“He’s a cop. He’s a rabbi. They’re cops! Except for the rabbi.”
They made fun of just about everything under the sun on “Mystery Science Theater 3000” so why not one of the most dependable plot devices in the entire history of TV. Seems like as often as you get a show about two cops going about their business, you get another show about a cop who teams up with a non-cop that he must depend upon to solve crimes. Frankly, I think the latter example is probably a bit closer to reality. Where I live, I wouldn’t hire two cops to solve a “Wheel of Fortune” puzzle with only one letter still blank.
Yes, for the record, there actually was an example of this cop show gimmick in which a cop teamed up with a rabbi. They were both cops. Well, except for “Lanigan’s Rabbi.” Rabbi David Small began to show off his peculiar knack for deductive reasoning in front of Police Chief Paul Lanigan. Lanigan became so impressed that he started bringing in the rabbi to help with crimes in the seemingly placid small California town of Cameron.
Crime with Father
How far back does the gimmick of a cop depending on the most unlikely of partners go? At least as far back at 1951, which is nearly as far back as the medium of TV goes. Even at the point, the greater majority of Americans still did not own a TV set. Which meant they could not enjoy the brief run of “Crime with Father.” Jim Riland was apparently a competent enough cop to rise to Captain. Maybe the problem was with the rest of his force. At any rate, whenever Capt. Riland needed assistance solving a prickly case, he turned to his daughter Chris.
One must assume that the idea of “Crime with Father” originated at least with one conversation at which the topic was Ellery Queen. The movies and radio had their shot at Ellery before 1950 saw him arrive on the small screen. If the prototype for this type of show goes all the way back to Sherlock Holmes and Watson, then the fine tuning that turned it into a cop show almost certainly can be traced back at least to Ellery Queen. Ellery is a mystery novelist who very often finds himself called upon to enter into a murder being investigated by his father, NYPD Inspector Richard Queen.
Holmes and YoYo
A bit of cheat here, one might claim. After all, Holmes and his new partner Gregory Yoyonovich are both supposed to be members of the police force. But thought “YoYo” may look like any other overweight detective, he is in reality an android who perfectly replicates the appearance of a human being. Of course, he didn’t look like a human who weighed over 400 pounds and rare indeed is the human with a photographic memory. Almost as rare as the human who is also a built-in printer.
The guy started out as a tight-lipped entity of pure evil. Then Anthony Hopkins gave him the gift of gab and transformed him into an anti-hero. On TV, there really is no other word to describe Hannibal Lecter except for hero. After all, he helps a federal cop named Will Graham solve murders. He’s a psychiatrist. Graham doesn’t yet know that Hannibal Lecter is also a cannibal.
One of the most normal offspring of the Ellery Queen concept is perhaps not so coincidentally titled “Castle.” Rick Castle is a writer of suspense novels who teams up with an NYPD homicide detective whom the writers make far too many characters describe as brilliant when, in fact, Det. Beckett seems pretty run of the mill. Oh well, at least she’s not a vampire and Castle’s not a zombie.