An Unfortunate Episode: Dragnet Season 3 Episode 21 — The Crimson Crusader

Anyway, Breslin goes on to explain Captain Lightning and his inexplicable power of invisibility. Although the Captain is popular with kids, the movie has been attracting mostly an adult audience. Even so, the kids at the Rex aren’t troublemakers. According to Breslin, the most extreme behavior is “kids throwing their popcorn boxes at the screen when the villain shows up or booing when the good guy kisses the girl instead of his horse.” Um, are kids clamoring for the latter? Friday and Gannon thank the manager and head back to the office.

As Joe fills out the report, Gannon reminisces about his time in the Captain Lightning Fan Club when he was a kid. Again, why did the show have to explain what superheroes are? As Gannon reflects, he also laments the popularity of antiheroes in American culture. He’s not a fan of the cowboy dressed in white kicking dogs and shooting up a town. “No wonder the kids are confused,” he says, shaking his head. Notice how he didn’t turn that into a 5,000 word think piece? Those were the good old days.

Another call comes in, this time from the Hollywood Arts Book Shop.1 It’s another smash-and-grab, but the owner seems puzzled by what was taken. 70-80 comic books, mostly Captain Lightning titles, are missing but none of the really valuable items were touched. As the owner finishes the inventory of missing items, he realizes his Captain Lightning poster that was displayed in his office is gone. “Maybe Captain Lightning can make himself invisible,” he says, “but not his poster.” Wah wah.

Back at the station, Friday updates the report as a citizen walks into the office. His name is Bob Snow, a business student who works at the Arcadia Theater. The day before, while changing the marquee to highlight a Jean Harlow double feature, some guy in a costume swooped in and stole the display art for the theater’s previous bill: Captain Lightning vs. the Martian Devils. The costume is an unexpected twist. Snow describes it as including a bright green cape and a tri-corner hat complete with a plume and insignia. Snow was at the top of a ladder but noticed the thief carried a doctor’s bag, and was short and kinda chubby. Hmm, the prime suspect at this point may be Sir Digby Chicken Caesar.

Snow leaves  just as a call comes in from the Continental Studios publicity office. There has been a break-in, but it concerns Captain Lightning. Gannon and Friday learn from publicity manager Mr. Kelly the studio used to produce the Captain Lightning TV series. The men look around the room for clues. Gannon spots melted candle wax on the photo and Kelly points out some jimmying marks on the window. When asked if he knew of any possible leads, Mr. Kelly recalls a young man who came in that asked for photos.2 Mr. Kelly told the young man there weren’t any available for the public and the kid nearly had a meltdown. The officers ask for a description. “He was no Doug Fairbanks, he was a little guy on the chunky side.” Early 20’s, teenage mustache, somewhat drab. “Like I say he was kinda on the chunky side,” Mr. Kelly reiterates. Seeing as this was the third time in five minutes that the prime suspect was described in non-thin terms, do you think that has any bearing on the case?

A phone call comes in for Friday. The superfan has been collared at the Variety Theater. Gannon and Friday leave as dramatic music takes us to the commercial break.

  1. Located next door to Joe Granger’s Model Agency.  
  2. This was before the days of screengrabs and blogger credentials. Self high-five.  

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About Mike McComb 1024 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail:
  • Tara Rose

    There needs to be a TV blog about episodes that boil down to, “and then s/he went crazy, cuz s/he was fat.” That last image with the crying poster is so creepy and heavy handed that I get the willies whenever I encounter this episode. Then I remember, “Oh yeah, this has nothing to do with anything!” It’s a cautionary tale telling kids… don’t get too into cosplay?

    • Aaron Mucciolo

      No, it’s a cautionary tale telling kids not to press their faces against collectibles and memorabilia – do you have any idea what Stanley did to that poster’s value?!

      • Tara Rose


    • I think the message for kids is “don’t try to meet your heroes” or get into cosplay at all.

      • Tara Rose

        So that puts this in the same class as Tootie’s Jermaine Jackson fan club. Fascinating!

  • ronnatalie

    That’s OK, he turned his life around and got a job with the county fire department 🙂