The Dick Tracy Show

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Dick Tracy Show TV Poster Image
Classic cartoon mixes detective work, guns, and stereotypes.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Educational Value

There's nothing particularly educational here.

Positive Messages

The series features stereotypical characters (ethnic stereotypes, mainly) and behavior that were considered socially acceptable at the time the show was produced, but aren't generally accepted today.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tracy and his team are out to get the bad guys; some of them are better at it than others. Several main characters are extreme ethnic stereotypes.

Violence & Scariness

Some fantasy violence, but no one really gets hurt. Tracy uses a gun; villains also threaten people at gunpoint.

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Villains often smoke cigars or cigarettes, which was typical of the time.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Dick Tracy Show is a classic animated detective series based on the comic strip character of the same name. It contains lots of cartoon violence, including some gun wielding, but it's not really frightening. Cigarette and cigar smoking is visible, too. There are some stereotypical characters that many would consider offensive by today's social standards, but that were common for the time the show was produced. Parents might want to check it out before letting younger kids watch.

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What's the story?

Based on a 1930's comic strip created by Chester Gould, The DICK TRACY SHOW (1961-1962) is a classic animated series about a hard-boiled police detective and the criminals he chases down. When Tracy (voiced by Everett Sloane) gets word that notorious criminals, like Pruneface and Itchy, Stooge Miller and Mumbles, or the infamous counterfeiter B-B Eyes, are on the loose, he uses his radio wristwatch to contact his assistant detectives, including Joe Jitsu (Benny Rubin), Heap O'Calorie (Johnny Coons), and/or Manuel Tijuana Guadalajara Tampico "Go-Go" Gomez, Jr. (Paul Frees; Mel Blanc) to hunt them down. Also on the chase is Cockney police bulldog Hemlock Holmes (Jerry Hausner), and his Keystone Cop-like officers known as "The Retouchables." The bad guys are sneaky, but the detectives manage to put them away and earn a hearty congratulations from their chief.

Is it any good?

The Dick Tracy Show is a compilation hard-boiled detective vignettes that have been infused with elements of comedy, including running gags and referents to the comic strip from which it was born. Meanwhile, the colorful cast of characters are parodies of pop culture icons of the time, including Sherlock Holmes, Boris Karloff, and The Untouchables, as a way of paying homage to them.

There is humor in it, but some of these caricatures (namely Jitsu and "Go-Go" Gomez) are extremely stereotypical. Meanwhile, little of the action surrounds Tracy himself, who seems to only appear long enough to assign detectives to investigations, and just in time to see the criminals caught. But the stories do offer both kids and adults some classic cartoon fun.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why some characterizations and/or generalizations were once socially acceptable, but are considered derogatory today. Why were they not considered stereotypes back in the day? What changed? 

  • Are there media generalizations of people and/or cultures that are commonplace today, but that you would like to see eliminated? How can these stereotypes be diffused?

  • Many popular characters on TV shows and in films originated from comic strips. What are some of your favorites? Are there any current comic strip characters that you'd like to see on TV or in movies today?

TV details

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For kids who love classics

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