The Throwback: Ooh! Ooh! Remember 'Car 54, Where Are You?'
May 17th, 2012
04:45 PM ET

The Throwback: Ooh! Ooh! Remember 'Car 54, Where Are You?'

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:

  1. "Get Well, Officer Schnauser": A gift to an ailing Leo is accidentally switched with a fortune of stolen money. On top of that, Toody goes undercover as a beatnik.
  2. "How High is Up": Muldoon becomes paranoid when he unwittingly hits a growth spurt, making him too tall for police force regulations.
  3. "Toody and the Art World": Jokes at the expense of modern art were big in the 1960s, and here we see Toody as an accidental artistic genius.
  4. "What Happened to Thursday?": Toody and Muldoon, knowing that the Schnausers always fight on Thursday, convince Leo that it's actually Friday.
  5. "I've Been Here Before": Toody's TV viewing helps the precinct crack a case when a gang bases its crimes on one of his favorite shows.

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.)

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Willdogs

    I recently ran across "Car 54, Where Are You?" on the My TV Network. I grew up in the 50's and 60's, but barely remember the show when it was originally running. I remember Joe E. Ross later did "It's About Time" with Imogene Coca as well as a commercial for a national pizza chain in the late 60's. The commercial was wrapped around his "Ooh! Ooh!" love for this particular pizza. My TV Network was running "Car 54" on weekends during the summer of 2015 at 3 or 4 in the morning. I woke up in the middle of the night, couldn't get back to sleep, so I turned on the TV. Needless to say, I did not get back to sleep. The show was hysterical. I've since bought both seasons on DVD through Amazon and cannot stop laughing. I'm a former video producer – commercials, educational, and training programs and now teach TV Broadcast to high school students. I may introduce this show to the students to see how they react to a TV sitcom from the Kennedy era. In my opinion, "Car 54" was way ahead of it's time demographically and as clever as "Seinfeld" in it's writing. I understand there were problems working with Joe E. Ross, which probably contributed to the show's short run. As I learn more about Ross, for someone as naturally funny and talented as he was, he could also be extremely difficult and disappointing to work with. I prefer to take the show at face value and appreciate it for the classic sitcom that it is. It is much better than any sitcom on TV today. Long live "Car 54!"

    August 9, 2016 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mel

    I was one of the Nick at Night viewers! Ahh, I remember it so well... how time flies

    January 10, 2014 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. close.

    took us a few days this week..she walked right into again and we got the p-ern think during early this morning.
    they need to be completely unhooked of everything and punished.

    November 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • but who was phone?

      I think car 54 is a pretty cool, he ohh ohhs and doesn't afraid of anything.

      December 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Keith

    Thanks lastlap! That theme song lyric always cracked me up.

    TV fan

    May 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DJ

    I was little when this show was on, but I still remember my dad laughing his butt off every time it was on. It'll be nice to have a chance to see it as an adult.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. lastlap

    There's a holdup in the Bronx, Brooklyn's broken out in fights. There's a traffic jam in Harlem that's backed up to Jackson Heights. There's a scout troup short a child, Krushchev's due at Edelwild! Car 54, where are you!

    May 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Caught

    It's Herman Munster! He's the mississippi highway shooter posing as a cop!

    May 18, 2012 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. Michael Calaizzo

    Looking forward to watching.

    May 18, 2012 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

About this blog

Our daily cheat-sheet for breaking celebrity news, Hollywood buzz and your pop-culture obsessions.