Adam-12 featured the year-old LAPD Rampart Division station at 2710 West Temple Street as the setting for the series. However, according to the radio call sign of the unit "1-Adam-12", the patrol area was within the Central Division (Division One), which serves Downtown Los Angeles, rather than Rampart (Division Two). Many of the filming locations were in the San Fernando Valley, and the garage used tow trucks from the North Hollywood Division, close to Universal Studios which co-produced the show with Mark VII Limited. The Temple Street building was closed in 2008, as a newer and larger station now houses the Rampart Division; the old building is being renovated to serve as headquarters for LAPD's Metro Division, an elite reserve unit that includes counterterrorism and SWAT platoons.
The designation "1-Adam-12" is a combination of three elements. The first element indicates the unit's LAPD division. The second element indicates the type of unit. The third element identifies the patrol car's number. The one in 1-Adam-12 means the patrol car operates in Division 1 (Central Division). LAPD assigns two-person units the letter "A". In the LAPD phonetic alphabet, the letter "A" is spoken as "Adam". The third element is the last two numbers of the patrol car's full unit number. In the program, 1-Adam-12 typically operated in the Rampart Division, Division 2, not the Central Division, Division 1, meaning the unit's call sign should have technically been 2-Adam-12. There was never an actual patrol car with the call sign of 1-Adam-12.
Adam-12 was a realistic-style police drama following the lives of two officers of the Los Angeles Police Department, veteran Police Officer II (P-2) Pete Malloy, Badge 744 (Martin Milner) and his rookie partner, probationary Police Officer I (P-1) Jim Reed, Badge 2430 (Kent McCord). Each episode of the series, like those of Dragnet, was based on actual cases with names changed to protect the innocent, and covered a variety of incidents that the officers encountered during a shift, from the tragic to the trivial.
In the series' first episode (filmed in September 1967, a year before the pilot was picked up, and directed by Jack Webb), Reed is less than a week out of the prestigious Los Angeles Police Academy, and is eager to begin his career. Three weeks before, Malloy's patrol partner (and friend) had been killed in an attempt to apprehend an armed robbery suspect; Malloy is deeply saddened, to the extent that he plans to resign from the force. (This situation would be revisted in the Emmy Award-nominated episode "Elegy for a Pig.")
On what is to be Malloy's last shift, the watch commander Lieutenant Moore (Art Gilmore) assigns Malloy to take the young, raw, rookie Reed out for his first night on patrol. Moore was Malloy's first training officer seven years earlier. While Reed shows tremendous potential on his first night on the job, Malloy realizes that his new partner has plenty to learn, and with renewed purpose the veteran officer decides to stay on the job and guide Reed during his nine-month probationary period. His comment to Reed at the end of their first watch together was: "I couldn't turn you loose on the citizens of Los Angeles, not without a leash."
Reed's probationary period is played out during the first and second seasons, after which he is promoted to a full officer. Reed and Malloy remain beat partners. In later seasons, Malloy and Reed began patrolling other beats of Los Angeles, including the L.A. International Airport, the Los Angeles Harbor, the Foothill District, the West Valley area, Venice, Van Nuys, Hollywood, Rampart, and North Hollywood. With Reed having completed his probationary police officer training period and now holding the rank of Police Officer II (P-2), several episodes featured the officers working with other rookie officers, with guest actors playing these one-time characters; some episodes had Reed serving as the training officer, whereas Malloy, having been promoted to the rank of a Senior Lead Officer (P-3+1), who coordinates patrols in many neighborhoods, worked as the acting shift supervisor.
Malloy displays a "Distinguished Expert" shooting medal, Reed displays a "Sharpshooter" medal.
Malloy and Reed reported to Shift Supervisor (Sergeant 1) William "Mac" MacDonald (William Boyett), who occasionally took a black-and-white command cruiser (a Plymouth station wagon carrying extra police equipment) with the call sign 1-L-20 into the field. Reed once questioned why Malloy had not taken the sergeant's exam, as he would have rated higher than Mac did. Malloy related he preferred working patrol on the street to supervision. Malloy later showed he could supervise when Mac was ill, and Malloy filled in.
Several of their fellow officers were recurring characters; the most frequent were Jerry Woods (Fred Stromsoe), Ed Wells (Gary Crosby), Detective Sgt Jerry Miller (Jack Hogan), and Officer Brinkman (Claude Johnson). Shaaron Claridge, a real-life LAPD dispatcher, was the dispatcher.
Over the course of the series, Sergeant "Mac" MacDonald was promoted to Sergeant 2. Lt Moore was promoted to Captain, and served as the commanding officer of the division, apparently replacing Captain Grant (Art Balinger).
The personal lives of Malloy and Reed come up on occasion, and are always tied into their duties. Malloy is a bachelor who has at least two girlfriends during the course of the series (the last being Judy (Aneta Corsaut)), while Reed is married to a woman named Jean (played by several actresses including Kristin Nelson) and later becomes a father.
The police vehicles were central characters in that "mobile patrol units [became] associated with the black and white units made famous in such television shows as Adam-12". It was one of the shows that portrayed "the professionalism of the officers and police departments". Ronald Wayne Rodman pointed out that the theme of Adam-12 referred to a "military style topic while portraying a sense of contemporary action". Douglas Rushkoff noted: "Adam-12 also marked [the] last gasp of the righteous style of cop TV." Their set was not a squad room or an office, but the actors "watched the changes in American culture through the windshield of their squad car".
In 1999, Mattel toys paid homage to Adam-12 by producing a die-cast toy police car based on the series a part of their "Star Car" series.
Episode 2, "Log 141: The Color TV Bandit", stars Cloris Leachman and Melody Patterson.
Episode 8, "Log 72: El Presidente" guest stars James Sikking, later of Hill Street Blues fame(Lt.Howard Hunter) and other various character roles, as an armed robber.
Episode 10, "Log 132: Producer", stars Karen Black (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Airport 1975, Dogtown) and James McEachin (DJ in Play Misty for Me). McEachin also appeared in five additional episodes, each time in a different role, as well as several episodes of EMERGENCY! as a Sheriff's Detective.
Episode 16, "Log 62: Grand Theft Horse?", guest stars Tim Matheson as a horse thief.
Episode 19, "Log 51: A Jumper, Code 2" stars Hal Smith of "The Andy Griffith Show".(Town Drunk "Otis Campbell")
Episode 22, "Log 152: A Dead Cop Can't Help Anyone", stars Barry Williams (Greg Brady of The Brady Bunch).
Episode 25, "Log 92: Tell Him He Pushed Back a Little Too Hard" guest stars Dick Sargent (Darrin Stephens #2 of Bewitched).
Episode 26, "Log 22: So This Little Guy Goes into This Bar, and..." guest stars Harry Dean Stanton as a welfare hustler.
Episode 43, "Log 24: A Rare Occasion" stars David Cassidy of The Partridge Family.
Episode 58, "Log 55: Missing Child" guests stars Jodie Foster as the playmate of a missing child.
Episode 69, "Log 66: The Vandals" guest stars George Maharis as a father of a teenage girl. This episode reunited Maharis and Martin Milner, who both starred in the TV series Route 66.
Episode 77, "Log 88 - Reason to Run" guest stars Randolph Mantooth as "Neil Williams"; and in an Emergency! cross-over episode as paramedic "John Gage", Episode 106, "Lost and Found" This episode also guest starred Linda Kaye Henning of Petticoat Junction.
Episode 80, "The Million Dollar Buff", guests stars Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman)as a jewelry store attendant.
Episode 81, "The Grandmother" guest starred Ozzie Nelson of "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" fame. He also directed this episode.
Episode 82, "The Radical" guest starred Robert Conrad (uncredited) as Paul Ryan of the DA's office. This episode was a crossover with Conrad's series, The D.A.
Episode 91, "The Pickup" guest starred Barbara Hale of Perry Mason and Kathy Garver of Family Affair.
Episode 100, "Who Won" guest starred Dick Clark of "American Bandstand" and "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" fame as Benson, the drag strip owner.
Episode 103, "Dirt Duel" guest starred Edd Byrnes of 77 Sunset Strip and Micky Dolenz of The Monkees as bikers.
Episode 104, "The Late Baby" guest stars both Tina Sinatra and Frank Sinatra, Jr. as unrelated characters.
Episode 137, "Northwest Division" guest stars Johnny Whitaker of Family Affair as a juvenile on a minibike. In addition, Martin Milner's real life son Andrew played Whitaker's stunt double in the minibike chase scene.
Episode 150, "Clinic on Eighteenth Street" guest stars Sharon Gless, later of Cagney & Lacey fame and most recently co-star of Burn Notice on USA Network and Frank Sinatra Jr. in his second role on the show.
Episode 158, "X-Force" guest stars Paul Gleason as a father of a kidnapped girl. Gleason guest starred in other various roles throughout the series.
Episode 159, "Alcohol" guest stars Dick Van Patten, later of Eight is Enough fame, as a belligerent drunk who believes himself to be Albert Einstein.
Episode 164, "Victim of the Crime" features Martin Milner's real life daughter Amy Milner as Debbie McMahon, the shopkeepers daughter.
Episode 170, "Operation Action" features Kent McCord's real life daughter Kristen McCord as a child named Debra who is playing hopscotch when Reed pulls up behind Malloy's abandoned car.
Episode 171, "Gus Corbin", guest stars Mark Harmon, the star of NCIS since 2003.
Episode 174, "Loan Sharks" guest stars Eve McVeagh, film actress of High Noon, Tight Spot, and television series The Clear Horizon and Faraway Hill.
The production of the program involved showing all aspects of correct police procedures, and "Webb wanted the vehicle itself to be considered a character." The show specifically centered on police radio cars and helped reinforce "the sound of radio as an anti-crime technology." The police vehicles used in the production of show were purchased from local dealerships and outfitted by the prop department to LAPD cruiser specs.1967 Plymouth Belvedere - pilot
1968 Plymouth Belvedere - season one
1969 Plymouth Belvedere - seasons two and three
1971 Plymouth Satellite - season four
1972 and 1973 AMC Matador - seasons five through seven
In seasons two and three, there were many instances where Reed and Malloy would be seen driving a 1969 Plymouth one minute, then with a camera or scene change, they would be in a 1968. The two years were very similar, with only minor differences between them.
The LAPD had purchased 534 Matadors for its patrol fleet. An event in 2001 that featured a restored LAPD Matador police car, brought together Bernard C. Parks, the former LAPD Police Chief, and Tom Williams, the producer of Adam-12.
Dragnet, Adam-12, and Emergency! take place in the same universe and depict different aspects of the public safety infrastructure of Los Angeles, California. There are several "crossover" episodes on each series with characters from other Mark VII shows.
Officers Pete Malloy and Jim Reed appear on the Dragnet episode "Internal Affairs: DR-20", The D.A. episode "The People vs. Saydo" (the conclusion to a crossover that begins on "The Radical") and the Emergency! pilot movie, "The Wedsworth-Townsend Act". Sergeant MacDonald appears on the Dragnet episode "Personnel: The Shooting". The episode "Lost And Found" was set at Rampart General Hospital and featured the Emergency! cast. However, during an Emergency! episode, Adam-12 is shown as a TV show that the paramedics like to watch, causing somewhat of a paradox between the shows. Several years after Adam-12 was cancelled, Kent McCord was signed to appear in a planned third series of Dragnet playing Sgt. Friday's partner, but the project was cancelled due to Jack Webb's sudden death in 1982; since none of the scripts Webb wrote for the project were ever produced or released, it is not clear if he intended McCord to play a different character or to revive the Jim Reed character.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment released Season 1 of Adam 12 on DVD in Region 1 on August 23, 2005.
In fall 2008, Shout! Factory acquired the distribution rights through an agreement with Universal. They have subsequently released the remaining 6 seasons, with season 7 packaging titled "The Final Season."
In Region 4, Umbrella Entertainment has released the first two seasons on DVD in Australia.
As of January 5, 2015, episodes of Adam-12 air on Cozi TV. The series had been airing on Me-TV from May 2013 until January 1, 2015, when its place in the network's weekday afternoon line up was taken by Adventures of Superman. Adam-12 previously aired on Me-TV's competitor Antenna TV until April 2013, and on Retro Television Network before that.
Episodes of Adam-12 are available for on-line streaming on Hulu in some regions.