My Favorite 1960s Dragnet #19: The Big High

Another heartbreaking/controversial episode of Dragnet. This one bears some similarity to the radio episode, “The Big Lay Out.” In both episodes, a father reports his child as a drug user. This episode is different because unlike in “The Big Lay Out”, the father doesn’t have evidence to share with the police that could lead to an arrest and we’re not dealing with a minor, but with what by all appearances are two competent adults. Perhaps, the most important difference is that an innocent child is being raised by two drug users.

This episode has some elements of the “iThe Big Prophet” with a debate on the dangers of drugs, but this one also has an actual plot that really adds power to the arguments. We get to see not only the debate, but the consequences of the positions taken. Plus, this episode went contrary to stereotypes of drug users being universally poor in its portrayal of middle class respectable looking people using drugs, it

Those who view drugs as harmless chalk this episode up as “Reefer Madness” hysteria. Yet, Dragnet is based on actual police files, and in the police files across America, you’ll find many cases just like this. Dragnet’s take was powerful and well-done.

One Response to “My Favorite 1960s Dragnet #19: The Big High”

  1. Tracy Cook says:

    This episode has to be one of the most gripping in “Dragnet 1968” series. While some people do tend to see this as a 1960s version of “Reefer Madness”, the fact that it was based on an actual case and the authenticity that Jack Webb insisted with “Dragnet” made “The Big High” a very heart-wrenching story; needless to say when the mother sobered up from her marijuana high to remember that her two-year old child was still in the bathtub was shocking and saddening. A very powerful moment that illustrates the style of direction that gave Jack the moniker “the Orson Welles of television” was the extreme close up of the bag of marijuana in Friday’s hands and crumpling it in his hands. This deserves to be one of the favorite 1960s episodes.

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