The program was based on a number of detective novels by Ed McBain that featured Lansing as Detective Steve Carella, who worked in the fictional city of Isola, patterned on Manhattan, New York City. Rowlands played Carella’s deaf-mute wife, Teddy. Ron Harper, who three years later costarred with George Burns and Connie Stevens in ABC’s Wendy and Me, played rookie detective Bert Kling. Other detective roles were portrayed by Gregory Walcott as seasoned veteran Roger Havilland and Norman Fell as the eccentric Meyer Meyer, who subsequently gained fame on ABC’s Three's Company with John Ritter.
87th Precinct premiered on September 25, 1961, and concluded its first-run episodes on April 30, 1962. Repeats continued until September 10, 1962. It was a creation of Hubbell Robinson Productions. The program faced stiff competition on CBS from The Danny Thomas Show and its spin-off, The Andy Griffith Show. At the time, ABC aired the second and last season of another detective program, Surfside 6 starring Troy Donahue and Van Williams.
In the premiere entitled "The Floater", Carella tails Curt Donaldson (Robert Culp), a sadistic con man who preys on lonely women.
“Lady in Waiting” on October 2 -- Virginia Colt (played by Constance Ford) arrives at the precinct house with a gun seeking vengeance on Carella for sending her late husband to prison.
“Lady Killer” on October 9 -- The detectives receive an anonymous note which says only, “I will kill the lady tonight at 8."
“The Very Hard Sale” on December 4 – A used-car salesman named Glenn Cornell takes one of the cars off the lot and drives out to see a prospective buyer named Barrow, played by Leonard Nimoy. The car is found with Cornell slumped over the wheel. Suicide or murder?
“Run, Rabbit, Run” on December 25 – A former underworld czar Doug Quinn, who faces execution, announces that the men who helped to convict him will also die. Toots Brendan was the state's key witness against Quinn.
“Give the Boys a Great Big Hand” on January 15 -- A severed hand found in a dumpster leads the detectives to investigate a murder and to stop the killer from striking again.
“A Bullet for Katie” on February 12 -- A ten-year-old boy might hold the key to the shooting of the new bride of police officer Bill Miller (played by Ed Nelson, who suspects that the shooter is an ex-con named Gantry (Harold J. Stone), who had previously threatened Miller.
“The Last Stop” on April 23 -- Mike Power (Victor Jory) is an embittered, irritating detective demoted to the 87th Precinct shortly before his scheduled retirement. He drives the squad bonkers.
“Girl in a Case”, the series finale -- Detective Havilland becomes attracted to a stenographer, whose life is being threatened. In the episode Havilland reveals that he was an All-American football player in college. Joan Staley, Jerry Paris, and Janis Paige guest star.
The San Diego- born Lansing (1928–1994) starred three years after 87th Precinct as General Frank Savage on ABC’s 12 O'Clock High. His costars were Chris Robinson and future U.S. Representative Robert K. Dornan, a Repubican from California. Over the years, Lansing appeared in multiple episodes of some eighty television series. He died in New York City of cancer.