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August 1, 2009

Did you know that the current "ripped from the headlines" narrative trend popular shows like Law & Order and CSI adopt pre-date television itself? In fact, art's imitation of life has long been a popular premise for entertaining shows.

When Gang Busters premiered in 1936 on CBS Radio, its promise that each story was based on real FBI case files and local police reports resonated with audiences. Listeners waited in suspense for the featured detectives to bust the menacing bad guys.

While Gang Busters had no continuing cast, The Honeymooners' Art Carney did regular voiceover work and creator/writer Phillips H. Lord served as narrator.

Unlike the flashy, style over substance crime shows of today, Gang Busters actually resulted in the capture of real criminals. In America's Most Wanted fashion, each episode ended with descriptions of criminals. Avid listener participation led to the successful arrest of hundreds of fugitives! This trend continued when the show aired on television in 1952, complete with photographs to match the descriptions.

Aside from its radio and TV success, Gang Busters also gained acclaim with a 21-year-run of comic books. The comic outlasted the radio show by two years when the last issue was published in 1959.

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