May 17th, 2012
04:45 PM ET
If the lyrics "There's a holdup in the Bronx, Brooklyn's broken out in fights..." mean anything to you, then you're one of the original fans of "Car 54, Where Are You?" (And/or one of its loyal viewers during its runs on Nick at Nite 25 years ago, and more recently on TV Land).
Before the towering visage of Fred Gwynne was known as the man behind the Herman makeup on "The Munsters" (or later, the judge in "My Cousin Vinny"), he was the timid Officer Muldoon on "Car 54."
And before Joe E. Ross drew laughs with his "Ooh! Ooh!" catchphrase on Saturday morning shows like "Hong Kong Phooey," he was the none-too-bright Officer Toody on "Car 54" (the story goes that "Ooh! Ooh!" came from the fact that Ross often had trouble remembering his lines).
There were many memorable supporting characters in the 53rd precinct (not to mention Toody's wife Lucille), but most memorable of all was Officer Leo Schnauser (Al Lewis, who would go on to play Grandpa Munster with Gwynne), as well as his wife, Sylvia (Charlotte Rae, pre-"Diff'rent Strokes" and "Facts of Life").
The ever-escalating situations each week, as well as the distinct New York flavor of the sitcom, were something of a precursor to "Seinfeld's" style of humor. Kramer and George Costanza would have fit right in "Car 54's" world.
People of Italian, Irish, Jewish and African-American heritage populated the 53rd precinct, as well, something rare for early 1960s television. (The constant references to President Kennedy, Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev and other aspects of early 1960s culture might have something to do with the fact that it was never a perennial, like, say, "The Andy Griffith Show" or "I Love Lucy.")
Both seasons of the short-lived but much beloved series are now on DVD, as it's been a while since the show was nationally televised. Here are five of the best episodes:
It was tough narrowing it down to five. For longtime fans, it's great to see the shows available again. And for those of you who never caught it, check it out.
What are your favorite memories of "Car 54, Where Are You?" (I'm going to go ahead and guess none of them involve the 1994 movie with Rosie O'Donnell.)
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