By on February 13, 2012

I am amply qualified to make the call on this topic. I have been a TV addict since I was a preschooler in the late 50s, and I still consider television to be the finest educator in my life, so I believe that I can make a well-informed opinion about the medium.

The fact that my television roots extend into the pre-Kennedy era in the White House means that I can include the 50s TV shows in my range of expertise. However, my choice for 3rd place has its roots in late 60s TV and takes place on the mean streets of LA, ‘Adam 12’.

The first and only requirement of my contest is the generous use of police cars in the opening credits and ‘Adam 12’ fits the guidelines. The dispatch message is a call to action for the boys to roll, and the 1968 Plymouth Belvedere is the starring set of wheels in the introduction to season one of ‘Adam 12’.

Malloy pinned the Belvey down a straight stretch of LA pavement as he and Reed tackled everything and anything each week in the half hour crime show. It was a magic sequence that opened up endless possibilities for the boys every time they jumped into the car.

Number two on my list came from the 50s and was an early pioneer in cop car TV shows. Highway Patrol’ had a strong theme song that suited its no-nonsense message every week. Its star was Broderick Crawford, and he never built his acting career around a comedy theme.

The opening sequence was filmed from above the highway and involved two 1955 Buick Century patrol cars in a roadblock with a subsequent driving sequence with Crawford behind the wheel of one of these special CHP order Buicks. It was a stylish introduction to a pretty cheesy TV program.

My choice for number one was a well-scripted 80s TV show called ’Hill St Blues’. The introduction featured a police garage door opening and a 1976 Dodge Monaco flying out, light bars blazing, as it answered an armed robbery call.

The posse of police cars grew as they charged towards the robbery location sliding around corners on the slippery winter streets. It was television magic and viewers loved every minute of trouble on the Hill.

‘Hill Street Blues’ had a brilliant opening sequence and was my runaway choice as the best cop car stars in a TV police drama. The music, the driving and the gritty realistic feel to the introduction put this show in front of every one of its competitors.

It was a bonus that it was also a very good TV show.

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37 Comments on “The Three Best Cop Car Opening Sequences In The History Of Television...”

  • avatar

    I like Robocop the TV series

  • avatar

    The easily-missed Police Squad summer fill-in TV show was incredibly awesome.

    A doobielicious delight I reveled in shortly before I tossed the TV out the rear window for the period of around 15 years when there was no TV within the shanty.!

    YouTube has several examples….

    Many garbage cans died at the hands of rampaging cars in the filming of the show.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks, you beat me to it.

      I liked Johnny the Snitch

      It’s a bypass operation, Johnny.


      The guy has a history of sinus bradycardia.

      I wouldn’t know anything about it.

      You got him on atrophine?

      Of course.

      Do a midline thoracotomy,
      strip the saphenous vein,
      be careful not to puncture the myocardium.

  • avatar

    Here in Los Angeles they occasionally show Highway Patrol (maybe on THIS TV)…pretty cool show, I’d never seen it before.

  • avatar

    My favorite? The view from the cop car cherry on top in “Police Squad”. Tip of my hat to Educator_Dan for keeping Leslie Nielsen’s memory alive with the world’s greatest avatar! Still makes me laugh every time I see it.

    The second? “Highway Patrol”. As I recall, the view from the car coming toward the roadblock, and for the life of me, I could never figure out how the camera car got through the roadblock and not hitting the officer to boot!

    The third? There is none in my mind. Maybe “Car 54, Where Are You?”.

  • avatar

    Not one of the best openings but totally one of the best cop shows (comedy) of all time: SLEDGE HAMMER!

    also, check out the wiki!

    “Hammer drives a beat-up, bullet-riddled, lime green Dodge St. Regis with an “I ♥ VIOLENCE” bumper sticker.”

  • avatar

    My favorite police opening sequence was not exactly a police show, but it had to be “Emergency” with Gage and Desoto in their shiny red Dodge paramedic truck!

    KMG-365 baby!

    For pure Police intro, it has to be “CHiPs” (love the music and seeing all the american iron that then still used to roll in on the highways in L.A. esp. the Cordoba and old T-bird in the opening sequences!)

  • avatar

    As much as I loved Highway Patrol as a kid, I later learned now ironic his role was. From Wikipedia:

    “Crawford’s heavy drinking increased during the filming of Highway Patrol, eventually resulting in several arrests and stops for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), which eventually gained him a suspended driving license. While representing the California Highway Patrol as “Chief Matthews”, Crawford was known with considerable embarrassment by the CHP as “Old 502” due to his habit of driving under the influence of alcohol (“Code 502″ was the CHP police radio code for drunken driving).”

    While I haven’t watched the show since childhood, I’ve been told that you rarely saw Crawford driving in the show for this reason.

  • avatar

    I think the best opening for a police show is “CHiPs.” OK, so it doesn’t feature cars but the music and the shots of the bikes whipping along the LA freeways are great.

    I’ve slowly been buying the box sets and showing them to my kids. Maybe it’s cheesy, but it’s great family friendly entertainment. I love it more now than I did as a kid.

    • 0 avatar

      I liked the opening of CHiPs but all the crashes really disturbed me as a very young kid. I really liked cars, trucks and trains and seeing any of them damaged just seemed wrong.

      • 0 avatar

        Now that I am older I play a game I like to call “which car is going to crash?”

        I figure it out almost every time. Hint: It’s always themost thrashed car on the road. The weren’t crashing nice new cars, they were crashing beaters. I hope that eases your mind.

      • 0 avatar

        The crashes disturbed you? As a kid that was one of my favorite things about the show! I still vividly remember the massive interstate pileup instigated by a glass truck crossing an overpass; the reflection of the sun into a semi-truck driver’s eyes causes him to brake and jacknife, and a car crashes right through the back of the trailer! It was, IIRC, the biggest staged vehicle crash in the history of television up to that time.

        My second favorite episode was the TV stunt driver who couldn’t get insurance because of his occupation, so he “got back” at the insurance companies by hydraulically-lowering the back of his car on the freeway, sending showers of sparks rearward which of course led to all kinds of vehicular mayhem.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    Yeah – Hill Street Blues! A truly excellent show!

    The lovely theme song really added to the opening as well. Juxtaposed the gritty, winter-y setting of the cars with the beautiful music.

    Really happy to see it on the list!

    • 0 avatar

      And it gave us Barbara Bosson – if you saw her name in the credits, you knew it was a Stephen Bochco production. He was her husband, and it seems like the source of the only acting jobs she ever got. Which was understandable. Any role she had could be easily filled with any other would-be actress roaming the streets at the time, and nobody would have noticed the difference. And as Daniel Travanti’s needy, clinging, ex-wife in this show, she was particularly annoying.

      Fortunately, “Cop Rock” seemed to end her career for good.

      • 0 avatar
        Sammy B

        Very true. I’ll wade through her shrill-ness to get some Veronica Hamel scenes, though ….

      • 0 avatar

        I agree completely with Syke and Sammy B about Barbara Bosson. For whatever reason, my college roommate had the hots for her. I guess needy, desperate women did it for him. When Boccho got fired from “Hill Street” after the fifth season, she disappeared.

        As for Veronica Hamel, hubba-hubba.

        Though most fans think “Hill Street” was a shadow of itself in the last two years, let’s not forget that Dennis Franz played Norm Buntz, who was a more lighthearted prototype of Andy Sipowicz.

  • avatar

    Hill Street Blues is tops in my book. However, if you’re a laid-back Panther devotee the opening to In The Heat Of The Night is hard to beat.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    When I was a kid in the 1970’s one of my favorite cop shows was S.W.A.T. The police vehicle in the intro is an International Metro Van. While not a cop car, this is a cool intro. The music is very 1970’s.

  • avatar

    Starsky and Hutch. All the way. No contest.

    The Hill Street Blues gives me a permanent soft-on.

  • avatar

    There’s a holdup in the Bronx,
    Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.
    There’s a traffic jam in Harlem,
    That’s backed up to Jackson Heights.
    There’s a scout troop short a child,
    Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild…


  • avatar

    HSB, best opening. Worked in that building, Maxwell Street Station later given over to specialized detective and task force units. Those Dodges they gave us for a few years had a six and were pigs to drive in a older city like Chicago with narrow streets.

    You could do a modified J turn with the push button 64-65 Plymouths we had using all four limbs, whip the steering wheel to lock with the right hand, push the button to low with the left hand, crunch the accelerator with the right foot while trying the bury the brake with the left foot. You needed a wide street, but a bit tasking on the transmissions, I dropped one at Kedzie and Division at 2:20am going to a man with a gun call.

    And no I am not a kid in mom’s basement…

  • avatar

    What? No Dragnet?
    I saw a Dragnet blooper once where Friday and Bill got out of the car and started talking – someone yelled off camera and they turn back to see the screen still showing the “view from a moving car” Both cracked up!

  • avatar

    Sorry, you are all wrong. It’s “The Naked Gun” movie that wins overall.

  • avatar

    The opening changes from month to month, but COPS has had some pretty car heavy intros. Lots of eventual DUIs not quite making the corner. Of regular shows I have a soft spot for CHiPs. It started right about the time I started riding.
    For the who’s gonna crash game. I seem to remember a lot of 70’s era Novas being paired up with bad guys who lacked basic driving skills.

  • avatar

    I think you’re all missing the point, which is cop CARS, not cop shows. The fact that nobody mentioned “Police Woman” (Angie Dickinson with a gun!) tells me that you were too young to be watching, and should have been in bed.

  • avatar

    I couldn’t find the actual opening scene of “Homicide” an Oz TV series from the 60s which has a spot in my heart, but here’s a Ford parody of it some 20 years later. (Twenty years ago!)

  • avatar

    For cop cars – and other cars, buses, trucks etc., one of my favorites is “The Naked City” series from 1958-1963. They’ve been showing it on one of the Boston area “retro” stations. It was filmed on the streets of New York City and is a treasure trove of classic vehicles. Every outdoor scene is a vehicle spotters dream.

  • avatar

    um…MIAMI VICE!? Sure, it was a Lambo. Sure, it had a bunch of cops out of uniform. But it defined the 80’s as far as cop shows go, sorry, but it just does.

    Second place: Cops. I still remember watching the Minneapolis episode circa 1989ish. As a five year old…:)

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Hill Street Blues for it’s gritty urban realism. As far as Adam 12 is concerned in the earlier episodes they drove Mopar products mainly Plymouth Satelites. Then in the later ones they drove of all things a AMC Matador with the police pkg most likely equipted with the 360 or 401. A friend from H.S in the late 70’s picked one up after the end of it’s run on some police force. It was painted an Earl Scheib Robin’s egg blue. It was quite quick and could smoke the tires.

    One thing about cop shows of that era was that especially after after the Summer of Love they always had to have a plot line with drug-crazed hippies. Then post Manson family it was murderous drug-crazed hippies.

  • avatar

    Hawaii Five-O (first generation):

    It had cars, girls, planes, guns, and violence – all in 1 minute. Plus the best TV music score of the era.

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