by Larry Brody
Recently, while looking for elements to use in redesigning this site, I came across the following video on YouTube. None other than the first episode I ever wrote for the classic, multi-award winning NBC series Police Story.
I wrote the script for television’s only weekly police anthology series (different star cops every week with only the name of the police department, and the local bartender remaining the same, while I was freelancing back in the early 1970s. At that time drama shows didn’t have writers on staff. Not as writers anyway.
Story Editors, Story Consultants, even Executive Story Consultants, yes, and occasionally even Producers, but not as staff writers because that would have meant paying more than one or two writers per episode weekly minimums and, horror of horror, pension and health benefits per the WGA.
Things have changed greatly since those days, as have I, but when I saw this old episode, I realized one way everything was the same. I was thrilled, just as I was 45 – yikes! – years ago, to see my name associated with what then was regarded by critics and industry insiders as the best drama on TV.
I’d been writing professionally for television for about five years when this opportunity came up. Here Come the Brides was my first credit, followed by The Interns, Ironside, Medical Center, Barnaby Jones, and a host of others.
The string ended with a terrible but mercifully short tour of duty as Executive Story Consultant and then Okay We’ll Make You A Producer on Baretta, at which time the Police Story opportunity came up – with one proviso.
I had to prove myself by writing an episode of its stablemate, the Angie Dickinson-starring Police Woman – first. I wrote that script quickly, because in TV how fast you can write is always the number one or two thing that everyone cares about. So quickly that I don’t even remember its name or premise.
(That’s a hint. If anyone out there knows, write in and tell me, okay?)
A week or so after delivering the Police Woman, I got the go-ahead for the Police Story, which meant listening to tape after tape of interviews with officers involved with the real case the episode was based on, consultations with former LAPD Chief Tom Reddin, and then draft after draft supervised by probably the greatest writing teacher who ever lived, Liam O’Brien.
No, not Liam O’Brien the actor, whose name keeps coming up if you try to google my Liam O’Brien. My mentor was the author of a Broadway play called The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker, the brother of one-time movie star Edmond O’Brien, and the possessor of an impeccable film and TV writing track record that culminated with his credit as producer of the ground-breaking series Miami Vice. (He was in his 70s at the time, but the world was different then.)
Bottom line. I worked my butt off on this script, which took about five times as long to get right as anything else I’d ever written at the time, and after writing another episode or two for the show and getting my heart broken by Robert Blake on Baretta I ended up as Police Story’s writer-producer.
Glory days. Good times.
Oh…did I mention that during those times I had a heart attack? At 32, yet.
Ah well, anything for the muse.
Here’s the first act of my first Police Story, the first TV episode I ever wrote that I genuinely loved. It’s a little ditty called Sniper, even though the baddy also was a rapist. (Be prepared. Like many careers, this video seems to take forever to start. >sigh<
This show was way ahead of its time. Too bad the very bad transfer from video to film all but makes it impossible to see. If you’re interested, you can find the rest of the video by clicking HERE