Monday, 29 November 2010

Officer Takeraway, Officer Booker - Foggy Memories of Leslie Nielsen

Back in the late seventies my friends Rob and Jim and other friends would gather at my house on Wednesday evenings at 10:00 to watch Police Squad on ABC, possibly one of the funniest TV shows ever presented. Too clever, it seems, for American tastes as it lasted only 6 episodes and then was cancelled. Years later it resurfaced as a series of movies entitled "The Naked Gun", which if memory serves was the title of one of the episodes of the TV show.

Or maybe it wasn't. That's not important right now, to quote a line from Airplane. Leslie Nielsen narrated Police Squad and starred as Lt. Frank Drebbin. Each episode would begin with the guest star being killed before the opening credits were even finished. Lorne Greene was the first to go, and another week it was William Shatner, (before he was cool again), two Canadians who no doubt traveled in the same circles as Nielsen at the beginning of their acting careers. The narrated title of the episode didn't match the title on the screen so before the story even began we were on the floor laughing.

Episode One ended with a gunfight between Nielsen and a villainous woman, who at one point threw her wig into his face causing him to struggle and writhe and fight for breath until he could pull it off, a sight-gag later repeated in the Naked Gun movies. In the end, on either side of a trash can firing shots at each other, the woman is finally subdued. It was Pepsi-out-the-nose, wet-your-pants funny, and my buddy Rob did both.

Drebbin's partner summons two beat cops to deal with the suspect. "Officers, take her way and book her!" he commands, along the lines of Hawaii Five-O's iconic "book 'em Dano" line. Two uniformed policemen enter the frame, and Nielsen nods in recognition and deadpans his greeting.

"Officer Takeraway. Officer Booker."

The episode ends in a contrived freeze-frame typical of the seventies style of TV, except that only the Nielsen and his partner freeze in mid-laugh, and life goes on in the squad room around them.

I had the chance to meet Leslie Nielsen on Yonge Street in Toronto once. I wish I had taken it.

Instead, I just nodded as we made eye contact and in my mind I imagined our interaction.

"Officer Takeraway..."

"Officer Booker…"

1 comment:

  1. Jeremy...this is a great memory, of a great time in our lives, when TV was funny, without being crude. I vaguely remember the TV Show, but the movies were a hoot, and Leslie Nielsen was always hilarious in any role he played. Sorry to have lost another great Canadian Actor!