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21st Precinct

21st Precinct was a mid-1950s highly respected serious police drama on CBS that critics and listeners (who found it) enjoyed it. The problem, however, was that the public was spending more and more time seeking and watching television programming and the potential audience was shrinking and changing its listening  habits. The program was written by Stanley Niss, one of the key persons behind the legendary Gang Busters program. Niss also directed most every episode and was producer for almost half of the series. The producer for the early episodes of the series was John Ives, also a Gang Busters veteran. Syndicated newspaper radio critic Magee Adams said in his review of the series that “the show represents admirable programming judgment.” The program was on CBS in 1953 to 1956, part of the interest in police dramas that began with NBC's Dragnet and was mirrored and enhanced by CBS in its police series The Line-Up and Broadway is My Beat . All of those series were produced in Hollywood. 21st Precinct , however, was produced in New York, and had the cooperation of New York's Police Benevolent Association, the major police officer labor union. The program's first episode was the week after Broadway is My Beat had its final episode. The program has the gritty feel of police officers getting through their day. You had a better sense of the flow of life in the precinct building than you did in other programs that focused on a main character. Publicity for the program stated that the “stories will be a cross-section of an officer’s day-to-day duties: settling a family quarrel, giving first aid, directing traffic, delivering a baby, or encouraging teenagers to become useful citizens. The stories will also relate the never-ceasing struggle against the underworld of thieves, muggers, dope pushers, policy runners, vicious hoodlums, racketeers and murderers.” Precinct Captain Frank Kennelly was played by Everett Sloane for the first 109 episodes and his exit was in the story as a promotion to Deputy Inspector that required a new assignment elsewhere. Actor James Gregory portrayed his replacement, Captain Cronin, and Les Damon took over that role near the end of the series. Radio veterans Ken Lynch, Harold Stone, and the ubiquitous Santos Ortega were regulars during much of the series. Niss was losing actors for the series as Hollywood lured them away. He let the scripts reflect the flow of personnel as a regular precinct would, with officers on leave, transfers, retirements, changes in shifts and assignments, and other reasons that fit to the story. He would create a new role for the replacement cast member in the process. The number of the precinct, 21, was discontinued by the New York Police in 1929, almost 25 years before the series aired, and was therefore available to use as a title. The geography of the fictitious precinct was considered to be Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which CBS publicity described “where tempers are at a constant fever pitch and where anything can and does happen.” After 21st Precinct went off the air, CBS would eventually have another New York-based drama that used actual cases as its springboard. Indictment , written and advised by former Assistant District Attorney Eliezer Lipsky, picked up where the police work left off. The Hehn collection had one episode of that series which can be found at 21st Precinct was originally expected to make a move to television, and plans were made in 1953 for a pilot episode. It is not known if such a pilot program was ever made, but newspaper reports of the time indicate that the preparations were serious at that time. Many of these mid-to-late 1950s programs exist solely because of the Armed Forces Radio Service being supplied recordings by the networks for re-broadcast to overseas personnel and civilians. When the program was aired, tape recorders were beginning to be marketed to consumers. This means there can be significant differences in sound quality from episode to episode. Much of this important series has survived, however. At the time Joe Hehn was collecting programs, there were not many available; what is provided here are only the recordings that are equal or better in sound quality than what is commonly circulating among current collectors. * * * These recordings are part of the Joe Hehn Memorial Collection. Mr. Hehn (1931-2020) was a pioneering collector of radio recordings when the hobby emerged in the 1960s. Digitizing his collection of reel tapes and discs is the effort of a wide range of North American volunteers, and includes assistance of some international collectors. The groups supporting this effort with their funds, time, technology and skills are the Old Time Radio Researchers and a small group of transcription disc preservationists who refer to themselves as the "The Knights of the Turning Table."

This recording is part of the Old Time Radio collection.


21st Precinct 530915 #11 The Dog Day


21st Precinct 540630 #51 The Red Tiger


21st Precinct 540707 #52 The Mover


21st Precinct 540714 #53 The Shotgun


21st Precinct 541027 #68 The Mark


21st Precinct 541110 #70 The Sticks