This Week in Shotguns and Shag Hairdos

Salty Pepper

If the 1970s were the golden age of the cop drama on TV, it started out a little closer to shined-up brass for the ladies. In spite of co-starring roles for crime-fightin' ladies in the mid-'60s (Peggy Lipton in The Mod Squad, Susan Saint James in McMillan and Wife . . . okay, she was married to a cop, but still!), the genre remained more or less a boy's club for a spell. Until 1974, when a mature, mini-skirted blonde took center stage and landed NBC an instant hit: the blonde was Angie Dickinson, and the series was Police Woman, the first season of which hits DVD on Tuesday.

Spun off from an episode of the popular cop anthology Police Story, the adventures of LAPD Sergeant Suzanne "Pepper" Anderson (gotta love the name) were a ratings staple for four seasons in the mid-'70s. Despite the show's success, however, it took heat for the repetitive nature of its scripts (Pepper seemed all too often to be put undercover as either a hooker, a stewardess or a stewardess who hooks) and for the sexuality of Dickinson's character, objected to by feminist groups. The former accusation is certainly true, but it should be noted that once the second season began to tone down Pepper's sexuality, the edge and sass of the series seemed to fizzle. (In retrospect, it's more interesting to note that all this controversy surrounded not some pretty young thing plucked from central casting, but a seasoned actress in her 40s.)

As both a crime drama and crackerjack retro TV, this first season box set delivers—Dickinson always gets her man and always looks fab, backed by boss man Earl Holliman, partners Ed Bernard and Charles Dierkop, and guest appearances from the likes of Larry Hagman, Patty Duke, Bob Crane and William Shatner. (Woohoo! Big Bad Mama reunion!) The Shield it ain't, but Charlie may have never gotten his Angels on the air if it weren't for Pepper.

Also recommended this week: Brokeback Mountain; Free Enterprise: Special Edition; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Special Edition; Howl's Moving Castle; My Neighbor Totoro; The Shaggy Dog; The White Shadow: Season 2.

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