Oline H. Cogdill

A couple of months ago, I caught the tail end of a marathon run of the TV crime drama Decoy, which also was, at times, called Decoy Police Woman.

This was considered to be a groundbreaking show, as it was the first American police series that focused on a female police detective. Its 39 half-hour episodes aired from 1957 to 1958.

And having binged on the ten or so episodes I saw, it was indeed groundbreaking, and holds up pretty well.

Decoy had me from the opening scene, with actress Beverly Garland, who played police detective Patricia “Casey” Jones, running from a building and pausing to light a cigarette against the backdrop of New York City. New York’s looming image lets us know that the city is as much a character in this series as any person.

Casey works undercover, mostly dealing with women as victims but also occasionally as criminals. She moves into an apartment to get to know a woman whose boyfriend is a suspected thief. She also poses as a model to catch a murderer in the garment district, as a nurse to find the source of illegal narcotics, and as prisoner in a women's jail, among other undercover assignments.

While the assignments involved women, these were sometimes dangerous assignments. Casey often was in danger and her professionalism and calm under fire—literally—earned her the respect of her male colleagues. Considering the times, that was no easy feat.

At the end of each episode, Casey talks directly to the audience about the crime, showing much empathy for the women who have been victimized. Each episode was dedicated to the Bureau of Policewomen of the New York Police Department.

The glamorous Garland was perfect as Casey. I’ve been a longtime fan of the late actress who played Steve Douglas’ second wife in My Three Sons, among other myriad roles.

While Garland was the only reoccurring actor in Decoy, the series featured a lot of bit actors whose names are recognizable now, such as Edward Asner, Martin Balsam, Barbara Barrie, Peter Falk, Colleen Dewhurst, Larry Hagman, Diane Ladd, Lois Nettleton, Phyllis Newman, and Suzanne Pleshette, among others.

Decoy is a nearly forgotten gem.