Sunday, January 17, 2016

Log 135: Arson (Season 3, Episode 10)

Episode 62

Reed wants to know if Malloy saw the notice about the exam for Investigator 1. Malloy has, but he hasn't decided if he wants to take the exam or not. He's not sure if he wants to work plainclothes. 
Call me crazy, but I think Reed is happy that Malloy may not take the exam.
OK, so before we go any further, that little exchange between Reed and Malloy really confused me. I didn't think the LAPD used the term "investigator", I thought they used "detective". In all my years of Dragnet and Adam-12 watching, I don't believe I'd heard the term other than during this conversation. So why would they have an exam for a rank the force didn't use? 

I reached out to my online friends in the "Adam-12" Facebook group and found out that "detective" was a working title, never a rank. If you remember, Joe Friday's badge read "Sergeant", not "Detective". 

In 1970, the LAPD created the rank of "Investigator" and the badge to go along with it. 

Officers did not care for that title, but the department did not have the funds to change the badges to the preferred "Detective". The department may not have had the money, but Jack Webb did. In 1976, he cut a check to the LAPD for the cost of the new badges.

(Thanks to Kevin, Roger, Michael, and Gary for their help!) 

Now back to "Arson"...

The radio ends their chit-chat with a call to assist the fire department at 4012 Rosedale Street. It sounds like assisting the fire department is getting to be routine. As Malloy flips on the reds, Reed comments, "That firebug again. He's a character."

As 1-Adam-12 and the fire engine arrive at 4012 Rosedale a white car is engulfed in flames.

A helpful citizen is trying to douse the flames with a garden hose, Reed advises him to let the firefighters handle the blaze.

After the fire is put out and the smoke has cleared, a teenaged boy approaches Malloy with some information about the fire. He's sure it was set deliberately and suspects a strange man he saw running away from the car just before it burst into flames.

The boy, Bob Benjamin, describes the man as a couple of inches taller than himself. While Malloy talks to Bob, a man and a woman listen in on the conversation. The man insists that the stranger was much taller than Bob, at least six feet tall. Malloy steers the boy away from the other witnesses so he can focus on the boy's story alone.

Reed talks to the woman, she believes the man was short and stocky and wearing a green shirt. Malloy continues talking to Bob, he describes the suspected firebug as a skinny man wearing dark pants and a short-sleeved, blue-checked shirt.

Meanwhile, nobody is talking to Mr. Cardigan here and he doesn't like that. Instead of waiting his turn, he loudly interjects his version of the truth. He saw a man that was neither skinny nor stocky wearing a plaid shirt and light tan pants. 

Malloy clearly enjoys hearing each witness' perspective on the story.
take me... 
If Pete and Jim want to stop this firebug all they have to do is find a guy who is short or tall, skinny and stocky, who wears light and dark pants, and three different colored shirts at once. Should be easy. 

Reed asks his partner if all six car fires in the past month were even set by the same guy. Malloy thinks they were, the same MO was used every time. Reed's also curious as to why somebody would want to set fire to cars.
"Maybe he doesn't like traffic jams," quips Malloy.
Their conversation then switches from fire to families when they receive a call to see the man at 1247 East Flower Drive about a family dispute. Reed, who's usually not the cranky one, grumbles about the call.
"Why don't they call a family counselor instead of us?" he wonders aloud.

While Pete and Jim wait for the door at 1247 East Flower to be answered, they hear a couple arguing inside the house. The woman from the argument finally comes to the door, and is surprised that a man at the address called the police. She shows them inside to see the man.

Once inside, Pete and Jim meet all the players in this domestic drama. The woman who answered the door is Betty Barlow, the man is her husband, Bill Barlow, and the other woman on the couch is Susie Fisher. Now that they know everybody, Pete wants to know why Mr. Barlow called them. He tells the officer that he called them because he's "fed up to here".
"I'm sorry, that's not really a police problem," Pete informs him.
They may not be able to help Mr. Barlow with his problem, but maybe they can help Mrs. Barlow with her's. She points to Ms. Fisher and tells them to "throw that tramp out".

Pete advises everyone that there's nothing they can do unless everyone in the house wants to be charged with disturbing the peace. He suggests they all talk it over and come to a resolution peacefully and quietly.

But Mrs. Barlow doesn't want to this to end peacefully, she wants to disturb Susie Fisher's peace. Reed restraints the ample woman as she advances towards the scrawny Ms. Fisher. He then asks the bickering Barlows and their guest how all of this started.

Mr. Barlow explains that he rides the bus everyday with Susie. During their daily commute he discovered that she liked football, so he invited her over to watch the SC, Notre Dame game today.
"In my house!" interjects Mrs. Barlow
"My house!" counters Mr. Barlow
Susie loves all this excitement, stuff like this never happened in Hooterville.
After Reed assures Mr. Barlow that there is no law against inviting a friend over to watch to the game, he walks across the room to turn on his TV. While he looks for the station airing the game, his wife decides to adjust his reception.

Betty takes a picture off the wall and starts to hit her husband over the head with it. Pete comes to Bill's rescue and reminds his wife that she doesn't have the right to abuse her husband.
"The law doesn't give a wife the right to commit assault on her husband."
Discovering that she could possibly be charged with a crime doesn't sit well with Mrs. Barlow. She starts blubbering like a toddler. Mr. Barlow quickly embraces his hysterical wife  and promises that he won't let the mean policemen take her away. 
C'mon Mrs. Barlow, don't hug this heel, beat him senseless!
If you do, these two fine officers will handcuff you and put you in their police car!
This one will even ride in the backseat with you!
Seeing how much his footbal-viewing date distressed his wife, Bill asks Ms. Fisher to leave. He then threatens to tell "influential people" how Malloy and Reed tried to arrest his dear wife. The officers happily agree to "clear out", just as soon as they get some more facts for their report.
[Ma'am, if you could just let your husband breathe so he could talk to us, we can get out of here.]

We next see Pete and Jim in the patrol car after darkness has set, the RTO delivers a call for them to see the man regarding an arson suspect at 432 West Broadwell.
"Firebug's having himself a busy day."
"And night."
When 1-Adam-12 arrives at 432 West Broadwell, the address of Sunray Electrical Company, the blaze has been extinguished and a fireman filling out a report greets the officers. He directs them to where the fire had been burning in a trash barrel near a back door. There they also find the man they're supposed to see.

Hal Rosten is a Sunray employee who returned to the office this evening after realizing he left his reading glasses on his desk. When he drove up to the building he saw a man ducking around the back, then he spotted the flames in the trashcan. After he pulled the can in the clear he called the police and the fire department.

The fireman is now ready to roll into the night. Before he leaves Pete asks if the fire could have started accidentally, perhaps from a carelessly discarded match. The firefighter tells them this isn't possible.

"The fire started in the center of a batch of crumpled newspaper, a dropped match would have burned the top, anything smoldering would have burned the bottom. This was arson."
At this point Hal Rosten's boss Mr. Shumley shows up under mysterious circumstances. Rosten didn't call him, he just coincidentally decided to complete some paperwork at the office in the middle of an attempted arson attack.
And the award for biggest head on an Adam-12 character goes to Mr. Shumley.
The firefighter lets Mr. Shumley know that the fire could have been much worse due to the amount of trash piled up against the building. He issues the Sunray proprietor a notice to remove the hazard. 

Mr. Shumley is worried, but not about the fire hazard. He's worried that someone is trying to burn down Sunray. He's read about the arsonist, but he doesn't think he would try to burn a stranger's business.
"What kind of a world is it when people go out and set fires?"
[Sir, we need to know for our report, do you own any pullover shirts or can you only wear shirts that button with that noggin? ]
When they are back in the black and white, Reed comments on how upset Mr. Shumley was about someone trying to burn his business. He asks Malloy if they could check up on Sunray to help set Shumley's mind at ease.

Unfortunately, Reed's suggestion is badly timed.
"Not tonight, it's end of watch."
The next day starts with a call of a jumper at Seventh and Sibley. They arrive at the location to find a scared man on a ledge many stories up and a gawking crowd watching the scene from the street.

Reed is the first one to make contact with the man. He calmly greets the man with a "hi" when he and Malloy stick their heads through the window. The man can't understand why the police are here to see him.
"Why did they send for you?!"
Reed and Malloy try to convince him to come back inside off the ledge. 

But he doesn't need any convincing, this guy wants to come inside. He's cold and scared, but he can't move. He's stuck, not from fear, but from a hook on the side of the building that is caught in his belt.
[OK, Reed, I've already been on a ledge once during the series. It's your turn.]
[You know what you have to do, junior. Get out there.]
Reed to the rescue.
Alley Oop!
After they have the man inside Malloy asks how he got himself into that predicament in the first place. The man tells him that it was all because of a bird.
[A bird?]
[Takes all kinds, I guess.]
The supposed jumper gives estimates for a window-washing company. While he was looking over this building for an estimate, he noticed the nest of a white-throated Arizona wobbler on the ledge. Since he is also a birdwatcher he climbed out on the ledge to get a better look, that's when his belt got hung up on a window-washing hook. Malloy then presents him with a follow-up query.
Malloy asks him where birdwatchers usually do their watching.
"Out in the country, of course. Yeah, out in the country."
Personally, I think he went out on the ledge to yell at the gold Mustang that kept driving past.

As the day drags into night, Reed and Malloy hear yet another call for a unit to assist the fire department. They both hope that the increased patrols mandated by the sergeant will make these types of call less frequent.

After hours of darkness there hasn't been any more calls to assist the FD. They decide to drive past Sunray, just to make sure the firebug isn't planning any surprises for later in the night. But before they can make it over to West Broadwell, they receive a call to deal with a male mental case.

At 3331 Vale Boulevard a hysterical woman answers the door. While she desperately holds onto Malloy's hand, she explains that her sister is being held hostage at knifepoint by her husband who is an escaped mental patient.

They enter the bedroom and find the scene exactly as the sister described. They try to diffuse the situation and get George to release his wife by speaking to him to low, soothing tones. But George is suffering from some sort of paranoid delusion, he's quick to anger and thinks everyone is against him.

George may have his issues, but he is kind of hot. His eyes are a really pretty color. I wouldn't kick him out for eating crackers in bed. Holding a knife to my throat would be a different story, though. 
Reed and Malloy call upon their instincts and training, but fail to get George to give up the knife or his wife. The tense atmosphere is broken when the door buzzer goes off, it seems to temporarily bring George back to reality. Two nurses in white uniforms, capes, and starched caps swoop into the bedroom. The older nurse tells George he is behaving very badly.
She then demands the knife from George.
Shockingly, George gives it to the nurse!
[How'd she do that?]
[ call we get like this, junior here has to dress like a nurse.]
When they're back on patrol Reed marvels at the way the nurses handled George.
"How 'bout them nurses? They're something else, huh?" he asks Malloy.
Malloy agrees, they were something else.
"They really bailed us out," Malloy adds.
Now that they have the time, they finally make their way over to check on Sunray. As they drive into the lot a shadowy figure runs away. Pete and Jim run after the mysterious stranger.

The figure eludes them, but they do find what he left behind, a fire in a trash barrel. Pete manages to tramp it out while Jim checks the roof for the possible suspect.

After the fire is out, Malloy takes a look around the rest of the lot. He hears a noise coming from the top of a truck. When Reed returns from the roof, he sends him to the top of the vehicle to check it out.

Reed must have found the mystery person on top of the truck because we hear him tell someone, "Hold it right there!".
He makes his way down from the top of the cab with his prisoner. I bet you'll never guess who it is.
Mr. Shumley!
Shumley confesses that business was so bad he was going broke. He got the idea to burn down Sunray for the insurance money after he read about the serial arsonist. Shumley was then going to use the insurance money to start a new business. (Which would have probably also failed due to his ineptitude- just saying.) He would have provided a job for Hal Rosten at the new business. After twenty years of employee loyalty from Rosten, he wanted to protect him. 

Pete can't believe how selfish and careless Shumley's actions were.
"Lemme ask you something, Mr. Shumley. Who's gonna protect the men that have to risk their lives trying to put out the fire you start?"
They load Shumley into the car before he can come up with an answer. Over the radio, calls to assist the fire department are still being dispatched. Malloy longs for an end to the firebug's career.
"I just hope we catch that guy before he gives anyone else any more ideas."

The End

This one was quite good, wasn't it? It's been awhile since I've watched this entire episode and I forgot how enjoyable this one is. Most of the calls have at least one part that I really like.

It starts off with a situation that, I'm sure, many police officers find frustrating, eye witnesses giving inconsistent statements. I love Pete's true-to-life reaction when everyone starts giving him their version of what they saw. We then get to see Jim's frustration at being called to, yet another, family dispute. I like it when the boys are cranky, it makes the characters that much more "real".

I think the entire second call could have been avoided if Mr. Barlow would have discussed his invitation to Ms. Fisher with his wife before she showed up to watch the game. Perhaps if he would have told his wife weeks earlier about the tomboy who just moved to Los Angeles from Hooterville she would have been much more receptive to the idea. If I were a 1970 housewife stuck at home all day and my husband suddenly brought home another woman without prior warning, I might have reacted in much the same way. Although this call feels dated, I do find it funny. Particularly Susie Fisher's reaction to being in the middle of the drama. This one did drag on at the end, though. I think they could have ended when he asked Susie to leave. 

There really isn't much to the next call, it just gives us background information on Sunray, Shumley, and Rosten. More on that later.

The next call is my favorite of the episode. I love that Jim kind of takes the lead on talking the jumper off the ledge. I find it hilarious that he and Pete are sincerely trying to help a man they believe to be suicidal when the man isn't suicidal at all, just a hapless birdwatcher.  The whole time they were talking to the man on the ledge through the window, I was reminded of the Batman TV show. That scene made me think of the gag when Batman and Robin would scale a building and a celebrity would pop out of a window and make a cameo appearance. If you don't remember those, click here

My favorite thing about the scenes with the male mental case is the sister. That actress does a great job of being believably hysterical and I love the way she holds onto Pete's hand while describing the situation. The conclusion of this call was a huge relief and added a touch of lightness to a tense circumstance. And the mental case was hot, that was also good.

The final scene, the denouement of the Sunray story, provides a nice twist to the episode. While investigating one series of crimes, they stumbled upon the solution to another crime. No, they didn't break the serial arsonist case, but they did find out who was trying to burn down Sunray. I wonder if Mr. Shumley's confession will be admissible in court, though, since they didn't read him his rights. Nonetheless, it's still an interesting and unexpected ending to a fine episode.

Since I liked this one so much, I give "Log 135: Arson" a rating of:

Do you agree? Let me know what you think in the comments. See you next time with "Log 46: Pilgrimage". 



  1. The non-suicide is Eddie "Rochester" Anderson! Jack Benny's sidekick for decades! You Kids!

    You straightened out another of my Adam-12 confusions. Thank you. I was not sure if the Sunray guy set the first fire and the second or just got the idea from the first fire.

    I love the Tom-Boy lady. Is she also Mrs Zephyr? I cannot remember her other episode, but we have seem her before.

    Reed in a nurses outfit? Lol Poor Reed. He gets the dirty jobs, like the pizza delivery uniform he had to wear, now you have him as a nurse.

    I had not noticed the sister holding Malloy's hand. Perfect. Do you think it was directed or an al-lib from tha tress wanting to get a hold of Martin Milner? Lol

    Thank you, Keely, for another boss entry!

    1. I double checked and the bird watcher is actually Mantan Moreland, he played Charlie Chan's chauffeur. So, still a sidekick from Hollywood of old. But, he could have been Eddie Rochester and I would have missed it because I don't think I have any idea what he looks like.
      This is Mary Grace Canfield's, the actress who played Susie, only appearance on A12. I always remember her as the handy-woman from Green Acres.
      I don't know about the hand-holding. I like to think that the actress just go so into her role as a hysterical sister that she didn't even realize she was doing it. It just seemed like a really great, authentic touch to the role. Usually people are so polite and formal in 1960's/ early '70's shows that there isn't much touching between strangers going on.
      You're welcome!

    2. The big-headed gent playing Mr Shumley (Howard Wallen) is all over the 1950s version of DRAGNET. (Funnily enough, one of the few publicly available episodes he's in also features a younger William Boyett as a smart-mouthed ex-con!)

  2. Hey Keely! It's me, Vanessa (only letting me post as a guest for some reason, silly internet) Anyway--Here's another lil' factoid for you---the Paranoid Guy With a Knife is the same actor who played Reed's buddy Stenzler, who was shot and killed in season 1. :) Awesome blog, as always! :)

    1. You're right, Vanessa! Stenzler was on camera for a such a short time that I didn't even notice that he was good looking!