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“The Mod Squad," Cool Cops!

Culture | November 3, 2017

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The Mod Squad was a crime/drama television series that ran from 1968 to 1973. At the time, the show pushed the limits on what we, as a society, were willing to accept and buy into. America was well in the midst of the controversial, counterculture movement. The squad was a diverse, undercover crime-fighting trio. Characters included Pete (Michael Cole), Julie (Peggy Lipton) and Linc (Clarence Williams, III). Captain Adam Greer (Tige Andrews) was their superior who gave them their assignments while also encouraging and supporting them while they hunted down the bad guys. 

The police show series was the first of its kind with the squad consisting of a white guy, a black guy and a blond woman. The thought of the writers was to have a deliberately diverse group of, what was to have represented, mainstream countercultural players. They were most definitely the hippest and coolest undercover cops on television at the time. They did a great job of blending into the investigation of the week and were not easily spotted like other well-known cops in trench coats that people had become accustomed to. The writers took the collective fears of society and challenged them head on. The squad had long hair, were rebellious and definitely not ignorant to current, socially relevant issues. Pete had grown up privileged having broken ties with that lifestyle, Julie had come from a troubled past (her mother a prostitute) and Linc had grown up suffering racial discrimination. These very issues alone were still troubling to many at the time. As if that was not enough, each of the three of them had a past with an arrest record. All in all, these issues compounded each other and were troubling to many at the time.

Captain Greer was somewhat of an unlikely mentor to the trio, being sympathetic to their individual situations. They were seemingly on opposite sides of the law but the squad looked at Greer as a father figure and he returned the sentiment. Each of the three squad members were regarded as rebels and outcasts of society. As the show played out, Greer was the one who brought the squad together because he believed they had much to offer. The Captain was interested in helping Pete, Julie and Linc, personally, as well as helping society by “cleaning up the streets.” He wholeheartedly believed in the squad’s ability. Seeing the good in each of them, the Captain decided to take a chance on them. He appealed to their senses by trading their services in exchange for avoiding incarceration themselves. Eventually, they each decided to take him up on his offer.  

The Mod Squad dealt with uncomfortable, socially charged issues including, abortion, domestic violence, anti-war protests, racism and drug addiction. On one episode, Linc gave Julie a “friendly” kiss and it really shook America up! Interracial affection of any kind was still taboo. A black man kissing a white woman? Oh, God! What would be next? Despite the writers being ready for the backlash, they reportedly never received one complaint!

Because the squad inserted themselves into scenarios akin to people of their generation, they were able to blend in and always got their “guy!” Being true to the spirit of the counterculture generation, they did not use weapons in the course of their jobs. They were able to effectively bring criminals to justice with little or no violence. That is what the hippie culture was about… being peaceful.    

The Mod Squad was instrumental in paving the way for social acceptance of real issues. The show was well celebrated, being nominated for countless awards as well as realizing many of them. At the time, our society was on the brink of change which was, and continues to be, widely uncomfortable for people, in general. Given all of the controversy surrounding the then, very new sign of the times, we all survived!     

Despite the controversy surrounding the subject matter of The Mod Squad, many notable actors appeared as guest stars on the show. Well respected, historically conservative, personalities such as Ed Asner, Andy Griffith, Tom Bosley and Danny Thomas made guest appearances on the series. This may have been one factor in viewers eventually coming around. The series definitely had a positive impact on us all!

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.