We watched some very old episodes of Dragnet last night, all in black and white with stationery cameras and very earnest people standing awkwardly and uttering long speeches without affect or interruption, and of course all that dramatic music--quite a bizarre viewing experience. The resident 17-year-old retired to his room to read his way through a pile of Patrick O'Brian novels, so he missed out on the episode that explains why 17-year-olds are such hooligans.
It went like this: Joe Friday and his loyal partner Frank are working in the juvenile division. No one knows why; in the previous episode, they answered the phone by saying "Accident Division," but this week they're saying "Juvenile Division." It's the same phone and the same office, so apparently it's a moveable division.
They get word of a fracas at a movie theater, where unruly teenagers have disrupted the movie, started a fight, knocked an usher into a plate-glass display case, and dropped a box containing (duh-duh-duh-duuuuh!) marijuana. Friday and Frank spend the rest of the episode investigating a narcotics ring that has infiltrated a very nice neighborhood full of stable two-parent households and nice furniture. Frank comments on the nice furniture, as if he's shocked that youngsters could get involved in drugs when they're surrounded by such classic lines.
Anyway: the "narcotics ring" turns out to be six teen boys, each with an upstanding father dumbfounded to discover that sweet little Johnny hasn't been spending his evenings at the library. But Sergeant Friday isn't satisfied: he must find the supplier, another 17-year-old whose father abandoned him at a young age. The mother does the old "I tried my best but a boy needs a father" routine, and Friday and Frank move on to trace the miscreant through his girlfriend. They have to find him because he has beaten up his supplier and stolen a large quantity of high-grade heroin, much stronger than the stuff he normally peddles, and Friday is afraid that if the inexperienced and naive teenaged customers get hold of this stuff, they'll all (duh-duh-duh-duuuuuuh!) overdose.
Sure enough, Joe Friday proves a prophet, but this time it's not the customers who overdose but the 17-year-old pusher. As he stands on a dark path over the body of the dead teen, Friday tries his best to comfort the pusher's distraught girlfriend, although Friday isn't exactly a fount of compassion. Frank wonders why it happened: why would a young person from a good neighborhood stoop to selling drugs? And Friday delivers the sermon: "He didn't need a reason. He's 17."
So there you have it: 17-year-olds are just natural hooligans. If Sergeant Friday says it, it's got to be true.