Image: The Everett Collection
In 1971, the blaxploitation film shook the movie industry. Shaft and Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, filled with tough characters and funky soul music, showed Hollywood that there was an urban market hungry for black action heroes. The genre exploded, as flicks like Blacula and Super Fly earned cult status, and former gridiron studs like Fred Williamson became gritty action icons.
A couple years later, women at last got in on the action, as the karate-chopping agent Cleopatra Jones and the vigilante Coffy were featured in hit movies in 1973. Foxy Brown followed a year later.
The success and appeal of those films' stars, Tamara Dobson and Pam Grier, lead TV to look for its own badass black female hero. Enter Christie Love. In January of 1974, Teresa Graves starred in a TV movie titled Get Christie Love! That popular pilot led to a full series in the fall of '74.
It was pioneering, important television, totally of its time while being far ahead of its time. Sadly, it lasted one single season, though it's impact was felt for decades, especially in more recent times with critically-acclaimed and popular female-led crime dramas that charged out of the 2000s like Cold Case and The Closer.
We wanted to, well, spread the love and rave about one of our favorite cult series that started putting women at the forefront of police drama in the 1970s.
Teresa Graves was the first African-American woman to star in her own hour-long drama series.
Not only was Graves the first African-American female lead in a U.S. network drama, she unfortunately would be the only one for decades. It was not until Kerry Washington appeared in Scandal in 2012 that another black woman took the lead in a network drama.
Image: Universal Television
She had an awesome catchphrase.
"You're under arrest, Sugar!" The catchphrase resonated long after the show left the air. Steve Buscemi and Chris Penn both say the line when talking about the show in Reservoir Dogs (1992).
Image: ABC / IMDb
It had not one, not two, but three awesome theme songs.
Considering it was on the air for a mere 23 episodes, Get Christie Love! went through a suprising amount of theme song changes. They are all gems of the era. The first featured male and female singers and a fair amount of saxophone and wah-wah. It was used for 11 episodes. The second main title theme, an instrumental, went for a more dramatic 1970s cop show feel. However, it lasted just two episodes. Finally, a tighter, funkier, horn-heavy instrumental was added for an exciting third try.
Christie Love was based on a real, fascinating NYPD cop.
Olga Ford joined the New York City police department in 1958, becoming one of 35 African-American women on the force. In 1970, she began practicing Buddhism. This facinating policewoman's career inspired Get Christie Love. "Several Christie Love episodes are based on Olga Ford's more exciting cases," Graves told Jet Magazine in November 1974. Ford even provided her expertise to the show, assisting on the scripts to add realism.
Image: Jet Magazine
Teresa Graves had power behind the scenes, too.
She was more than a tough cop onscreen. The actress herself had a large say in the proceedings of the show. As the series was going into production, Graves became more involved in the Jehovah's Witnesses religion. Because of her faith, she asserted her opinion of what Christie could and should do as a character. Thus, despite her last name, Christie Love had no romantic entanglements. She also refused to kill the bad guys.
Teresa Graves was a member of the Doodletown Pipers.
If you were watching a lot of television in the late 1960s, especially variety shows, you might have been familiar with the face — and voice — of Teresa Graves. She was a member of the sprawling vocal pop act the Doodletown Pipers, which appeared on series like The Jerry Lewis Show, The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and The Roger Miller Show. In the summer of '67, the Pipers landed their own variety show, dubbed Our Place, as a summer replacement series. The host of the show? Rowlf the Dog, the Muppet, who had earlier come to fame as a promoter for Purina Dog Chow.
Image: Epic Records / Discogs
It featured a mini Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In reunion.
After the Pipers, Graves went on to become a regular on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, sporting body paint and shimmying in bikinis alongside the likes of Goldie Hawn. Half a decade later, a few fellow cast members turned up in the Get Christie Love episode "Murder on High C." Judy Carne, Jo Anne Worley, Henry Gibson, Johnny Brown and Arte Johnson all appeared. Surprisingly, they were largely cast in dramatic roles. The hilarious Arte Johnson played the bad guy, a mad bomber terrorizing the city.