Here’s a relic from the early 1950s that I had never heard of until the lovely and talented Tina Garceau had bought me one of those inexpensive DVD gift sets of old television shows that had lapsed into the public domain. This set had 100 television episodes mostly dating from the dawn of television broadcasting and mainly featuring shows that were spun off of radio programs like The Burns and Allen Show and Dragnet, but it also included shows I never heard of like Racket Squad. I popped the disk in, and when I saw Johnny Roventini calling for Philip Morris, I was sold! The show always started with Reed Hadley speaking to the camera and the TV audience at home:
What you are about to see is a real-life story, taken from the files of the police racket and bunco squads, business protective associations and similar sources around the country. It is intended to expose the confidence game – the carefully worked-out frauds by which confidence men take more money each year from the American public than all the bank robbers and thugs with their violence.
If you have trouble viewing this above or would like to download it, head over to the Internet Archive. It’s FREE!
Of all the shows that are being remade like Hawaii 5-0, I think that Racket Squad is a show that the networks should consider revisiting. It may not be as sexy and exciting as the lurid crime scene investigation shows, but I think it could be fairly entertaining and educational as well. Making the general public aware of scams is not a bad thing. It’s assumed that the general public is so much more sophisticated than they were 60 years ago when this show was made, but I come across stories all of the time proving that people are dumb as they’ve always been. The allure of easy money or the mythical free lunch will never die.
Sadly, a new Racket Squad would not be brought to you by Philip Morris or any other tobacco company. In which case, if you can’t get enough Johnny Roventini magic, check out the catchy music video below: