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'Car 54, Where Are You?' The sitcom reconsidered

April 24, 2011 |  9:03 am

In Sunday's Calendar I write about the great, undersung early-'60s sitcom "Car 54, Where Are You?," whose first season has just been released, by Shanachie Entertainment, for the first time on DVD. Set and filmed in the Bronx, both on the streets and in the studio, it starred Fred Gwynne and Joe E. Ross as long-partnered NYPD Officers Francis Muldoon and Gunther Toody -- not exactly bumbling but with a knack for complication.

Created by Nat Hiken ("The Phil Silvers Show"), it is broadly played yet finely detailed, a burlesque with a keen sense of place and its melting-pot population. It was surely one of the first network series to integrate its cast, and it did so without making a show of it, and though I want to say that in this and other ways the show was ahead of its time, it's possibly more accurate to say that it reflected its time with unusual clarity. It was often absurd, occasionally sentimental but always rooted in the real.

Read more: "Critic's Notebook: 'Car 54, Where Are You?' "

-- Robert Lloyd