Just The Facts, Ma’am: Everything You Want To Know About “Adam-12”

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, R. A. Cinader and Jack Webb 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.

“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.

One Thing That Was Actually Fake

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.

Real-Life Roles For A Realistic Show

Shaaron Claridge, a professional L.A. dispatcher, provided the dispatcher’s voice on Adam-12. Webb insisted the real voice would make the show seem more realistic. When Webb launched his new show Emergency! in 1972, a real-life emergency dispatcher was again hired to play the voice role to add realism to scenes.

He Played The Role All Too Well

Probationary Officer Jim Reed is portrayed on Adam-12 as a new police academy graduate when he’s partnered with veteran Officer Pete Malloy. He must have had more than a few déjà vu moments since Kent McCord played the same character on several episodes of Dragnet almost a year before Adam-12 premiered.

Authenticity At Its Finest

Malloy’s LAPD badge number was 744 and Reed’s was 2430. Since badges are reissued when a police officer retires, permanent numbers are called “Serial Numbers.” Just in case anyone was watching closely, the directors and producers ensured Reed’s serial number was 13985, which would actually coincide with Academy graduates from 1968, the year Reed’s character joined the LAPD.

How They Filmed Close Up Shots

Reed and Malloy had a lot of close-up shots in their car. When the camera and crew in the car that was towing them reflected in the windshield, the windshield was scrapped. But that caused Reed and Malloy’s hair to blow in the wind, so a transparent shield was built to enclose the front of the car and the camera.

Real Plates Can’t End in “I”

In the midst of shooting the Adam-12 series, the California DMV started issuing six-digit vehicle license plates in the letter/number format. The final letter was never I, O, or Q, so letters could not be confused with numbers. The civilian vehicles on Adam-12 typically had the letter “I” as the final letter, signifying they were movie/TV prop plates.

Cops Keep Up With Trends

When Adam-12 was a couple 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.

The Show Wasn’t That Accurate…

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. Actual LAPD police officers’ shooting skills are tested every two years.

Cruisin’ Through Many Shows

Good taste knows no limits. The metallic blue Corvette Kent McCord drove in several episodes of Adam-12 was the same hot car that Martin Milner drove when he starred in Route 66. Martin Milner’s youngest son, Andrew Milner, drove a mini-bike as Johnny Whitaker’s stunt driver in the episode “Adam-12: Northeast Division.”

When They Weren’t In The Patrol Car

In several episodes in the later seasons, Malloy grumbles about his personal car, an AMC Matador coupe, that 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 reflected badly on their brand.

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 general, 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 also one of Kent McCord’s best friends. Harmon was billed as Kristin Nelson in the show’s credits.

How Realistic Can These Characters Get?

Although Adam-12 was well-known for its realistic portrayal of suspects, criminals, and victims, those roles were all played by professional actors, not real lawbreakers and sufferers. But during the first couple of seasons of “Adam-12,” Reed and Malloy often relied on an informant named T.J. (played by Robert Donner) who was actually a recovering heroin addict.

Not Even Cops Are Faithful…

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. Reed’s character wears a wedding ring in the first few seasons of the show but it disappears in later seasons. Furthermore…

Reed Plays The Game

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 Caught

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. Mattel toys honored Adam-12 in 1999 by introducing a die-cast toy police car based on the show as part of their “Star Car” series.

A Family Affair

Sometimes it helps to know a show’s star…or 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 in episode #164, “Adam-12: Victim of the Crime,” which aired in 1975.

Following Their Father’s Footsteps

Kent McCord’s daughter Kristen 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. Kristen now lives in Los Angeles and is an actress and composer. Her sister Megan is also an actress.

A Woman We Only Knew By Sound

Shaaron Claridge, the real-life Los Angeles Police Department police radio dispatcher who voiced the Adam-12 operator, 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 never shown 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 real science behind this. It’s because psychologists believe that women’s voices tend to be more soothing, which can help diffuse a tense or stressful situation. A police dispatcher’s job is not an easy one, and requires excellent communication skills.

Martin’s Many Roles

A prolific actor, Milner also appeared in many other television shows including Route 66, Emergency!, The Swiss Family Robinson, 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.

A Passion For Acting

“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 when he was 83 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.

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 a television series called Whirlybirds, where he played the owner of a helicopter chartering company. He also appeared as a helicopter pilot in one episode of Lassie and 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 The Bionic Woman television series, got her prime-time acting start on Adam-12. She appeared in Season 4, Episode 2, “Million Dollar Buff.” Wagner later appeared in programs like Marcus Welby, M.D., The Fall Guy, and NCIS.

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. He died in 1994, at the age of 64.

Was It Really Worth Dying For?

The series finale took place in a 1975 double episode called “Something Worth Dying For.” It involves Reed busting a drug dealer and earning a trial spot on the Vice Squad. He doesn’t enjoy the experience and returns to his regular patrol after rescuing Malloy during a violent arrest.

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 and Farscape.

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.

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.

Mustin Must’ve Loved These Two Shows

Veteran actor Burt Mustin (born Burton Hill 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.

Typecast As 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 Campbell as a drunk driver named Edward Brown.

You See This Woman Everywhere

Aneta Corseut, who played the Mayberry sheriff’s long-time girlfriend Helen Crump on The Andy Griffith Show, first 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. Corseut died in 1995.

Cloris Leachman Was 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.

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!

A Fan Favorite

Another fan favorite episode of Adam-12 is 1969’s “He Was Trying To Kill Me.” The officers are called to a residence on a theft charge, but soon discover a tragic case of child abuse and neglect. The episode guest-starred Hampton Fancher, Bambi Allen, Dawn Lyn, James Driskill, and Lew Brown, among others.

There Was Sort Of A Made-For-TV Movie Reunion

While the full cast of Adam-12 never reunited for a reunion (there was no Netflix back then), 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.

Playing Both A Good And A Bad Character

Rachel Romen first appeared on Adam-12 as the wife of Malloy’s slain best friend in the season 3 episode “Elegy for a Pig.” She was so impressive in her role that she was later cast as the women who killed her own mentally disabled husband. It was quite the turn of character but she portrayed both roles brilliantly.

Uncle Fester Is That You?

In season four, episode 18, “Adoption,” the character Harry Rustin, a grizzled trainer for a college football team is portrayed by Jackie Coogan. He was discovered as a child by Charlie Chaplin and would go on to become the beloved “Uncle Fester” in the “Addams Family” TV series. He acted in Hollywood for more than 50 years, including a starring role in the very popular 1920’s movie, “The Kid.”

The Munsters And Adam-12? It Really Happened

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 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” home resides.

Hey, You Didn’t Play That Role!

The roles of Lee Stanley (Officer Johnson) and Claude Johnson (Officer Brinkman) are mistakenly switched during the closing credits. With such close names to those characters in real life, we can understand how this occurred. For a show that only ran seven seasons, there sure was a lot going on with the credit sequences, both to open and close every episode.

Requesting Bulletproof Vests

If you want a look back at the life of police officers with an eye on detail, 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 army as needed. 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 Mayberry keep on rolling in. Not only were actors and actresses from “The Andy Griffith Show” featured on “Adam-12” but so was the fictional 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.

Mimicking A Real Los Angeles Police Station

The interior of the police station seen throughout the series was 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 set was built to “mirror” the interior of the real police station, adding, even more, authenticity to the TV series.

The Series Name Didn’t Really Matter

Yes, in real life “Adam-12” would not have been the name given to our hero officers. However, as the show continued the two officers spent so much time working in different police divisions that the incorrect name was a moot point. In reality, no officers would ever spend that much time jumping from one police division to the next.

The Acting Career Of An Olympian Was Launched On The Show

Bob Seagren, the gold medalist in the pole vault at the 1968 Olympics experienced his first acting job on the set of “Adam-12. Seagren is best-known for his role on the series “Soap,” where he played the gay partner of Billy Crystal’s character. A lot of famous actors and actresses appeared on “Adam-12” and many new stars were discovered during the TV show’s seven-season run.

A Country Music Legends Only Role

Johnny Rodriguez took on the role of a motorcycle rider who struck a pedestrian, it was his only acting role throughout his career. In real life, he is a country music artist who debuted a string of hits in 1970’s and 1980’s. He was credited as a special guest star in this episode but didn’t pursue acting after the TV episode aired. The show was filled with guest stars and if you look back at our list you’ll spot many of those men and women.

Soul Station?

During season four, episode 20 “Sub-Station” a guest appearance is made by Sid McCoy. He plays a dispatching officer in the episode but is 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.

A Magically Changing Car Make And Model

During season four, episode 5 “The Search” you should 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. Oops.

A Shout Out To His Friends

Jack Webb had no problem casting his friends in his TV shows. 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 behind 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 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” had a bunch of them, but this one was pretty glaring.

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 days on “Adam-12” came to an end, McCord became a Los Angeles Reserve police officer. Reserve police are a volunteer or paid police, whose duties vary by jurisdiction. It looks like he couldn’t get enough of the police action he first experienced as an actor.

There Was A LOT Of Family Involvement

Martin Milner’s son performed stunt motorcycling riding in one episode, and his daughter guest starred in another episode. It didn’t end there as Kent McCord’s son appeared in another episode and Tim Donnelly appeared in two episodes while his brother Dennis directed a number of episodes. Bobby Troupe also guest starred while his daughter worked on the show’s scripts.

Jack Webb Was Given A Full Officer’s Funeral

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 Webb’s death, Chief Daryl Gates announced his badge number, 714, first used by Joe Friday in “Dragnet” would be retired. Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley then ordered all flags be 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.

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 quickly becomes part of its identity. That wasn’t the case with Adam-12. At one point the opening credits 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.