August 9, 2017
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars during 2017, on the subject of our favorite squads.
The very first squad-love grabs us hard by the throat, as effective as a Vulcan nerve pinch, sometimes against our better judgment, before our judgment is fully formed.
That’s my line about The Mod Squad (1968–1973), and why I still get a rush thinking about Linc leaning down to give Julie a friendly kiss — not the first interracial kiss on television, but surely the grooviest (despite Lt. Uhura’s undeniable hotness).
“One black, one white, one blonde” — I know, I know, even as a kid I was aware something was off. It was 1960s television in all its sexist, exploitative and manipulative glory. Julie doesn’t even get the dignity of an ethnicity, she’s just a hair color!
Three hippies go undercover to save their skins and solve crimes, selling out their fellow counterculture trippers — who usually turn out to be the bad guys after all — in the process. This weekly reassurance of hippies collaborating, if grudgingly, with cops mollified square parents while seducing pre-teens like me with its relentless style — Linc in that astonishing globular afro and an array of striped pants purring “solid” and “keep the faith.” Julie of the impeccable proportions poured into a paisley mini-skirt or mango colored bell-bottoms, forever getting in or out of the ultimate boogie-mobile, the Woodie, a green and wood-paneled Mercury station wagon that couldn’t possibly outrun any of the Porsches and Jaguars it went up against.
Somehow, despite the morally bankrupt premise, the show managed to touch on the grittier undercurrents of the 1960s that most prime-time TV back then didn’t even acknowledge; abortion, homelessness, revolution, and race. There was something about the rapport between Julie, Linc, and Pete that transcended the After-School Special quality of the plotlines and lent them some subtlety. The crew was believably hip, probably because actors Clarence Williams III, Peggy Lipton, and Michael Cole had lived it all. Clarence was the son of a jazz musician and raised in 1950s Harlem by his grandmother; Peggy a child-abuse victim turned Topanga Canyon love child; and Michael Cole a fatherless, sometimes homeless alcoholic by 12, married with a kid at 16.
Instead of winking at the tackiness of their Hollywood portrayal, the Mod Squad played it straight, in the best sense of the word, affirming for me, as a 10-year-old, that even The Man couldn’t defeat these survivors and their bond, that even in their indentured servitude to both Hollywood and Captain Greer, they were inconceivably cool.
#SQUADGOALS: Annie Nocenti on THE WILD BUNCH | Alice Boone on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS | Gordon Dahlquist on BOWIE’S BAND | Rob Wringham on THE HOME GUARD | Jennifer Krasinski on WATERSHIP DOWN RABBITS | Annalee Newitz on ROBIN HOOD’S MERRY PALS | Adrienne Crew on THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | Mark Kingwell on THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | Adam McGovern on KAMANDI’S FAMILY | John Overholt on THE CLUB | Greg Rowland on THE VULTURE SQUADRON | Sara Ryan on BETSY, TACY & TIB | Chelsey Johnson on VI ÄR BÄST! | Brian Berger on THE JOHN FORD STOCK COMPANY | Sherri Wasserman on THE WARRIORS | Jessamyn West on FAREYNIKTE PARTIZANER ORGANIZATSYE | Josh Glenn on DADA | Matthew De Abaitua on THE TIME | Mandy Keifetz on THE FOUNDING FATHERS | William Nericcio on ZOOT SUIT PACHUCOS | Deb Chachra on FIREFLY CREW | Matthew Battles on THE ANIMAL FAMILY | Ingrid Schorr on THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS | Joe Alterio on THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS | Dan Reines on THE BREAKFAST CLUB | Rob Walker on LES TROIS INSÉPARABLES | Devin McKinney on 1975 RED SOX | Steph Burt on DAMAGE CONTROL | Elina Shatkin on THE HOLOGRAMS | Chris Spurgeon on THE ALKALI METALS | Carl Wilson on NEW YORK SCHOOL POETS | Barbara Bogaev on THE MOD SQUAD | Franklin Bruno on THE AACM | Judith Zissman on THE FUTURIANS | Mimi Zeiger on ARCHIGRAM | Jacob Mikanowski on THE RATBASTARDS | Lynn Peril on THE DALY SISTERS | Anindita Basu Sempere on MEG MURRY’S FAMILY | Libi Rose on THE ENIAC TEAM | Gary Panter on THE TRIBE OF HIPPIES | Peter Doyle on CORNEL WILDE BOYS | Ken Layne on THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG | Molly Wright Steenson on BAUHAUS | Katie Hennessey on BEAT POETS | Mimi Lipson on THE RUNAWAYS | Jordan Ellenberg on BOURBAKI | Michael Campochiaro on THE SUICIDE SQUAD | Deborah Wassertzug on THE BLOODHOUND GANG | Colin Dickey on ACÉPHALE | Douglas Wolk on SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY | David Smay on THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE OINGO BOINGO | Karinne Keithley Syers on BLACKLIPS PERFORMANCE CULT.
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