On 26 October 1961 the hugely respected New York Times used its editorial to heap praise on the Car 54 show.
  1. New York Times header.
    New York Times header.
Here is what was printed, in that Thursday issue, of the famed newspaper;

'In recent months the lot of this city’s policemen has indeed been an unhappy one. Beer-bottle barrages, near riots, unsettled issues of pay and moonlighting, alleged interference in local politics have added to their burdens. Despite the earnest proposals made in their behalf, none seems more likely to give them air and comfort than a new television show titled Car 54 Where Are You? which deals with two ingenious, warm-hearted gentlemen named Toody and Muldoon, who happen to earn their livings as members of the New York Police Department. The basic premise of its humor is that policemen are people – a statement almost without precedent in American literature, yet one that conceivably could revolutionize our approach to policemen and theirs to life in general.

Our fiction has always given us lawmen who were either superhuman or subhuman. Our detective fiction is filled with allusions to “dumb cops” who are left twiddling ten thumbs while private investigators solve their murders for them. Cartoons and comic strips are stocked with fruit-filching policemen, incompetents who cannot even keep youngsters from sneaking under the ballpark fence. The proletarian novels of the Thirties gave us the hardened sadist who was the servant of private, not public, interests. Early movies gave us the Keystone Cops, delightful clowns, but crude caricatures incapable of serious accomplishment. More recently we have been given the monumentally efficient and perpetually heroic policeman.

We have been given, in short, every kind of policeman except the kind we pay to love, honor, identify with and obey. The standard images rarely convey the impression that police work is occasionally dangerous, usually dull, always underappreciated. Our men in blue long ago must have lost hope of acquiring understanding. They might well paraphrase Shylock saying, “Hath not a policeman eyes? Hath not a policeman hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?” Those of us who would immediately concede that policemen do indeed share these attributes with the rest of mankind must also be prepared to answer affirmatively Shylock’s question, “If you tickle us do we not laugh?”  We are accustomed to laughing at policemen, not with them. Surely it cannot be that every occupational group on earth except policemen encounters humor in their daily lives.

Our respect for policemen is increased, rather than diminished, by a portrait that reveals a grin in place of the customary scowl. The searchlight of humor can illuminate without binding. For the average citizen, personal contact with the police is very limited. Very few of us have been gangland chiefs, gold smugglers or international jewel thieves. The first policeman most of us encountered was the man who guarded the street crossing outside the elementary school, a pleasant symbol of our entry into a grown-up world. We who have little to fear from the police have nothing to fear from seeing them as part of the human comedy. As for the juvenile and adult delinquents who have demonstrated their disdain for the law, there is even less to be lost. Conceivably a humanized portrayal of policemen can soften their hostility.

It is significant that public respect for New York’s finest reached new heights a year ago, when the presence of Khrushchev, Kadar and other Iron Curtain representatives necessitated long hours and more tedious duty. But it was not deeds of epic heroism that inspired this change. It was sympathy for men who had been stuck with a dreary job. Respect for human beings comes more easily than respect for automatons. The warm humor generated by the heroes of television’s mythical Bronx precinct can have the same effect, for they make the force seem like a happy place. The program might well be the soft answer that turns away the wrath of the bottle-wielding rioters and rebalances the skewed public image of the New York police.'