Police Squad is from Jim Abrahams and the Zucker Brothers, David and Jerry. Their first big project was the movie The Kentucky Fried Movie. It was not a huge hit in 1977, but they built their reputation beginning with Airplane! three years later. The humor to their approach on disaster films catapulted the film to major success that summer in 1980. Almost two years later was Police Squad in March of 1982. It was built on competent cops solving cases while dealing with all sorts of visual gags, word gags, and a few other things that suited their style throughout the 80s and early 90s. With Leslie Nielsen as Frank Drebin, how did it wind up getting cancelled after four episodes with two airing in the summer?
The show aired on ABC, and the head of the network, Tony Thomopoulos thought people really needed to watch it to give it any appreciation. I'll interpret that he thought nobody would understand the fast pacing of the jokes and gags. I do think it's a pretty bad reason to cancel a show, but you gotta think about it for a second. Back then, the Zuckers and Abrahams were kind of new to the world of Hollywood. Not long after was a few more movies together such as Top Secret! in 1984 and reworking Police Squad into the The Naked Gun films from 88 to 94. Your biggest sitcoms were shows like M*A*S*H and Happy Days. Nobody was doing the style of comedy they were doing back then.
This is probably a big hypothetical, but how long could the show have lasted if it didn't get cancelled so quickly? Personally, I don't think it would lasted a long time. I'd say two to three, maybe four years, tops. It's hard to know if people would have kept on watching it after it's initial start. Television is a different animal compared to the movies. Eventually, some of the stuff you liked a few seasons prior may not garner the same reception in a current season. Police Squad was so elaborate in its comedy, it would have had the issue of being a little stale if it continued for a good length of time. Even getting to the last few episodes of the show a few years ago, it felt a little repetitive.
If Police Squad aired today, it would have a run similar to Tribeca. How many episodes, though, I'm not sure. No doubt, it is a victim of the era it was in, but it worked much better with The Naked Gun films. I think what has helped Tribeca is that it is thorough in its parody. It isn't a cheap thing done by the Friedburg and Seltzer duo. There is care put into it, and it's nice to see something similar to Police Squad. Abrahams and the Zuckers were amazing together with their movies. Let's not forget the importance of their only TV show and why they were a force to be reckoned with in the 80s.