Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay. Today’s film is 1983’s Policewoman Centerfold. It can be viewed on Tubi!
Jennifer Oaks (Melody Anderson) is a former wild teen turned cop. While her friends from high school walk the streets, Jennifer rides in a squad car. It’s not always easy. She is one of the only women on the force and the men refuse to take care her seriously, no matter how times she proves herself as a police officer. Recently divorced, she live in a trailer park with her son, Tommy (Jerry Supiran). At the start of the film, her partner informs her that he’s going to be requesting a new partner because apparently, his wife has issues with him working with another woman.
Jennifer’s new partner is Nick Velano (Ed Mariano). “Are you Italian?” she asks him at one point, because I suppose the fact that his name was Nick Velano wasn’t enough of a clue. (For the record, Nick is Italian.) Though Jennifer says that she doesn’t date the people with whom she works, she makes an except for Nick. It turns out that Nick, along with being Italian, is an amateur photographer. After Jennifer says that she’s never felt attractive, Nick snaps a few pictures of her to prove her wrong. Jennifer is so impressed with the pictures that she mails them off to Centerfold Magazine. Nick, of course, is a huge fan of Centerfold, though he insists that he just reads the articles. That said, Nick is not happy when he discovers that Jennifer is going to appear in a pictorial. For that matter, neither is the police department. Neither are Jennifer’s parents. Neither is Tommy, especially after a bunch of older kids beat him up for having an attractive mom. (I’m not really sure what the logic was there.) However, Jennifer finds the experience to be liberating and she refuses to apologize for her decision. When the chief of police attempts to kick her off the force, Jennifer goes to court.
Centerfold Magazine is obviously meant to be a stand-in for Playboy. Of course, when I say that, I mean that it’s a stand-in for the way that Playboy liked to present itself as opposed to the reality. In Police Woman Centerfold, Centerfold is a progressive magazine that only employs the most professional and polite of photographers. In real life, Playboy was a tacky left-over from the late 60s and Hugh Hefner was a creepy old weirdo who lived in a dilapidated mansion and who was notorious for abandoning his models once they had fulfilled their purpose. In Police Woman Centerfold, Centerfold Magazine is so idealized that its portrayal verges on parody. It’s like one of those dreary communist propaganda films, where everyone in the collective can’t stop smiling and singing about how happy they are because there’s someone off camera pointing a gun at their head.
Fortunately, Melody Anderson gave a good performance in the main role, playing Jennifer as someone who had been beaten down by life but who still refused to give up hope for a better future. The film itself may not have always taken Jennifer’s story seriously but Anderson herself did and, as a result, this film a bit better than it has any right to be,
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