Top of page

Publicity still for "Get Christie Love!" features black actress/star Teresa Graves in denim and flashing her badge. Dialogue bubble above her head states the character's catchphrase: "You're under arrest, Sugar!"
Publicity still for "Get Christie Love!" features black actress/star Teresa Graves in denim and flashing her badge. Dialogue bubble above her head states the character's catchphrase: "You're under arrest, Sugar!"

Why “Christie Love” Matters

Share this post:

Teresa Graves, star, “Get Christie Love!” (1974-1975)

Much like the equally infamous TV series “My Mother, the Car” (1965-1966), the 1970s cop show “Get Christie Love!” is far more assailed and disparaged than it has ever actually been watched.

Part of the issue is that the program has gone largely unseen since its original airing.  Though the full series—all 22 of its filmed episodes—have been re-aired a few times over the years (for example, on the USA Network in the 1980s), today, “Get Christie Love!” is neither available (legally) on DVD nor is it on any streaming service.

Hence, when we are not able to watch it and judge it for ourselves, we have no choice but to fall back on earlier written assessments of the series.  And, in the case of “Love,” the show gets very little.  Back in the day, “Variety” called the series “a preposterous concept,” and, in subsequent years, the series has been called both “raunchy” and “lousy.”

But are these appraisals accurate?  What was the show actually like?  And, now, almost 50 years on, how does the show come across?

The Library of Congress holds seven episodes of the series.  I decided to watch them all and find out.

“Christie” was not TV’s first full-time primetime police woman.  That distinction belongs to Beverly Garland and her landmark 1957 syndicated series “Decoy.”  Meanwhile, the first reoccurring woman of the law on network television was—if you consider her officially a cop—Peggy Lipton, one of the trio of young hippie informants on “The Mod Squad (1968-1973).  After that, it was “Christie” who was soon (very soon) followed by Angie Dickinson in her legendary “Police Woman” series.

The development of the “Get Christie Love!” TV series is an interesting one.  The series was, originally, based on a novel, “The Ledger,” by Dorothy Uhnak who was a former policewoman herself and later turned to writing crime novels.  For this particular book, Uhnak created a female cop character named Christie Opara, who, along with being an officer, is also white.

But then, somewhere along the way, the creators and producers of the series learned of another real-life policewoman, Officer Olga Ford.  Ford was a Black New York police officer who had joined the force in 1958.  Inspired by Ford, the lead character of Christie soon saw her race switched from white to Black and Ford joined the staff of the series as its technical advisor.  Additionally, the producers were anxious to trade on the success of blaxpolitation films then earning major money at the box office.  In films like “Coffy” and “Cleopatra Jones,” charismatic tough gals like Pam Grier and Tamara Dobson were vividly re-writing filmatic tropes about race, feminism and action hero(ine)s.  In response, TV wanted to ride that wave.

After first, reportedly, offering the role to Cicely Tyson, the series eventually cast the beautiful Teresa Graves.  Graves had become familiar to TV audiences a few seasons prior as part of the stock company on the tremendously successful “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”

“Get Christie Love!”–with the exclamation point in the title not optional—debuted as a 90-minute, made-for-TV movie on ABC TV on January 22, 1974.  Its first regular episode aired as part of the network’s fall line-up on September 11, 1974.  (Interestingly, Dickinson’s “Police Woman” would debut only two days later, thus giving the “network first” honor to Graves.)

Teresa Graves (left) with Harry Guardino, who played her boss in the original “Love” pilot.

In the show, Christie is a former “street kid” who became a cop and is now part of the Special Investigations Division of the LAPD.  She preferred to work alone, and since this was TV, she often had to go undercover—as a singer, at a flying school, and once, as a school teacher on a European vacation.  Her boss at the precinct (actor Charles Cioffi for the first 12 episodes and Jack Kelly for the last 10) didn’t like her (you guessed it!) taking on so many dangerous assignments or taking so many chances.

“Christie,” originally in its Wednesday night timeslot, would air 22 episodes before being cancelled by the network.  The series was not a hit, ending the season at number 72 in the ratings, a pitiful showing when there were only 84 programs then on the air.

The end of the “Christie” series was also the end of Teresa Graves’s show business career.  A devout Jehovah’s Witness (she converted just before the start of the series), the actress’s faith often ran counter to some of the series—she especially disliked its more violent aspects—and her disagreements with the show’s producers might have negatively affected the overall storylines.  Afterward, limited perhaps by her beliefs in terms of the roles she wanted to play, Graves would never act onscreen again.  She devoted herself, instead, to her religious work.  She died tragically in a house fire in 2002; she was only 52 years old.

As mentioned, in the decades since “Get Christie Love!” left the air, critics have not been kind to it.  In those lists that pop up in magazines and on the internet every so often of the “Worst TV Show of All Time,” “Christie” often takes its place right alongside “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour,” “Pink Lady & Jeff” and anything Mary Tyler Moore did after “Mary Tyler Moore.”

Latter-day reviewers love to seize on Christie’s infamous tagline of “You’re under arrest, Sugar!”  Granted, it was an ill-conceived attempt at a catch-phrase, but, then again, it has not aged any worse than “Kojak’s” “Who loves ya, baby?” or any of “Baretta’s” tough-guy talk.  Truth be told, all of TV’s attempts at 1970s groovy slang are badly dated; I mean, can you dig it?

But Christie was more than her slogan.  Throughout the episodes screened, there’s nothing but dignity and professionalism about her.  In one episode, where her police colleagues pay little attention to the murder of a local “wino,” Christie counters, “But he was a human being.”

She has a cool way of handling herself, too, whether she’s taking on a perp or taking on the patriarchy.  When a fellow cop uses the term “Women policemen,” she corrects him:  “Women police officers.”

Later, a low-rent lech approaches her and asks, “Hey, if you’re alone, I’m available.”

Love replies, “Well, I can understand why.”

No one can accuse Christie Love of “jiggle” either, that old term often applied to cheapen women when they appear in action sequences on the airwaves.  Throughout the episodes, Christie is never disrobed or attired in anything but high (and usually very wide) collars.  In fact, seldom does she even flash any leg.

Then, in modern parlance, Christie had “agency.”  She never hesitates to act, she sticks up for herself (even against her tough superior officer) and she’s never the damsel in distress.  She can even throw a punch.  Per cop show climaxes of the 1970s, episodes of the series often end in fisticuffs and/or gunplay.  But it is usually Christie’s quickdraw and quick thinking which saves the day.  Consider the episode “Bullet from the Grave,” where it’s Love’s single shot that saves a fellow officer’s life from an assassination attempt.

The seven episodes of “Get Christie Love!” housed at the Library of Congress exhibit a character that, despite being almost 50 years on, is capable, courageous, and surprisingly contemporary–and not camp.  Interesting then, that in the years since their making, the collective film oeuvre of Grier, Dobson and others have been embraced as important, if flawed, documents in both feminist- and Black-oriented cinema while their TV equivalent, “Get Christie Love!,” is dismissed as dispensable, kitsch TV.

Along with everything she was, “Christie” should also be remembered for what she begot.  Not only would “Police Woman” follow soon after, so, too, would Jessica Walter in her cop show, “Amy Prentiss”; it debuted in December of 1974.  Then, of course, came “Cagney & Lacey,” Mariska Hargitay in “SVU,” “Rizzoli & Isles” and many other on air women police officers.

Moreover, Graves was not only the first but remains one of only a handful of Black actresses to be the solo lead of their own hour-long drama, especially on network TV:  Oprah in the series version of “Brewster Place,” Kerry Washington on “Scandal” and Viola Davis in “How to Get Away with Murder.”

Fifty years ago, “Christie Love” sought and fought for justice for various crime victims.  But now it’s time she gets some justice for herself.


For more information related to this blog or any Library of Congress holdings, please see Ask a Librarian, and if you plan to come in to view or listen to any collection items, please reach out to our reference staff in the Moving Image Research Center and the Recorded Sound Research Center.










Comments (4)

  1. Great reassessment of a noteworthy show! I remember watching it as a little girl and enjoying it. Hopefully it will become available again so that we can all watch it.

  2. Thank you for doing justice to this noteworthy TV show. It’s a one of a kind production that deserves credit for its relevance.

  3. What a wonderful piece! My family and I watched and enjoyed “Get Christie Love” back in the 1970s. Our beloved late uncle often referred to my younger sister as “Christie Love” – thank you for this sweet reminder.


Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.