Leslie Nielsen was once a very serious actor. That statement might be hard to fathom for those used to his goofy characters in Airplane, Police Squad, The Naked Gun and other comedies that starred him during his final years. During the ’60s and ’70s, Nielsen had the ability to command the screen in serious roles. He could play the heavy that dared question the star of any police show. There was no laughter to his grim characters. It’s a bit of a shock to watch him in these roles, You’re constantly waiting for the whoopie cushion moment. The Bold Ones: The Protectors was as serious of a role as Nielsen ever had. This show was so serious that it dared to dump the musical score. A cop show without a theme was daring in 1969. Almost as daring as the theme of the show. The Bold Ones: The Protectors – The Complete Series contains this short-lived part of the longer running merry-go-round show.
The Bold Ones wanted to change the approach to medical, legal and police dramas. The Protectors was a serious game changer on many levels. In a sense the show that lasted a mere TV movie and six episodes blazed the trail for Police Story, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue and The Wire. The first thing noticeable is the lack of a soundtrack to pump up the action. The show opens with a talk radio host setting the tone for what’s going on in a California city. This was a combustible time so things are ready to explode for more than jaywalking and overdue meters. “Deadlock” is the TV movie that set up the show as more than just another Jack Webb wannabe show. This is more of akin to Across 110th Street with its tough tone. Sam Danforth (Neilsen) is the deputy police chief of the city brought in from Cleveland. District Attorney William Washburn (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes‘ Hari Rhodes) doesn’t like Sam’s tough ways. William does his best to communicate with suspects in the town instead of just beating them down. He views crime as what happens when the system is broken. There’s a lot going on during the pilot movie including his attempt to move up the political ladder. The cool guest star is Max Julien from The Mack as a gang leader. Washburn and Danforth are in conflict with opposing political views and races. But it’s not a comical black and white drama. This should be treated as an early example of black ’60s cinema.
The show only lasted six episodes as it rotated with the other two series. “A Case of Good Whiskey at Christmas Time” puts Washburn in a sticky situation as he uncovers graft in the building of a housing project. He wants the busts, but he can’t upset certain people in the community. “If I Should Wake Before I Die” has Washburn eager to retry a murderer using a poem as a confession. “Draw a Straight Man” puts Danforth on the hot seat. A string of robberies leads back to the police force. “The Carrier” has a guy bringing back a bug from Asia. While it should be easy to get the guy into quarantine, patient zero is part of smuggling ring. “A Thing Not of God” has an AWOL soldier abducted from a church that was giving him amnesty. “Memo from the Class of ’76” features a massive drug bust at school. The kids and parents aren’t happy at being booked.
The Protectors should have gone on a few seasons. Nielsen is amazing as the head Why did it end so quick? The reasonable guess is that Southern affiliates weren’t ready for a TV show that showed a black guy in a position of authority. The show revolutionized the police drama and yet doesn’t seem to get much of a mention in the discussion of groundbreaking TV. The documentary feel and lack of an emotionally manipulative soundtrack makes it still stand out from the genre nearly half a century later. The only problem with the series is accepting that Leslie isn’t going to go Frank Drebin as the tensions build. Once you know there’s no fart jokes The Protectors is an exceptional drama.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are on the rough side which kinda of works for the documentary feel to the show. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The lack of a soundtrack makes a lot of the show rather quiet.
No bonus features.
The Bold Ones: The Protectors – The Complete Series finally gets its chance to shine on DVD and remind folks that it revolutionized the cop show on so many levels.
Timeless Media Group presents The Bold Ones: The Protectors – The Complete Series. Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Hari Rhodes. Boxset Contents: 7 Episodes on 2 DVDs. Released: September 15, 2015.
Tags: Naked Gun, The Bold Ones, The Protectors