They Were So Mod
I was a regular viewer of standard 1970s and 1980s television serials – sitcoms like the Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family (or “The Poopridge Fartilee, as my big sister dubbed it) – as well as hourlong dramas like Emergency and Starsky and Hutch.
And occasionally I’d watch shows like the hip urban high-school drama Room 222, or the cop/detective drama The Mod Squad.
The Mod Squad were mod because they had diversity: Pete, the white cop with a mop of hair and sideburns; Linc, the black cop with an afro and a gap between his front teeth; Julie, the “girl” as we used to call adult women back in those days, played by Peggy Lipton, who would later appear in Twins Peaks.
In the opening credits, this squad of mod cops (as the creators may have called them in pitch meetings, or maybe when one of them was writing the first line of a haiku) individually emerge into view, where they are fleeing some unseen menace in a dank, urban tunnel. The camera freezes each in a closeup; the second one frozen is Clarence Williams III, who played Linc. Once together and in full view, Pete and Linc take Julie by the arms and they run off, suggesting that she’s not strong enough to keep up.
I remember almost none of the Mod Squad episodes, but somehow one scene was seared into my memory from the moment I saw it. As I recall it, some strange malady (or maybe poison, or drug) is afflicting people, causing intense headaches and paranoia. Maybe Pete is suffering from it as well. Linc is trying to save someone – maybe Pete? (can’t remember that detail) – who is in the throes of the malady, but when he approaches, the ailing victim doesn’t believe this black dude with an afro is actually a cop, until Link pulls out his badge and flings it across the room yelling, “Believe it man!” That line – “Believe it man!” – is one that I somehow can’t shake from my memory, many decades later.
As we are about to go to press, I ask my band of editors for a few extra minutes so I can scan the Mod Squad episode list on Wikipedia (I know, you hate Wikipedia; so do I, except almost every time I call upon it to give me information like this). Very likely, the episode in question is "Find Tara Chapman!" The summary of this episode is that the mod cops are trying to track down a "dying girl on the run" who may unwittingly spark a "meningitis epidemic." Hmm. That makes some sense. Meningitis affects the brain and can make people incoherent.
Alas, we lost Clarence Williams III in early June. Believe it man.