Airplane! The Naked Gun. Kentucky Fried Movie. When it comes to the classics of modern comedy, Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker were kings. After several popular films, the trio went to ply their trade on television, bringing along one of their secret weapons from Airplane!, Leslie Nielsen. In 1982, ABC broadcast the first episode of Police Squad!
Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long. A parody of the cop dramas of the ‘60s, Police Squad! lasted only six episodes. Each one was packed with their usual silly wordplay and strange sight gags, requiring rapt attention from the audience as jokes flew by at a breakneck pace. When canceling the show, then-entertainment president Tony Thomopoulos said that it was canceled because “the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it.” This wasn’t the type of show where you could read the newspaper while it was on and still expect to keep up. TV Guide at the end of 1982 would call this “the most stupid reason a network ever gave for ending a series.” There was more that could be done with the show, which was evident, as The Naked Gun films, which were direct sequels to the TV show, proved to be incredibly successful.
But today in From the Archives we’re going a little bit deeper. Even though the show was canceled after six episodes, there is a little more comedy history for us to discover. Writer/producer/director David Misch has given us all a gift in the form of his unproduced script for the seventh episode of Police Squad! entitled “Testimony of Terror or: A Kitten for Amy.”
There is, of course, a big difference between reading a script and watching a finished version of a thing, especially when the program in question is something so visual as Police Squad! So, obviously, there are some jokes that would play a lot better if we could only see them. For example, when an elevator’s doors open early, revealing nothing but sky, and a parachutist jump out. Others, on the other hand, work beautifully:
How’s the Ironblock investigation going? Did you get any fingerprints at the scene of the squishing?
Yeah, but they’re not back from the lab yet. Olson’s kind of slow.
Don’t worry – some day, your prints will come.
In this episode, the action centers around police chief Ironblock who announces that he has just secured a witness to bring down a corrupt government official. In response, a hit is put out on him, and his car is crushed with him still inside. Ironblock is now literally an iron block. This plotline is inspired by two other pieces of 1960s culture, within this parody of ‘60s cop dramas, the first being Ironside which starred Raymond Burr as a wheelchair-bound officer, and the second, according to Misch, is the famous car-crusher scene in Goldfinger. Put them both together and you’ve got Chief Ironblock. Later, a very similar character, played by Omar Sharif, would appear in the 1984 Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker movie Top Secret!
Ultimately the story is one about redemption and recovery as Ironblock is forced to deal with his new circumstances. When he finally returns to work, his coworkers attempt to treat him normally, but everything seems to be a reminder of his new affliction.
Yeah, we’re gonna have to do something about that tummy, Chief. Maybe you and I can play a little squash.
Ironblock looks unhappy.
NORBERG (snaps his fingers)
Oh, I can’t do it tonight – I have to go to a block party.
Ironblock now looks stricken.
And, of course, I have to be home in time for “MASH”.
We’ll iron out the details later.
Drebin grabs Norberg.
Norberg, don’t you think you should let the Chief alone?
Yeah, you’re right.
Hey, I know – I’ll get you your favorite drink… an orange crush!
It would be very easy for me to simply quote favorite scenes from this hidden gem, but thanks to David Misch, I don’t have to. The entire script is online for you to read right now, over here! Enjoy the script, lament at the fact that it was never produced, and marvel at how much care goes into making such beautifully stupid jokes.
Ramsey Ess is a freelance writer for television, podcaster and a guy on Twitter. Check out his web series Ramsey Has a Time Machine featuring Chris Elliott!