May 27, 2013

The Mod Squad: Buddy-Bonding Hippies

During the 1960s, the establishment made many attempts to cash in on the counterculture, often with little success.  But The Mod Squad was a hit.  It lasted for five years (1968-73), won Emmies and Golden Globes, and spawned a toychest full of comic books, tie-in novelizations, games, and toys.

The premise: three hippies are arrested for disparate crimes:
1. Wealthy rebel without a cause Pete (Michael Cole, top and left) stole a car.
2. Black-power Link (Clarence Williams III, right) participated in a race riot.
3. Free-love advocate Julie (Peggy Lipton, center) ran away from home.

With-it Captain Greer (Tige Andrews) gives them the choice of jail time or going undercover in the counterculture.  They refuse to become snitches, but they're assured that they'll be snitching on criminals who prey on hippies, not on hippies themselves.  So they're off, infiltrating high schools, colleges, churches, rodeos, hospitals, and lots of hippie tribes, to apprehend counterfeiters, blackmailers, kidnappers, and lots of murderers.

The two main establishment fears, sex and drugs, are absent.  These hippies don't use drugs, and they don't have sex: in 124 episodes, Pete falls in love twice, and Linc and Julie one time apiece.  They are much more likely to be called upon to assist same-sex chums or young boys.

The squeamishness about heterosexual free-love also has the effect of separating Julie from the others, leaving Pete and Linc to snoop around by themselves. At first they distrust each other -- Pete comes from a privileged white family, and Linc is a black separatist -- but as they work together and rescue each other time after time, they develop an emotionally intense quasi-romantic partnership.  They became in effect an Adventure Boy couple, Jonny and Hadji writ large.

There was also significant beefcake.  Michael Cole was displayed shirtless or semi-nude only a few times, lest the establishment get scared, but he provided substantial beneath-the-belt interest.

After Mod Squad, he guest starred roles on everything from The Love Boat to 7th Heaven, but nothing of substantial gay interestno word about whether he is gay-friendly in real life or not.

Clarence Williams III never took off any clothes, but he had his own beneath-the-belt action on display. After Mod Squad, he had over 100 acting credits, including several of gay interest.  In Ritual (2000), he plays a successful attorney with a disfunctional family, including a gay son (Shawn Michael Howard) who is the best adjusted of the lot.

Peggy Lipton, friend of Rock Hudson and the mother of a gay son, is a strong gay ally.

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