Show: Remembering When

Episode: 868-154 Highway Patrol

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Episode Description:

Highway Patrol was a syndicated action crime drama series produced from 1955 to 1959.

Highway Patrol starred Broderick Crawford as Dan Mathews, the gruff and dedicated head of a police force in an unidentified Western state. A signature shot of the series is fedora-wearing Mathews barking rapid-fire dialogue into a radio microphone as he leans against the door of his black and white patrol car. Mathews growls "21-50 to headquarters" and the invariable response is "Headquarters by" (as in, standing by).

ZIV Television Productions was started by Frederic W. Ziv in the 1950s. In 1960 ZIV was acquired by United Artists, which later merged with MGM. ZIV was a major producer of 1950s TV series, including Bat Masterson, The Cisco Kid, Highway Patrol, Science Fiction Theater, Lock-Up and Sea Hunt. Highway Patrol was created by ZIV in response to California Highway Patrol (CHP) wanting to be featured in a TV series. However, because ZIV felt the show needed to have a broader police scope than the real CHP, the generic show name was adopted. In the four years of its run, Highway Patrol would feature many actors who would later become successful stars in their own right, among them Stuart Whitman, Clint Eastwood, Robert Conrad, Barbara Eden, and Leonard Nimoy.

Highway Patrol premiered October 3, 1955 with "Prison Break", an episode filmed April 11–13, 1955. Ziv Television Programs produced 156 episodes spanning four TV seasons, 1955–1959. Episodes are generally fast-paced—notable considering how a typical episode was filmed: two days on location and one day at the studio. The budget for an episode range from $20,000 to $25,000, somewhat higher when a Bell 47 helicopter was used. Producer Frederic W. Ziv said the show moved fast to match Broderick Crawford's acting pace. Ziv said Highway Patrol introduced quick cutting to television, which started a new trend.

Highway Patrol is famous for its location shooting around the San Fernando Valley and Simi Valley, then mostly rural. Other notable Los Angeles area locations include Griffith Park, and Bronson Canyon just above Hollywood. Today the show provides a historic look at mid-1950s California, cars, fashion (men wear fedoras), and lifestyle. For example, train travel is a common show element; the second-season episode "Hired Killer" prominently features the Chatsworth, California train station in its opening scene. The show also filmed at railroad stations at Glendale, California (identified by a large sign) and Santa Susana, California.

While back lots were not used for exteriors, interior scenes were often filmed on sets at ZIV Studios, 7950 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Over the years the Highway Patrol office set changed several times, featuring rearranged activities, improved set decoration, and background actors (early episodes referred to Matthews coming to a Highway Patrol district office on an inspection visit and taking charge of a case).

Unlike the California Highway Patrol, the agency featured in the TV series was more concerned with chasing criminals than enforcing driving laws. WIth such limited budgets, there were very few car chases, crashes, and other motor mayhem than is more common in modern police dramas; scenes were often filmed on rural two-lane paved or dirt roads to save money and because Crawford's own driver's license was suspended for drunk driving. Excitement was mainly generated by Crawford's own rapid-fire, staccato delivery of his lines, frequent shootouts, and numerous plot contrivances in which time was a critical factor, such as a hostage death threat, the escape of a violent criminal, a train derailment, or other imminent catastrophe.

In the first two seasons the series received technical assistance from the California Highway Patrol, which is the model police agency in several ways. The patrol cars in early episodes are actual CHP vehicles with the show's car door emblem covering the CHP emblem (sometimes a real CHP star is briefly visible). For instance, the Buick Century 1955 two-door patrol car seen in early episodes was built exclusively for CHP. Eventually California Highway Patrol dropped its support, reportedly dissatisfied with how the show had evolved. At that point the show had to create its own patrol cars using non-police models, but still outfitted in CHP-style, distinctly subdued compared with many police agencies. Notably, CHP cars did not have roof lights, instead using only a solid-red driver-side spotlight in front, and a flashing-yellow light in the rear window; these are barely noticeable in the black-and-white TV show.

Officer uniforms are the CHP style of the day. In seasons one to three, the shoulder patch is essentially the CHP patch with "California" and "Eureka" (state motto) removed; the California bear and other California state seal elements are retained. In season four the show adopted a uniform patch that matches its patrol car emblem. Highway Patrol chief Dan Mathews usually wears a suit and fedora, but not to be undercover—he generally drives a black-and-white patrol car.

Art Gilmore's narration gives Highway Patrol a documentary feel, but several details are never mentioned. While described as a state police agency, the actual state is never stated. It is said to be a western state, and borders on Mexico, but only eastern state Rhode Island is small enough to allow Dan Mathews to regularly drive from headquarters to every crime scene in just minutes. Towns have simple names like "Midvale", though sometimes a real place name is used because of a prominent sign. In some episodes Mathews uses an unlabeled wall map that appears to be central-east Oregon, with the towns of Bend and Redmond on the map's left. Cars in the show are always described by color and model, but never by brand name: "blue coupe", "gray sedan". Cars have the black-on-yellow California license plate of the time, but with a piece of tape covering the name of the state (usually, but sometimes "California" is briefly visible). Episode "Mistaken Identity" did show a 1957 Illinois license plate in the opening scene.

Gun handling is typical of TV shows of the time—unrealistic and sometimes absurd. Police officers often shoot from the hip, usually with amazing accuracy, even from moving cars and a helicopter. The Smith & Wesson six-round revolvers used by actor officers sometimes emit more than six shots without reloading.

A key element of the show is two-way radio communication among patrol cars and headquarters, with heavy use of police code "10-4" (meaning "acknowledged"). While 10-4 adds a feeling of authenticity, real police use many radio codes for brevity and clarity. The Highway Patrol show radio call signs are CHP-style, except California Highway Patrol uses the first part to indicate the geographic region/office. Dan Mathews unit "21-50" would be a CHP unit at office 21, which is in Napa County, California. (Some reports claim it was the call-sign of the CHP Commissioner of the time.) The show mixes a variety of CHP office prefixes; one episode has "21-50" working with "34-27" (CHP for San Francisco) and "36-32" (CHP for Red Bluff) to chase the bad guys around a single valley.

The show's brassy music made such an impact that it was featured on record albums of popular TV show themes, and released as a single (45) by various artists. The theme is credited to Ray Llewellyn, a pseudonym for composer/conductor David Rose (married to Judy Garland 1941–1945).

Highway Patrol was an international phenomenon, aired in 17 languages in 71 countries, including Argentina, Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, UK. The show spawned toys, games, costumes, comic books and fan clubs.

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry is credited with writing five episodes, sometimes using the pseudonym "Robert Wesley". Future producer Quinn Martin is sound supervisor in the show's early years; style elements of "Highway Patrol" are evident in his later productions: (The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Barnaby Jones, The FBI, The Streets of San Francisco).

Highway Patrol was produced for four TV seasons. ZIV reportedly desired a fifth season, but Crawford declined. He later starred in the ZIV series King of Diamonds playing diamond insurance investigator John King.

When asked why the popular show ended, Broderick Crawford said, "We ran out of crimes." In fact, Crawford had had his fill of the show's hectic TV schedule (two shows per week), which had caused him to drink more heavily than ever, and he had decided to leave Highway Patrol to make films in Europe. ZIV held up Crawford's ten per cent share of the show's gross (some 2 million dollars) until Crawford agreed to sign for a new ZIV pilot and TV show, King of Diamonds. After returning from Europe, Crawford signed his new contract with ZIV and would later star in King of Diamonds playing diamond insurance investigator John King. King of Diamonds lasted only one season before being cancelled in 1962.

Like most ZIV series, Highway Patrol repeats were syndicated for many years, sometimes with name Ten-4. In 2010, ThisTV began airing the series.

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SD (Standard Definition) File

File Name of SD Episode: 868-154 Highway Patrol.mpg

Total SD Episode Video Runtime (hh:mm:ss): 00:28:27

File Size of SD Episode Video: 1,342,106,476 Bytes

Resolution of SD Episode Video: 720x480

Date SD Episode Video Uploaded: Saturday, July 6, 2013 - 12:45

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