Monday, December 12, 2011


One of television first heroes, world-weary, L.A.P.D detective Joe Friday, saw his world in black and white.

So did the millions of loyal viewers who followed his weekly adventures in crime fighting on the nascent NBC Television Network in the early 1950's.

They didn't just observe the absolutes of good and evil or right and wrong through Friday's eyes , but they watched television's first, true, police procedural, DRAGNET in silvery, shadowy, monochrome images transmitted by their friendly, hometown NBC station.

But, on Christmas Eve 1953, NBC network engineers and programmers joined with DRAGNET's producer-director-star, Jack Webb and his production company , MARK VII, to offer select viewers a holiday present that rivaled the lights and ornaments on their Yuletide trees in hue and palette.

The December 24, 1953 episode of DRAGNET,chronicled the theft of an aged, plaster statue of the infant Jesus in a Nativity scene, from a Los Angeles, Roman Catholic church. The show was consistent with the hit series production values in its use of tight shots, terse dialogue and, for the time, fast pace to convey the daily, methodical, and sometimes minute, challenges confronting a police officer investigating a case.

But this edition of DRAGNET, entitled THE BIG LITTLE JESUS, was different from all that had come before and none that would air until the second run of the durable series debuted on NBC-TV in 1967.

This episode aired on NBC in COLOR.


That branding and it's attendant peacock animation would not be introduced until September of 1957, when NBC first gave viewers the 'bird' on YOUR HIT PARADE.

No,this Holiday special was broadcast in RCA COMPATIBLE COLOR.

That phrase assured the millions of video viewers with B&W receivers that they could also watch the tinted tale of the minature, missing Messiah without having to spend approx. $500,the 1953 equivalent of buying a late-model,used car or the down-payment on a middle class home, for the purchase of a color television set.

Plus,this program aired a scant, few weeks after the Federal Communications Commission endorsed the RCA ( then the parent company of NBC )system of electronic color television, over a mechanically driven color technology proposed by NBC's mortal, corporate rival,CBS. The timing of this broadcast brought, both, focus and immediacy to RCA and NBC efforts in color programming and receiver sales that could not be ignored.

The episode in question was the first episode of a regularly scheduled, network, filmed series to be photographed and broadcast in color.It was repeated often and re-produced for the second run of the DRAGNET series with many of the same cast members.

Re-titled as THE CHRISTMAS STORY,the Peacock Network aired it on December 21, 1967.In this version, veteran character actor, Harry Morgan played Webb's partner in crime-solving.

While the color negative of the 1953 version is , apparently, hard to find, we have posted , below, from theNOLOGORECORDS YOU TUBE site, the complete BIG LITTLE JESUS episode of DRAGNET. Enjoy!!!!

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