Actor Leslie Nielsen, 84, passed away yesterday, apparently due to pneumonia various news outlet reported.
While he may have been known more for his comedy roles in Airplane!and the Naked Gun movies, Nielsen had a fairly successful career as a serious actor from the 1950s until his success in comedy in Airplane!
He even had a stint as the TV spokesperson for Shell Oil in the 1970s, and had asked for $30,000 just to audition.
My funniest memories of Nielsen were in the short lived series Police Squad! which was cancelled after airing just four if its six episodes in 1982 on the ABC network.
The premise for the show was a spoof of most 1950s and 60s cop TV shows. Most of the format from the show was like many of the QM Productions shows, such as The Fugitive, The FBI and Barnaby Jones.
Each episode began with the same announcer, Hank Simms voice over the show's title graphic, "Police Squad, in Color," a throwback to the mid 60s TV lineups that had shows that were produced in Black and White as well as in Color.
A police car's "bubble gum machine" of rotating rad light was shot from roof of the car as it is seen speeding through traffic.
Simms would announce "Tonight's Special Guest Star" who would then be killed in the first scene.
Then Simms would announce "Tonight's episode: A Bird in Hand" while a title graphic would flash a completely different title "The Butler Did It."
After the first break, a graphic "Act one" would appear like all of the Quinn Martin shows of the 60s and 70s. The show required a great deal of concentration as to not miss the many sight gags and non-sequiturs that uttered completely straight. One such memory was a conversation that takes place in the Police squad room. In the background is a map that appears from a long shot as a map of the city.
As the dialogue ends the camera then zooms on the map which is in fact a military map of World War II Europe complete with the positions marked of the Allied and Nazi armies.
All the actors play the role straight, which made the show even more hilarious. Probably because Nielsen had played the straight roles on so many 60s and 70s TV show. He was a murder victim on Columbo and the boyfriend, of a murder suspect on another Columbo episode.While this lead to the feature length Naked Gun movies where Nielsen continued the role of Frank Drebbin, the TV show was much funnier in my opinion.
Like the time where Drebbin is told by the sexy showgirl to come see her at her place. Drebbin narrates, "Two weeks later I go and knock on Suzy Showgirl's door. It took me two weeks because I forgot to ask her for address."
Or the time Nielsen shows his credentials to a witness who says, "REFJFSLDF, RJFJGSJSJFKS?
Drebbin turns the credentials right side up and the wintess says, "Detective Lieutentant Sargent Frank Drebbin?"
There must have been 300 jokes in each half hour episode of the show.
Rest in Peace Mr. Nielsen, thanks for the laughs and the memories.