It's the Christmas season and I just watched one of the Christmas episodes of Dragnet. This from 1952.
Joe Friday always seemed like a bit of a fascist, but I don't think that was the case.
In this episode, it's a few days before Christmas. Joe Friday is working homicide. They get a call. There's a missing nine-year-old boy. Blood and a .22 shell casing was found in his back yard.
"Blood stains and a cartridge."
"It could mean a hundred things."
"You have any ideas, Friday?"
"Just one and I don't like it."
The blood is found to be the same type as the missing kid's. And another kid is missing. An eight-year-old playmate.
"Do you have any guns in the house?"
Just a .45 automatic. Oh, and yes, a rifle they got the kid for Christmas, but they haven't given it to him. It's wrapped up in the closet.
Turns out the kid had found package and opened it. He and his friend were playing with the rifle. The other kid shot himself accidentally.
"What's it all prove, Joe?"
"You don't give a kid a gun for Christmas."
The National Rifle Association was outraged. They launched a letter writing campaign against Dragnet. Jack Webb passed the letters on to the Chief of Police who made a public statement that he hoped they did more shows exposing the idiocy of giving guns to children.
Would you see a TV episode like this today? Such a depressing Christmas episode. The death of a child is a subject few shows would touch. Jack Webb stood up to the NRA, and there was no attempt to be "even-handed", giving the pro-firearm fatality side of things.
It shows how bad things have gotten that Dragnet, 1952, would be too radical for today's viewers.