Adam-12 was a popular police drama that ran for seven years. It was hailed as a realistic depiction of Los Angeles Police Department officers Pete Malloy (Martin Milner) and Jim Reed (Kent McCord) as they protected and served the residents of Los Angeles. Each episode concentrated on the events of one shift and included heartwarming moments as well as a sprinkling of humor. Read on to learn behind-the-scenes facts and more about the actors and the people who made the show so popular.
Just The Facts, Ma’am
Before creating Adam-12, Robert A. Cinader (pictured right) and Jack Webb (left) conceived and produced one of TV’s most famous cop shows, Dragnet. Webb also played the most imitated police character in history, Sgt. Joe Friday, on Dragnet, which aired on NBC from 1951 to 1959 and again from 1967 to 1970 when it was revived.
Dragnet is such a cultural icon that today, many people recognize its theme song and other elements even if they’ve never seen an episode.
“Adam” Isn’t Actually A Character
The “one” in “One Adam-12” represented the area of the division they were stationed in. “Adam” was cop slang for a two-man patrol car, and “12” stood for the area they patrolled.
Since the unit was shown working in Rampart Division, the actual call sign should have been 2-Adam-12; “one” was the code for the Central Division in downtown L.A. Much of the show was actually filmed in the San Fernando Valley.
A Real-Life Dispatcher For A Realistic Show
Shaaron Claridge, a professional dispatcher at the Van Nuys Division of the LAPD, provided the dispatcher’s voice on Adam-12. Jack Webb insisted the real voice would make the show seem more realistic. Claridge made one onscreen appearance in a fifth-season episode of Adam-12 and went on to do voice work for other shows.
When Webb launched his new show Emergency! in 1972, a real-life dispatcher was again hired to play the voice role to add realism to scenes.
Kent McCord Played The Role All Too Well
Probationary Officer Jim Reed, played by actor Kent McCord, is portrayed on Adam-12 as a new police academy graduate when he’s partnered with veteran Officer Pete Malloy.
McCord must have had more than a few déjà vu moments since he played the same character on several episodes of Dragnet almost a year before Adam-12 premiered. Eventually, the Jim Reed character became exclusive to Adam-12 and wasn’t seen on Dragnet again.
Authenticity At Its Finest
Pete Malloy’s LAPD badge number was 744 and Jim Reed’s was 2430. Since badges are reissued to others when a police officer retires, permanent numbers called “Serial Numbers” are assigned.
Just in case anyone was watching closely, the directors and producers ensured that Reed’s serial number was 13985, which would actually coincide with Academy graduates from 1968, the year in which Reed’s character joined the LAPD. Malloy’s serial number was 10743.
One Thing That Was Actually Fake
With the exception of the pilot episode, the police cars in Adam-12 were not actual LAPD cruisers. The vehicles were purchased by Universal from Chrysler Corporation and American Motors. The prop crew tricked out the cars to look just like LAPD cruisers. The fake cop cars included three Plymouth Belvederes, a Plymouth Satellite, and two AMC Matadors.
For the pilot episode, producers used a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere police car that was on loan from the LAPD.
How They Filmed Close Up Shots
Reed and Malloy had a lot of close-up shots of them riding in their car. When the camera and crew in the car that was towing them ended up being reflected in the windshield glass, the windshield was scrapped.
But that caused Reed and Malloy’s hair to blow in the wind. To solve the problem, a transparent shield was built to enclose the front of the car and the camera.
Cruisin’ Through Many Shows
Good taste knows no limits, at least when it came to Adam-12. The metallic blue Corvette Kent McCord drove in several episodes of Adam-12 was the same make and model of the car that Martin Milner drove when he starred as Tod Stiles in Route 66.
Another fun fact is that Martin Milner’s youngest son, Andrew Milner, drove a mini-bike as Johnny Whitaker’s stunt driver in the episode “Adam-12: Northeast Division.”
Real Plates Can’t End In “I”
While producers were in the middle of shooting the Adam-12 series, the California DMV started issuing six-digit vehicle license plates in the letter/number format. Per the new regulations, the final letter was never I, O, or Q, so that letters would not be confused with numbers.
The civilian vehicles on Adam-12 typically had the letter “I” as the final digit, signifying that they were movie/TV prop plates and not real license tags.
Changing Uniforms To Match The Real LAPD Look
When Adam-12 was a couple of seasons into its seven-year run, Edward M. Davis became LAPD Chief. One of the first things he did was update police uniforms. He chose round hats, antique silver buttons, and Eisenhower-type jackets to replace the eight-point hats, brass buttons, and wool Melton jackets. Adam-12 police officers were soon dressed in the new style.
Davis was included in the show credits for Adam-12 and Dragnet, for the “technical advice” he provided.
The Show Wasn’t Always Accurate…
Although many parts of Adam-12 were accurate and based in reality, producers did take some liberties. While the series used 1 “Adam-12,” LAPD units used odd numbers for beats, so in reality, the numbers would have been 1 Adam 11, Adam 13, Adam 15, etc.
Even numbers like 10, 20, etc. were reserved for ranking police officers such as sergeants, so 1 “Adam-12” would never have been assigned to Reed and Malloy.
Taking A Shot
According to LAPD training authorities, the small medallions that Reed and Malloy wore on their uniforms represented their shooting skills. Malloy’s gold medallion with two bars meant he was rated as a distinguished expert shot. Reed’s silver medallion with one bar is awarded to sharpshooters.
In a 1973 episode called “Suspended,” Reed is seen honing his skills at a shooting range. Actual LAPD police officers’ shooting skills are tested every two years.
When They Weren’t In The Patrol Car
In several episodes in the later seasons, Pete Malloy grumbles about his personal car, an AMC Matador coupe, that frequently needs to go into the shop for repairs. The car’s problems are actually a big part of one episode’s plot.
What’s a little odd is that AMC provided vehicles to the show and the character’s comments could have reflected badly on their brand. However, Adam-12 used ’72 and ’73 Matadors as police cruisers, which were clearly reliable cars.
How Realistic Was The Show?
The writers and producers were remarkably successful in keeping things real on Adam-12. Their approaches to special situations and community outreach efforts and portrayal of how cops are perceived on the street and by the public. In fact, real officers reported being treated differently by the public when the show was on the air!
Details about the show were so accurate that certain episodes were used as part of instructional training film programs in some police academies.
On The Show A Wife, Just Friends In Real Life
During Adam-12’s final season, Jim Reed’s wife appeared in several episodes. Kristin Harmon played the role of Reed’s wife, Jean. In real life, Harmon was actually married to popular singer/actor Ricky Nelson, who was one of Kent McCord’s best friends. She was also a painter and an author.
Harmon was billed as Kristin Nelson in the show’s credits. Sadly, she passed away suddenly on May 1, 2018. She was 72. Pictured are Kristin and Ricky.
Many Great Talents Appeared On The Show
Adam-12 was well-known for its realistic portrayal of suspects, criminals, and victims. During the first couple of seasons of Adam-12, Reed and Malloy often relied on an informant named T.J., who was played by Robert Donner.
Donner was a great actor with an impressive list of credits who appeared in many other shows and movies during his 40-year career. Some of his titles include Mork & Mindy, Eight is Enough, and the iconic Cool Hand Luke. Donner passed away on June 8, 2006.
What Was The Deal With The Wedding Ring?
In the final season of Adam-12, Malloy had a girlfriend called Judy who he frequently mentioned in conversation. Judy was actually featured in a couple of episodes. The role was played by Aneta Corsaut (pictured). Reed’s character wears a wedding ring in the first few seasons of the show but it disappears in later seasons.
Although the personal lives of Malloy and Reed were only discussed in conjunction with their jobs, it was clear that Malloy was a bachelor who had at least two girlfriends during the course of the show’s run, the last being Judy. Reed is married to a woman named Jean, who was played by several actresses before Kristin Nelson, and later becomes a father. So what happened to the wedding ring?
A Car You Might Have Noticed
Maybe it was an inside joke, but a blue Ford Maverick is parked somewhere in almost every episode of Adam-12. Not as prevalent but still intriguing was a gold Mustang with a white top seen in many weekly segments.
Matchbox cars honored Adam-12 in 1999 by introducing a die-cast toy called the Grand Fury Police Car, as part of the company’s “Star Car” series. Other vehicles in the series were from Magnum P.I., Miami Vice, Jaws, and more.
A Family Affair
Sometimes it helps to know a show’s star…or to be their daughter. Martin Milner’s daughter, Amy Milner, played the daughter of a fallen shopkeeper shot by a robber in a mom-and-pop store. Her guest character’s name was Debbie McMahon and she made her big debut in episode #164, “Adam-12: Victim of the Crime,” which aired in 1975.
Sadly, Amy Milner passed away from acute myeloid leukemia in 2004. She was just 46 years old.
An Honorary Broadcast
When a police officer dies, the term “end of watch” is used to communicate the date and time that an officer killed in the line of duty was declared dead. Frequently, a police department will also broadcast a final radio call to honor the fallen officer.
When Martin Milner died in 2015, Shaaron Claridge performed an honorary final radio call for him… which had to have been extremely difficult for her.
Following In Their Father’s Footsteps
Adam-12 wasn’t just a family affair for Martin Milner. Kent McCord’s daughter Kristen also had a guest appearance in an episode titled “Operation Action.” The Season 7 episode shows Kristen, as “Debra,” playing hopscotch as her dad’s character pulls up in his squad car.
Today, Kristen lives in Los Angeles and is an actress and composer. She also worked on Desperate in 1991 and Weekly World News in 1996. Her sister Megan is also an actress.
A Woman We Only Knew By Sound
We already introduced Shaaron Claridge, the real-life Los Angeles Police Department police radio dispatcher who voiced the Adam-12 operator. Here’s some more information about her! She was also married to an LAPD motorcycle officer.
Claridge also lent her voice talents to shows like Lou Grant, Columbo, and Dragnet. Even though she was only ever shown once in her acting roles, she wore a wig during filming to disguise her true identity as an active member of the LAPD force.
A Feminine Touch
Many police stations use female dispatchers, and there’s a real science behind this. It’s because psychologists believe that women’s voices tend to be more soothing, which can definitely help diffuse a tense or stressful situation. A police dispatcher’s job is not an easy one, and requires excellent communication skills.
In a Reddit thread about dispatchers, one user wrote, “I like having a female dispatcher. …it can be calming to hear a female voice.” This is the sentiment of Adam-12’s producers.
Martin Milner’s Many Roles
A prolific actor, Martin Milner also appeared in many other television shows including Route 66, Emergency!, The Swiss Family Robinson (pictured), Airwolf, Life Goes On, MacGyver, RoboCop: The Series, and Murder, She Wrote. He acted in dozens of films as well, and frequently portrayed police or military characters.
After he retired from acting, Milner co-hosted a San Diego-based radio show about fishing, which was amusingly called “Let’s Talk Hook-Up.” He also hosted the documentary Route 66: Return to the Road with Martin Milner.
A Full Life
“Marty” Milner became involved in acting when he was very young. He later studied theater at the University of Southern California but dropped out after a year to pursue an acting career. Milner served two years in the United States Army and toured as part of a group that entertained the troops.
He and his wife Judith Bess Jones had four children together. Sadly, Milner died of heart failure on September 6, 2015. He was 83 years old.
Was Tobey Typecast?
Kenneth Tobey was the actor who played Lt. King of the Astro Division, which was the LAPD’s helicopter unit. He was well-suited for the role, as he had previously acted in the Desilu Productions TV series called Whirlybirds, where he played the owner of a helicopter chartering company.
Tobey also appeared as a helicopter pilot in an episode of Lassie called “Lure of the Wild.” In it, he used his chopper to rescue Timmy.
She Wasn’t The Bionic Woman For Nothing
Lindsay Wagner, who went on to find fame in the 1970s sci-fi television series The Bionic Woman, got her prime-time acting start on Adam-12. She appeared in Season 4, Episode 2, “Million Dollar Buff.” Wagner later appeared in numerous programs like Marcus Welby, M.D., The Fall Guy, and NCIS.
She’s also an author and wrote one of the first vegan cookbooks. Additionally, Wagner promotes spirituality and meditation through workshops and seminars that she hosts.
Stromsoe The Stuntman
Recurring Adam-12 character Officer Jerry Woods was played by actor Fred Stromsoe, who was also a stunt double. Stromsoe actually doubled for Martin Milner, Glenn Corbett, and George Maharis on Route 66. He later served as the first assistant director on Dallas.
Other credits include Wild, Wild West, Gunsmoke, The Love Bug, What’s Up, Doc?, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, and Westbound. Stromsoe died in 1994, at the age of 64.
Was It Really Worth Dying For?
The series finale took place in a double episode called “Something Worth Dying For.” It involves Reed busting a narcotics dealer and earning a trial spot on the Vice Squad. He soon realizes that he doesn’t enjoy the experience and the emotional toll it takes on him.
Reed then returns to his regular patrol after rescuing Malloy during a violent arrest. “Something Worth Dying For” aired on May 13, 1975.
Gotta Start Somewhere
As mentioned earlier, Adam-12 star Kent McCord was good friends with Ricky Nelson, and their friendship helped kickstart his career. McCord’s first acting gig was on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which led to Dragnet and Adam-12 and more.
Most recently, he appeared on JAG, Farscape, and Renegade. McCord ran for president of the Screen Actors Guild in 2003 but lost out to Melissa Gilbert. Today, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife Cynthia.
Musical Legends Collide With Cops
In a 1972 Adam-12 episode called “The Late Baby,” three children of legendary musicians made special appearances. Christina “Tina” and Frank Sinatra, Jr. (children of Frank) and Gary Crosby (son of Bing) all guest-starred together. Frank Sinatra, Jr. went on to appear in two more Adam-12 episodes.
The official IMDb synopsis of the episode: “The spicy summer temp sets the officers abuzz. They learn Ed Wells is her overprotective uncle when he does his best to ruin her date with Malloy.”
Actors Are Recyclable
Several actors appeared on Adam-12 and the classic television series The Andy Griffith Show. Burt Mustin, Hal Smith, and Aneta Corsaut all made at least one appearance on both shows. The Andy Griffith Show aired from October 1960 to April 1968, while Adam-12 ran from September of 1968 through May 1975.
Burt Mustin appeared in five Adam-12 episodes: “Clinic on 18th Street,” “Clear with a Civilian: Part 2,” “The Chaser,” “Mr. Reardon,” “The Militants,” and “Child Stealer.” On The Andy Griffith Show, Mustin played Jud Fletcher, an elderly Mayberry resident.
It’s Never Too Late
Burt Mustin didn’t get started in acting until the ripe old age of 67 but made up for lost time with an impressive list of roles. He went on to have parts in over 150 classic television shows and movies. His credits include The Abbott and Costello Show, Leave It to Beaver, Dragnet, The Lone Ranger, It’s a Great Life, The Twilight Zone and much more.
Mustin passed away on January 28, 1977, only two weeks before his 93rd birthday.
Frequently Played A Drunkard
Best known for his role as Otis Campbell, the town drunk on The Andy Griffith Show, Hal Smith also played an alcoholic in a guest spot during the first season of Adam-12. Called “A Jumper, Code 2,” the 1969 episode features Smith as a drunk driver named Edward Brown.
In the mid-1960s, Smith had a local morning children’s show called The Pancake Man, which was sponsored by IHOP. Sadly, he passed away on January 28, 1994, at 77.
You See This Woman Everywhere
Aneta Corsaut, who played the Mayberry sheriff’s long-time girlfriend Helen Crump on The Andy Griffith Show, made a couple of appearances on Adam-12, both in 1975. She continued to act for many years, with roles on Emergency!, Marcus Welby, M.D., Return to Mayberry, General Hospital, and Matlock.
She was also a writer, and coauthored The Mystery Reader’s Quiz Book. Corsaut died in Los Angeles, California, in 1995. She was 62.
Cloris Leachman Played A Neglectful Mother
Legendary comedian Cloris Leachman had a guest role on Adam-12, in a 1968 episode called “The Color TV Bandit.” She plays a neglectful mother who’s busted by Malloy and Reed when her children ingest lethal quantities of her pills and a neighbor hears them groaning.
Leachman went on to have a prolific acting career spaning seven decades. She has won a Daytime Emmy Award, an Academy Award, and eight Primetime Emmy Awards.
The Harmon Hookup
Mark Harmon, who later became known for the long-running character he portrays on NCIS, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, got one of his first shots at acting on Adam-12 (as Officer Gus Corbin). Mark’s sister Kristen played Officer Jim Reed’s wife, as mentioned earlier.
Family connections never hurt, and neither does being massively talented! Today, Harmon is a celebrated actor who was even named PEOPLE’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 1986.
Jack Webb Was Given A Full Officer’s Funeral
Jack Webb died on December 23, 1982, of a heart attack. His influence over the LAPD and other precincts around the country led to a funeral with full police honors. On hearing the news of Webb’s death, Chief Daryl Gates announced that his badge number, 714, first used by Joe Friday in Dragnet, would be retired.
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley then ordered all flags lowered to half-staff in Webb’s honor. Webb was buried with a replica LAPD badge bearing the rank of sergeant and the number 714.
There Was Sort Of A Made-For-TV Movie Reunion
While the full cast of Adam-12 never reunited for a reunion, stars Martin Milner and Kent McCord once again joined forces in a cable television movie called Nashville Beat, which aired in 1989. Playing off their original character themes, they portrayed Captain Brian O’ Neal and Lieutenant Mike Delaney.
The men in the two-part movie were transfers to the city courtesy of the LAPD. Critics were quick to point out that their new characters were remarkably similar to their old Adam-12 personas.
Uncle Fester, Is That You?
In season four, episode 18, “Adoption,” there’s a character named Harry Rustin. He’s a grizzled trainer for a college football team who’s portrayed by actor Jackie Coogan. Coogan was discovered by Charlie Chaplin and was one of the first child stars.
He would go on to become the beloved “Uncle Fester” in The Addams Family TV series. Coogan acted in Hollywood for more than 50 years and passed away on March 1, 1984.
The Munsters And Adam-12 Connection
The Addams Family wasn’t the only creepy TV series to make a cameo on Adam-12. During filming for season one, episode 13, Mallow and Reed are chasing a drunk driver when the house used for the TV show The Munsters is suddenly clearly visible in the background.
It was likely an oversight or a funny gag because the chase happened on the same studio backlot where The Munsters was filmed.
Requesting Bulletproof Vests
If you want a close look back at the real lives of police officers in the past, just watch Adam-12. For example, during season one, episode eight, Malloy is forced to request “bulletproof” vests to deal with an armed man.
At the time, police were outfitted with “bullet-resistant” vests but had to request stronger body armor as needed, just like Malloy did. Today, police are custom fitted for vests and they must be worn at all times of active duty.
They Filmed Some Scenes In Mayberry
The connections to the fictional town of Mayberry keep on rolling in. Not only were several actors and actresses from The Andy Griffith Show featured on Adam-12, but so was the actual town of Mayberry.
The backlot used for the liquor store scene was the Mayberry town set. Also, the location where young punks were caught was the location for the back wall of the Mayberry jail. It’s a small world after all (at least when it comes to television).
Mimicking A Real Los Angeles Police Station
The interior of the police station seen throughout the series was about as authentic as you can get on a TV set. That’s because Jack Webb insisted that a replica of the newly-built Los Angeles Police Department Rampart Division be constructed as the TV show’s home base.
The studio set was built to “mirror” the interior of the real police station, adding even more authenticity to the already-realistic TV series.
The Show’s Name Didn’t Really Matter
Yes, as discussed, the code “Adam-12” would not have been the name given to our heroic officers in real life. However, as the show continued, the two officers spent so much time working in different police divisions that the incorrect name became a moot point.
The truth is that in reality, no officers would ever spend that much time jumping from one police division to the next. It simply wouldn’t make much sense.
The Acting Career Of An Olympian Was Launched On The Show
Bob Seagren, the gold medalist in the pole vault at the 1968 Olympics, got his first acting job on the set of Adam-12. In the world of acting, Seagren is best-known for his role on the series Soap, where he played the gay partner of Billy Crystal’s character.
Seagren was one of the top pole vaulters in the world during the 1960s and ’70s, setting multiple world records during that time.
A Country Music Legends Only Role
Yet another famous person who made an appearance on Adam-12, Johnny Rodriguez took the role of a motorcycle rider who struck a pedestrian. This was his only acting role throughout his career.
In real life, Rodriguez is a country music artist who debuted a string of hits in the 1970s and 1980s. He was credited as a special guest star in this episode but didn’t pursue acting after the TV episode aired.
During season four, episode 20, called “Substation,” a guest appearance is made by Sid McCoy. In the episode, he plays a dispatching officer but in real life was best known as the long-running announcer of Soul Train, a role he maintained for the series’ entire TV run from 1971 until 2006.
Watch the episode again and his well-known voice will likely jump out at you. McCoy passed away on November 5, 2009, in Los Angeles, California. He was 87.
A Magically-Changing Car
During season four, episode 5, called “The Search,” pay close attention to the crash scene. When the car is airborne, it is clearly a 1971 Plymouth Satellite (pictured on the right). When it lands, it is magically a 1969 Plymouth Belvedere (pictured on the left).
You will also notice that the lights on the Satellite are embedded in the rear bumper but are on either side of the trunk lid on the Belvedere.
A Shout Out To His Friends
Jack Webb had no problem casting his friends in his TV shows (and why should he?). Most prominently featured was Dick Whittinghill, an LA deejay and restaurateur. In the episode “Reason To Run,” Whittinghill plays a man who is attacked in a phone booth.
If you look closely during that scene you will see the Whittinghill Restaurant in the background. There’s nothing like some free product placement courtesy of your TV-producing buddy.
Was There A Solar Eclipse?
In season two, episode 19 “Vengeance, ” when Malloy and Reed are passing Pop’s Liquor Store, it’s clear that the area surrounding the Dairy Queen was filmed around dusk. However, every other shot in the scene is bright, indicating midday.
Continuity errors are not uncommon and Adam-12 did have a few of them, but this one was pretty glaring. Some fans have even joked that there was a solar eclipse during filming.
Jack Webb Honored Loyalty In A Big Way
In season one, episode 26, George Murdock appears as the man who answers the door at the Hewlitt party. Murdock wasn’t a classically trained actor but rather Jack Webb’s long time assistant.
Webb would later promote him to associate producer starting in season three. Murdock would go on to produce the final two seasons of Adam-12. It turns out being Webb’s long-time friend or assistant gave you a really nice “in” for the TV industry!
Kent McCord Actually Worked As An Officer Later In Life
Kent McCord (Jim Reed) not only played a TV cop, he also took on the role in real life. Years after his time on Adam-12 came to an end, McCord became a Los Angeles Reserve police officer.
Reserve police serve on either a volunteer or paid basis, with duties that vary by jurisdiction. It seems like he couldn’t get enough of the police action he first experienced as an actor!
Sunsetting The Show’s Credit Sequence
It’s not very often that a TV show’s credit sequence is changed. The opening credits set the tone for the show and they quickly become part of its identity. That wasn’t the case with Adam-12.
At one point the opening credits were changed from taking place during the day to taking place at night. It was a small change but still something pretty rare for scripted TV, even back then.