Skip to main content
Jack Webb and the Vagaries of Right-Wing TV Entertainment
Cinema Journal (2012)
  • Christopher Sharrett, Ph.D., Seton Hall University
Any reflection on the reactionary ideology of television entertainment during the Cold War years and after must consider Jack Webb. One of the industry's auteurs, Webb created the iconic cop show Dragnet, a program that today seems little more than propaganda for the Los Angeles Police Department. Dragnet was conceived at a time when the institution was fast losing legitimacy with the urban poor and even sectors of the middle class, but the show is more than a defense of the police. It wants to define "American values" and to separate the righteous not just from criminals but from all the mis-fits, oddities, and malcontents who pollute the American landscape. Webb began as a supporting actor in Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950) and decent films noirs such as Dark City (William Dieterle, 1950); Appointment with Danger (Lewis Allen, 1951); and most crucially for Webb's authorial vision, He Walked by Night (Alfred L. Werker, 1948), which would become Dragnet's stylistic template, from its semidocumentary quality down to its opening title card that read, "The names have been changed—to protect the innocent." After originating Dragnet on radio in 1949, Webb...
  • Jack Webb,
  • film,
  • ideology of television,
  • Dragnet,
  • right-wing TV entertainment
Publication Date
Summer 2012
Citation Information
Christopher Sharrett. "Jack Webb and the Vagaries of Right-Wing TV Entertainment" Cinema Journal Vol. 51 Iss. 4 (2012) p. 165 - 171
Available at: