Santa Claus was very good to me this year, because I got one of the gifts that I REALLY wanted, namely the newly re-mastered DVD set of the complete run of Naked City TV programs from the late '50s-early '60s. This encompasses 139 episodes (some with the original commercials), and it is truly fascinating, IMHO.
For those who are too young to recall this program, it was the first (and perhaps the only) TV cop program that was filmed entirely on location on the streets of NYC. As a result, it is a true time capsule of that city from 50+ years ago. For anyone (like me) who grew up in and around NYC in that era, it is literally a blast from the past.
But, the bonus for car-oriented people like me is that you see the cars of the era as they were really used.
All of the ambulances–and hearses–are either Cadillacs or Packards.
The streets are filled with Studebakers, Hudsons, and every variety of domestic & imported car from that era that you can possibly imagine.
The “marked” NYC police cars are '54 Fords, which–I think–is accurate.
What is absolutely not accurate is the use of Pontiacs by the detectives around whom the series revolves.
Beginning with '58 Chieftain sedans (very similar, but somewhat better-looking than '58 Chevies), and then progressing through '59, '60, & '61 Catalinas, you see these HUGE softly-suspended behemoths being wrestled around curves.
Even the slightest touch of the accelerator or the brake causes these oversized whales to pitch & roll like a dinghy in stormy sea. So, even though–to the best of my knowledge–the NYPD never used full-sized Pontiacs for their detectives, the series does illustrate very clearly how far we have come with handling, braking, anti-dive and anti-squat technology on modern cars.
Anyway…if you are a fan of TV cop programs from 50+ years ago, and if you hanker to see cars of that era, this DVD set is a veritable bonanza.
One of the bonuses is spotting actors who were only bit-players at the time, but who rose to stardom (or at least some fame) in later years.
This list includes Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, Wm. Shatner, Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Christopher Walken, Jon Voight, Suzanne Pleshette (who appears to be about 17 years old!), Dennis Hopper, Jack Klugman, Martin Sheen, Peter Fonda, Tom Bosley, Alan Alda, Robert Redford, Leslie Nielsen, George C. Scott, Al Lewis (in many episodes, each time in a different bit part), George Maharis (also multiple times, in various roles), Walter Matthau, Vic Morrow, Rod Steiger, Martin Balsam, James Coburn, Burgess Meredith, Ed Asner, and more!
No, I am not advertising this DVD set, but I am recommending it for certain people of a certain age…
Edited in order to add:
Another interesting factor of life in the late '50s-early '60s is the vastly different attitude toward smoking that is on view in this series.
In addition to the fact that people are constantly smoking everywhere–including stores, offices, and hospitals–the most amazing sight is how they react when a cop is shot.
Do they immediately call for an ambulance?
Do they check the nature of the wounds?
Do they administer CPR?
When somebody is shot, you light a cigarette and give it to him to smoke!