The Mod Squad was a crime drama that ran on ABC from September of 1968 to August of 1973. It starred Michael Cole as Peter “Pete” Cochran, Peggy Lipton as Julie Barnes, Clarence Williams III as Lincoln “Linc” Hayes, and Tige Andrews as Captain Adam Greer. Aaron Spelling and Danny Thomas were the Executive Producers.
It was an iconic counterculture police series and it earned six Emmy nominations, four Golden Globe nominations, including one win for Peggy Lipton. The episode “Mother of Sorrow” was ranked #95 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.
They were The Mod Squad (“One black, one white, one blonde”), the hippest and first young undercover cops on TV. Each of the stars personified mainstream culture's fear regarding youth of the time: Long-haired rebel Pete Cochran was booted out of his wealthy parents' Beverly Hills home, then arrested and put on probation for auto theft; Lincoln Hayes, who came from a family of 13 kids, was arrested in the Watts riots; flower child Julie Barnes, the so-called “canary with a broken wing,” was arrested for vagrancy after running away from her prostitute mother's home in San Francisco. Captain Adam Greer was a tough but sympathetic mentor/father figure who brought them together.
The idea was to take three young, rebellious, social outcasts and encourage them to work as unarmed undercover detectives rather than be incarcerated. Their youthful, hippie personas made them well-suited to get close to the criminals they would investigate. “The times are changing,” Captain Greer said. “They can get into places we can't.” They'd infiltrate a high school to solve a teacher's murder, an underground newspaper to find a bomber, or an acting class to look for a strangler preying on blonde actresses.
More than a year before Easy Rider, The Mod Squad dealt with the counterculture. Its plots ventured into hitherto untouched social issues: the illegal drug trade, student protest, abortion, domestic violence, soldiers returning from Vietnam, racism, slumlords, child neglect, the anti-war movement, and illiteracy. The Producers wanted The Mod Squad to be about the characters' relationships and promised that the Squad “would never arrest kids... or carry a gun or use one.”
The show was loosely based on creator Bud “Buddy” Ruskin's experiences in the late 1950s as a squad leader for young undercover narcotics cops, though it took almost 10 years after he wrote a script for the idea to get the green light from ABC executives.
The Mod Squad was one of a number of shows — including Star Trek (1966–69), I Spy (1965–68), The Bill Cosby Show (1969–71), Julia (1968–71), and The Flip Wilson Show (1970–74) — to feature African-Americans as stars since the stereotypical roles of Amos ’n’ Andy and Beulah (1950–53). The Mod Squad presented Linc as being on an equal footing to his colleagues. In one series episode, the script called for him to give Barnes a “friendly kiss.” Since the first interracial kiss on American TV had only recently occurred (in 1967), this was still fairly new ground for pop culture. The studio feared a negative public reaction, and asked Spelling to cut it:
“You can't do that,” I was told. “You can't have a black man kissing a white girl.” I won and ABC agreed to let it in, but they warned me I'd receive thousands of complaint letters. I didn't get one.
Linc's “solid” and “keep the faith” were among the current-day slang used on the show, which also included “pad,” “dig it” and “groovy.”
The “kids” traveled in Pete's famous “Woody,” an old green 1950 Mercury Woodie station wagon that was burned up by an arsonist in season two.
Among the show's guest stars were such well-known actors as Andy Griffith, Leslie Nielsen, Vincent Price, Louis Gossett, Jr., Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., Ed Asner, William Windom, Sammy Davis Jr., Richard Dreyfuss, Danny Thomas, Tom Bosley, Martin Sheen, Billy Dee Williams, Sugar Ray Robinson, Tyne Daly, Richard Pryor, and Lee Grant.