After the success of the film "Airplane!," Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker made a TV deal with ABC and came up with a half-hour comedy series spoofing police dramas in general, borrowing most heavily from a late 1950s series called "M Squad" and from the various shows produced by Quinn Martin.
Leslie Nielsen starred as Lieutenant Frank Drebin, with pretty much the same intentionally wooden acting style he had displayed in "Airplane!" Alan North played Captain Ed Hocken; Ed Williams played Ted Olson, the head of the police lab; Peter Lupus played Officer Nordberg; William Duell played Johnny the shoeshine boy, who supplied Lieutenant Drebin with inside information in every episode, and once gave managerial advice to Tommy Lasorda and sold anti-aging cream to Dick Clark; and, of course, Rex Hamilton played Abraham Lincoln.
The opening credits set the tone for each episode. A camera was mounted right behind the rotating light on a police car as it drove through the streets of the city while a jazzy instrumental theme song played. Meanwhile, a dramatic announcer read the superimposed titles, beginning with "Police Squad! In Color" (it was completely ludicrous to specifically mention that it was in color even in the early 1980s), and continuing through each episode's special guest star (who was then immediately killed off) and finishing with the episode title…however, the on-screen title and the one the announcer read were completely different.
Other television conventions were played with throughout the run of the series, such as the freeze frame during the closing credits (for example, in one episode, the characters froze while the set crashed down around them).
All of that, plus the continual verbal humor and sight gags of the type used in "Airplane!" led to low ratings. "Police Squad!" premiered on March 4, 1982, at 8:00 Eastern time, but was pulled off the schedule after four episodes had aired. It returned in July 1 in the later 9:30 time slot with two new episodes, followed by repeats of all six, but it ended up canceled.
However, in 1988, it was revived as a feature film, "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!", which even recycled some of the jokes from the TV series. It did much better at the box office than it had on TV, which led to two sequels.
While the first sequel, "The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear" was in theaters in the summer of 1991, CBS reran all six "Police Squad!" episodes. The ratings were again low, but that was probably more because it was summer, and it looked old. If "Police Squad!" had first aired 10 years later than it did, in the era of "The Simpsons" and cheap VCRs, it likely would have been more popular in its original incarnation.