“Grabnet: We Aim to Police” is a fairly straight-forward parody of “Dragnet”-style TV shows, without all the pop-culture references that normally get thrown in at the Desert Star Playhouse.
Is it a bit late to be satirizing “Dragnet”? Well, yes. Is it wrong for Desert Star to borrow not just lines but entire scenes from the “Police Squad” TV series and the “Naked Gun” movies that followed it, both of which definitively parodied the deadpan-cop genre of entertainment? Emphatically, yes.
But if you put aside issues of timeliness and originality, “Grabnet” is a typically loony evening at the Desert Star, full of jokes that make you groan and jokes that make you howl with laughter. (Often, these are the same jokes.)
Small-business owner Denny Fell (Julie Ann Christensen), who is so named just for a joke later in which someone says “then he fell” and is mistaken to have said “Denny Fell” (which is one of those “Police Squad” rip-offs, by the way), is being harassed by the local Mob. The Mob is run by Granny Twyes (Kathleen Richardson), her balloon-breasted assistant Bubbles (Kori Hazel), and her low-life grandson Tommy Twyes (Steven Fehr). (The family’s last name is Twyes because it sounds like “twice,” which enables a character to say, “I shot twice” and have people think she shot Twyes — another “Police Squad” theft.)
Anyway, cops Joe Thursday (Scott Holman) and Frank Smith (Spencer Ashby) are on the case, as is young cop Will Gannon (Rick Miller), who is smitten with Denny. They are assisted by a surf-shop owner (Jonathon Phipps) who has some information on the case. (“We want some names, Mister!” the cops tell him. “Didn’t your parents give you names?” he replies.) (That joke is original, as far as I know.)
The case is solved, everyone’s happy, and the cast does the traditional post-show Olio, this time centered around swing music and rather clunkily choreographed, except for one hysterical scene with Ashby dressed as a woman, dancing with Holman, both of them destroying the furniture and each other.
I feel like a broken record every time I review the Desert Star Playhouse, but Scott Holman is still the best performer they have. No one onstage is funnier, and that’s always true, regardless of the size of his role. (One of his best moments here as stone-faced Thursday is when he “disguises” his voice on the phone without changing it at all, and the person calling still falls for it.) His partnership with Ashby, another genuinely talented comic actor, is very good, and they are well supported by their co-stars, particularly Kori Hazel, showing more comic intuition than a character like Bubbles would normally get.
This show marked the return of our pal Joel, who had always attended Desert Star Playhouse shows with me and my married-couple friends Chris and Lisa Clark, but who had been in Taiwan for six months working in a "Wild West" stunt show at an amusement park. We were glad to have him back, and to have the four of us together again.
Also, I would like to mention that I continued, at this point, to be in love with Julie Ann Christensen.