[Guest post by DRJ]
The Fox TV show Cops presents its 700th episode this evening. I like Cops even though I only see it 3-4 times a year, but I may try to watch it more often now that I’ve read today’s article in the New York Times’ Television section:
“The Saturday night viewers who remain often answer the siren call of “Cops,” watching arrest after arrest in a series that reinforces the notion that order can always be restored. This Fox series — now rerun elsewhere — brings the police blotter to life, as if video had been added to the squawking radio channel on which police dispatchers deliver their lingo in staccato bursts.
It’s a pretty shopworn device after 18 years, as catchily monotonous as the reggae echo of “Bad Boys,” the show’s theme song. And yet “Cops” consistently improves on the scripted norms of police procedurals: It displays all the ugliness and ingenuity that even classic first-responder shows like “CHiPs” and “Emergency!” lacked. Dipping into a dozen episodes can teach viewers various ways to spot a suspect, subdue the inebriated and quell mayhem before someone gets hurt.”
I did weekly police ride-alongs for a year in law school and the show seems realistic to me. As the article notes, even the mundane is fascinating:
“The officers have seen almost every permutation of sin. So it’s kind of a thrill when they say, “That’s a new one.” The focus on mundane details can be fascinating: One patrolman explains that a car cutting through rain with an open window is a sign of trouble — it may be stolen, the window smashed in. An officer in San Bernardino, Calif., says of his territory, “It’s a good place to work — a lot of activity.” He means good as in there’s a lot of bad.”
The bulk of the article is positive but the author gets in a couple of digs at the series and the police, including this particularly nasty one [emphasis mine]:
“But in spite of the palpable danger and the blood spilled on both sides of the law, the series seems more like a sanitized catalog of arrests, an infomercial for various police fraternal orders, than a collection of true-crime stories. Epithets? Racial tensions? Excessive force? The videotape either omits or never captures such presumably common extremes.”
Even in its Television section, the NY Times never fails to disappoint.