Vintage TV: Adam-12

When I was five, I wanted to be Jim Reed, the rookie police officer on the TV show Adam-12. The show had everything a five-year-old boy could want – cop cars, sirens, and bad guys – and Reed was in the thick of it, yelling “Freeze!”, cuffing suspects, and saying “One Adam 12 roger” into the radio. It was big stuff to little me. It helped a lot that Reed and I had the same first name and that we looked a bit alike; his black hair was even parted on the same side as mine! Check it out:

Reed was the man.

I faithfully watched nightly reruns of Adam-12 during my 1970s kidhood. (I couldn’t watch in prime time because the show was on after my bedtime.) I became a student of all things LAPD that I could learn from the show. I knew what all the radio codes meant – Code 2 meant drive to the scene with no lights or siren, Code 3 meant drive real fast to the scene with lights and siren, Code 6 meant they were away from their car investigating something, and Code 7 meant they were at lunch. And I used to hold forth to my longsuffering family about the various crimes committed. 211s (armed robberies) were my favorite because they were always handled Code 3, but I totally grooved on 459s (burglaries) and usually dug even routine 415s (disturbances).

The unloved 1971 Plymouth

Okay, so I liked the show more than a little bit. I could tell you, just by listening to the first five seconds of the opening theme, which season an episode was from. I even had a favorite police car in the series – the 1972 AMC Matador used in seasons 5, 6, and 7, which just looked the baddest. The 1968 Plymouth Belvedere used in season 1 (and the almost-identical 1969 Belvedere used in seasons 2 and 3) looked like dowdy grocery getters in comparison. I disliked the bloated and ungainly 1971 Plymouth Satellite from season 4 so much that I quit watching episodes from that season after I’d seen them three or four times. And yes, I knew the year, make, and model of all the cars. This promo from the show’s final season features the Matador:

Frankly, I drove my family crazy with my Adam-12 obsession. I’m sure riding my bike around the neighborhood making siren noises all the time didn’t endear me to the neighbors, either. But I figured my family’s pain, at least, had healed this Christmas when my brother gave me seasons 1 and 2 on DVD. They’re not AMC Matador seasons, but they’ll do.


29 responses to “Vintage TV: Adam-12”

  1. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    Man, that was a good show. I watched it as a kid in the 70s too. It wasn’t till way later on I found out it didn’t bear much resemblance to what the real LAPD was like… a charming show piece, a la L.A. Confidential’s “Badge of Honor”. :)

    The one I always remember was them having to go into a woman’s bathroom and free her toe from the spigot of the tub, acting all embarrassed like a couple of Boy Scouts. :)

    Nice cars… if you could flush the shotgun seat and put a shower in the trunk, you could sell your house and move in. :D For me, though, the archetypal cop car will always be the 1980 Chevy Impala!

  2. Jim Avatar

    LP, the company that made Adam-12 actually worked very hard to make the show as real as possible. There’s commentary on the Season 2 disc set from LAPD officers who worked during those years and they picked some nits but said that overall this showed the job as it was as the time!

    The scene with the woman’s toe in the bathtub was from Emergency, actually. The woman attached to the toe was actress Karen Valentine. (I was a bigger Emergency fan than I was an Adam-12 fan!)

  3. Michael Avatar

    Both good shows, which seem impossible to make anymore.

  4. Jim Avatar

    Michael, yes, today Adam-12 would be a reality show about faded C-list celebrities doing ridealongs with LAPD officers, with contrived situations to make those alleged celebs look foolish.

  5. ant Avatar

    Guys, please, the ultimate cop car is the Crown Vic. Probably wasn’t on Adam-12, though

    Um, a woman got her toe stuck in the bathtub drain? I am rolling my eyes.

    1. G Avatar

      What idiot likes the ‘Clown-Victoria’? My ’69 ‘ADAM-12’ Plymouth Belvedere with 383HiPo 330HP, 727 torque-flite, front & rear swaybars, HD power brakes, HD leaf springs, soup can lights & siren will trash any clown made by ford! Oh forgot to mention Kent McCords autograph on the door helps also.

  6. Jim Avatar

    ant: Yeah, because the Crown Vic hadn’t been invented yet during the Adam-12 years!

  7. ant Avatar


  8. Pat Avatar

    GREAT memories! I too was hooked on Adam-12 and later on Emergency!. I thought it was the coolest to have those crossover episodes where Reed & Malloy would show up on the early episodes of Emergency!. I had the thrill of a lifetime at one of the Route 66 festivals in Springfield a few years back where Martin Milner appeared for autographs. He was there for his Route 66 TV show fame, but I brought along my Adam-12 lunch box I used when I was in grade school for him to sign:

  9. Loneprimate Avatar

    Hey, Jim, I wondered if I might be remembering the scene as being from Adam 12 when it might have been from Emergency… they were both buddy shows set in LA with heroes in uniform… easy to confuse when you’re five. :)

  10. Loneprimate Avatar

    I don’t doubt the guys in the LAPD think a show about a couple of white knights is pretty close to reality… it might be at odds with the way more darkly-complected folks in Watts remember things, though. ;) Now that’s a commentary track I’d like to hear… one of each, sipping coffee, watching the show together… :D

  11. Pat Avatar

    Dig it! I met Martin Milner a few years ago over in Springfield, IL at a Route 66 festival. Brought over with me my Adam-12 lunch box I had in grade school (still complete with thermos) for him to sign. His eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning when I pulled it out of my bag for him to sign.

  12. Jim Avatar

    LP, I get your point.

    Pat, I am waaay jealous!!

  13. Gil Avatar

    I like you enjoyed Adam-12 and later joined the LAPD. The first car I drove while there was the 72 Matador and I loved the car. I now own a 72 Matador Police car and it’s wuite a hit at local car shows.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Cool! If you have any photos of your car online, I’d love to see them.

  14. Charles Millar Avatar
    Charles Millar

    I am a retired police officer who served over25 years. My love affair of law enforcement probably had its beginnings with Adam 12. In my opinion Adam 12 and Dragnet are probably the best and most authentic police shows ever. The Show COPS is also pretty good showing what the street cops go through on a day to day basis

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thank you for your service!

      There is a huge difference between what Dragnet and Adam-12 showed, and what COPS shows! Based on COPS, I feel a lot of sympathy for police, for the nonsense they have to deal with.

  15. Steve Avatar

    Little bit of trivia from one who worker on Adam 12 In the 69 Belvedere and the 72 matador both head liners inside the car had to be repainted a light color other wise Reed’s hair would not have shown and it would have looked odd Due to the the early use of the “Green Screen” effect.

  16. Raymond Avatar

    I was wondering if anyone knows the name and manufacturer of the two-way roof lights these black and whites had. They turned up on police cars from the fifties until the early seventies. I was always curious about them because they looked so distinctive compared to the rotating beacons and early lightbars.

    For the record, I loved all the cars featured in this series. I’ve always loved the shape and style of the 1972 – 73 AMC Matadors. The ’68 and ’69 Belvederes and Satellites had a no-nonsense minimalist style and size to impress. Since I saw the original Gone In Sixty Seconds movie, I’ve also become a big fan of the “bloated and ungainly” 1971, 72 and 73 Plymouth Satellites.

  17. Tom Avatar

    Wednesdays at 8:00 I was in front of the TV watching my favorite show, Adam 12. I was allowed to stay up late just to watch that show. I record it every afternoon on RTV when I’m at work at watch it later in the evening. My favorite car was the Matador and my brother and I would play Adam-12 in my grandfather’s 72 Matador.

  18. Kent Avatar

    I am trying to track down an Adam-12 episode – you seem like the guy to help. The episode included a scene with a teenager reading with a mirror because he was dyslexic. Any idea?

    Thanks, Kent

    1. Jim Avatar

      It’s not ringing a bell. There are several Adam-12 episode guides available online; try Googling for one and looking around.

  19. Norman Avatar

    Hi there,

    Here is a TV related game.

    It is a silly, little, office time-waster of a game.

    Comparing current web terms with police terms Jack Webb might have said.

    Maybe you could mention it on your blog.



  20. Rick Avatar

    Jim, where do u live?

  21. Jim Gray Avatar

    Jim, let me get this straight. Your name is Jim Grey? MY name is Jim Gray!!!! I’m guessing you were born around 1958, give or take a couple years. From your text about the show it sounds like you like the Matador. I’m having an Adam-12 Matador done at the time of this writing!!! This is gonna get REALLY freaky if you live in Illinois.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I was actually born during the Summer of Love, 1967. And I live in Indiana. But you’re right about liking the Matador! It is the quintessential cop car.

  22. Vance Avatar

    I have always loved Adam-12. Emergency, I wasn’t a big fan of. I was more into the cops and robbers thing. I am watching the series from beginning to end right now on Netflix. Some of my other fave cop shows from that time were the Rookies and Starsky and Hutch. I know these shows didn’t start to later in the 70’s but I loved them as much as I did the Adam-12.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Adam-12 was my first favorite! Thanks for the tip about Netflix – the show disappeared from there some time ago and now I see it’s back.

  23. James Gray Avatar
    James Gray

    Hey Jim Grey. This is Jim Gray.
    I have my Matador finished and would like to show you some pics but don’t know how to attach them here ( or even if they can be). If you want to see them, contact thru

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