episode gives us the stars of three great gangster films: Ocean’s Eleven, The Godfather and American Gangster.

Linc and Pete pose as prisoners to protect a general’s son who refuses to register for the draft in “Peace Now — Arly Blau.” Pete takes an Oz level beating in the print shop. “A Seat by the Window” splits up the Mod Squad for their final case of the season. A murdered body is found at a bus station. The two suspects are believed to be on one of three buses. Each member gets snuck onto the various buses to find the murderers. Pete heads to a music festival where we get to hear some groovy tunes. Linc travels toward Mexico with a bunch of drunk college boys. Julie tours a Old West Town used for movies. She’s sandwiched between ‘70s hunks Bo Hopkins (White Lightning) and John Beck (Moonpie from Rollerball). Beck has quite a time flirting with her and playing with her hair. Check out his reaction to her ass being close to his face. That’s not acting; Beck is reacting.

Mod Squad‘s concept is preposterous. Would any police force allow three barely trained kids to work as undercover cops without guns? Would they be assigned to dangerous cases with their only support being their captain? But even in the midst of such absurdity, the series is addictive. Why? Maybe it’s the fashions, the slang, the attitudes and the furniture. Blame it on the sweet, innocent glow Peggy Lipton gives off when she smiles. However The Mod Squad is more than kitsch and Peggy. There was depth to what could have been a fluffy series. The cases made them question the nature of their own authority in the turbulent late ‘60s.

The Episodes:

“Hello Mother, My Name Is Julie,” “Flight Five Doesn’t Answer,” “Shell Game,” “Fear Is the Bucking Horse,” “A Hint of Darkness, A Hint of Light,” “The Uptight Town,” “A Reign of Guns,” “A Run for the Money,” “Child of Sorrow, Child of Light,” “Keep the Faith, Baby,” “Captain Greer, Call Surgery,” “Peace Now — Arly Blau” and “A Seat by the Window.”

The picture is 1.33:1 full screen. The transfers are really clean and sharp. You can reach out and feel the textures of those great sofas from 1969. You can easily make out Peggy’s light freckles. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. Levels are mixed properly. No subtitles, but it is closed captioned.

Hello, My Name is Julie: The Mod Look (10:15) lets Peggy Lipton discuss how the series developed the wardrobe of her undercover agent. She knew how to flaunt purple.

The Mod Squad: Season 1, Volume 2 is worth grabbing just for the episode featuring Robert Duvall hunting down Sammy Davis Jr.

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CBS DVD presents The Mod Squad: Season 1, Volume 1. Starring Michael Cole, Peggy Lipton, Clarence Williams III & Tige Andrews. Thirteen episodes on four single sided, dual-layered DVDs. Running time: 671 minutes. Episodes originally broadcasted: Jan. 14 to April 15, 1969. Released on DVD: March 11, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.