Question: Dear Sir, I'm 40 and grew up with Jack Webb's shows like Dragnet, Adam-12 and Emergency. Whatever happened to him? Is he deceased? I even enjoyed him as an actor. If you have any knowledge I'd like to know. John Correia
Televisionary: Hey, pal there are a lot of people who'd like to know if I have any knowledge. And I'm one of 'em.
Writer, producer, actor and director Jack Webb died in Los Angeles in 1982, leaving behind an entertainment legacy more impressive than it looks on paper (and it doesn't look bad there, either). He kicked off his career as a radio announcer in 1945, then moved to performing in radio dramas before coming up with the idea for Dragnet, a radio show based on real LAPD cases.
As the story goes, Webb conceived the show after talking with real cops about how unrealistic most police shows of the time were. Apparently, plenty of people agreed with him since Dragnet, which debuted on NBC radio in 1949, proved popular enough to make the jump to TV in 1951.
Webb's personal beliefs were about as conservative as conservative can get and it showed. The police were always in the right and good beat evil every single time. (Not that I'm making a value judgment, mind you; not every show has to be Sex and the City.) More people remember the Dragnet parodies than the show itself, so in retrospect its deadpan, emotionless delivery comes off as beyond corny. But in its day, the flat, by-the-book, "just the facts ma'am" flavor was actually groundbreaking.
As you say, Webb produced myriad other shows, including Emergency, Adam-12 and General Electric True. He also had a seldom noted, here-and-gone run as Warner Bros. TV's head of production (he was fired after 10 months), but remains best remembered as Dragnet's Sgt. Joe Friday.