Dick Tracy, He’s a Good Cop


I usually try not to have two “obscure YouTube clips” posts in one day, but I just found this one and couldn’t resist talking about it ASAP. In 1966-7, William Dozier, the producer (and narrator) of the Batman TV series, tried developing some other comic-book and comic-strip franchises into shows. He’d already done The Green Hornet, and in 1967 he produced a pilot based on Dick Tracy. This made sense, since Dick Tracy was an influence on Batman in the first place — Tracy was a cop and Batman worked outside the law, but they both fought grotesque villains with strange motifs and obsessions. But the pilot didn’t sell; neither did Dozier’s pilot for a comedy version of Wonder Woman as a plain-Jane teenager.

I have never seen the Dick Tracy pilot, which apparently is different from the opening credits (Tess Trueheart, Dick’s wife, appears in the credits but supposedly isn’t in the pilot). I’d be interested to know what it was like. Dozier’s Batman was a lampoon, but The Green Hornet was more serious; from the title sequence, it looks like Dick Tracy would have been somewhere in between: the theme song is utterly ridiculous — a surf-band theme whose lyrics consist of only one sentence (at least that gives it six words to Batman‘s one) — but it looks marginally less silly, and seems to point with pride to the resemblance of the actors to the  comic-strip characters.

Dick Tracy is a franchise that really ought to make a good movie or TV show, but never really has.

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Dick Tracy, He’s a Good Cop

  1. The version I posted to YouTube also contains the closing credits:

    You’re right–DICK TRACY falls between BATMAN and THE GREEN HORNET in camp factor, though TRACY is played much straighter than you might think from the opening. Victor Buono, BATMAN’s King Tut, plays the pilot’s villain. And that “surf-band theme” is written by Billy May and performed by The Ventures–a pretty darned impressive lineup!

    I think DICK TRACY is a better show than THE GREEN HORNET, based solely on the pilot, but I can see that it was too similar to Dozier’s other series to go on the air. By the fall of ’67, when DICK TRACY probably would have aired, BATMAN and GREEN HORNET were already out of vogue.

  2. I’m just shocked that Dick Tracy was played by none other than All My Children’s Joe Martin. And there was a pre-Brady Bunch Eve Plumb in the show too!

  3. Had Batman not come in as it did, this one could have lasted a good long time.

    Think about it — you had a neat opening sequence, a not-too-shabby closing sequence (done in a typeface that fell between the campy Batman style and the lethally serious Green Hornet style), and an excellent library of opponents. But more to the point, the title character was shown to have significant character defects that sometimes got in the way of his social conscience.

    So sad that I only found out about it this year, when the article dates back more than seven years.

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