Today I wanna talk about cop shows. Having been unemployed for six months of the last year and a half, I watched a whole lot of TV. Between the sucky daily grind of talking myself into job searching, and getting out of the baggy t-shirt and sweatpants, being permanently broke, and facing another day of silent rejection by every firm that I applied to, TV was pretty much the only thing that made it worthwhile getting up.
I got seriously addicted to cop shows, I even started talking like the pretend cops. I began buffing up on legal procedures and the law in general. I was hooked. What a rush! What a drug! What a crock! Wait, what?
That’s right, cop shows are addictive, like cigarettes or oreos, however unlike the honesty of tar in the nicotine or the purely carcinogenic oreo filling, cop shows are total bull. Which upsets my delicate sensitivities but also makes cop shows great. No one (aside from some creeper named Norman living in his mom’s basement) wants to watch a show about the flaws in the system, and endless paperwork. It’s just not photogenic, inspiring or engaging (except for Norman). We fill out paperwork, we live in a flawed system- we know the drill. We know that if you call the cops the likelihood is they won’t be able to help, if they can, you are likely to not see justice served for a while due to: hearings, court-cases, appeals etc. not to mention I can guarantee that no real world cop is as hot as their TV counterpart.
Not to negate the boys (and girls) in blue, they do a tough job, with little pay, little thanks, and a pretty FUBAR system in which loopholes abound. But, like with all TV, the lies are what we love. Sure we love to see a cop struggle and turn out to be dirty only to buy himself back. Real life dirty cops, no one forgives, no one roots for. We love the lie that there are inherently good people out there who have our back, cops, the E.R. doctors, God… basically anybody other than ourselves. We love the lie.I love the lie. The lie is why I watch.
Whether its the lie about car chases, explosions or just the fact that all cops are ridiculously good-looking I love it!
What follows are some of my favourite cops shows, and how they lie, and why I love their lies:
First off, I’m sorry. Really I am, but I got addicted to this. The original series has been running since I was in highschool and I first got addicted to it then. Since then I get waves of craving. I’ll go years without watching an episode, I’ll mock the formulaic storytelling, the faux-science, the irascible and obvious set-scenes, and the often wooden portrayal and characterization. And yet, it is, or at least was, watchable. You can watch an episode and feel as though the cops these days are really on the ball. And then you watch 4 more and you realise the pure hysterical bullshit that the shows repetitive style is attempting to shovel down your throat.
CSI-style shows are a dime a dozen, and that is the biggest fault, as one show “WOW’ as a show on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night ad infinitum, not so great. I also have become aware that due to the ‘undeniable evidence’ that the CSI shows propound as easily available in every case, it has actually become more difficult for law enforcement to get convictions. Ever jury now wants to see the DNA evidence, the fingerprint evidence, the amazingly minute piece of trace sand found only on one beach in New Jersey that conclusively proves that Snooki is a murderous midget with a penchant for Amy Winehouse hair, or whatever. Basically, people have decided that TV’s approach to crime fighting is better than the real stuff, and if a TV show with a humongous budget and fiction at its behest can do so well, then so must all law enforcement agencies.
Your honour, I would like to call to the stand my first witness: The CSI franchise (and all those similar- NCIS I’m looking at you) have provide decent bubblegum material for the viewing public, and the public have continued chewing long after this show lost all its minty freshness. But it has also boned the real legal system through lying their collective ass off about how easily attainable evidence is as conviction material. Thanks for that!
Law & Order- Franchise
If I hear that damn “CLANG” one last time, I swear to god…. I shall become murderous!
This one is difficult to fault, but I’ll do it anyway. It shows the delay in the legal system and that justice doesn’t just end when the John Wayne style cops holster their guns, it shows the internal strife and problems of the Justice system, and how the bad guy gets away often, and the way in which people stay broken, there is no magic cure. All very good, well done kudos. Remember how I said formulaic about CSI? Well L&O perfected formulaic, it just had better writers. Let me elaborate, forty minute long show, first scene (approx 3-4 minutes) bloody murder, gruesome, cut to mourning friends/family. Second scene (approx 15-20 minutes), cops, cops ,cops, solving crime, gathering evidence hoo-ah! Scene the third (approx 15 minutes), court case state of (insert states name) Vs. (insert defendants name), followed by the last section of back slapping or thousand mile stares.Seriously if you like one of the actors and just want to stare at them and you know they are a cop, just watch the first half, odds are they will not be in the second half AT ALL. It’s painful splitting up the legal system like that, it really is. But at least they acknowledge that it’s not just a cops only gig, that the judiciary have a fair amount to do with convictions too.
Incidentally, character development can only happen over the course of multiple seasons for these guys, honestly. Instead of two-dimensional cardboard cutouts of human beings, you never really get to meet these characters, which begs the question, “why hire decent actors if you’re not going to give them enough time to develop themselves, unless they stay with the show for say- forever!”. I guess, truthfully speaking, the story is the star and the characters just keep it on track. That’s a shame, because you could make most of these into multiple episode things, meaning you’d get more of the cops,lawyers, judges and cast being human, and less dominated by the story. Also did I mention that FREAKING CLANG????
It grates, it annoys, it’s on every scene change. If there is one thing I wish they would stop, it’s that. It makes me wanna cry.
Your honour, the defendant pleads not guilty: I acknowledge the difficulties in making a well-rounded show and the simple stories are enough to bring you back week after week. Despite achieving cult status, this show propagates the idea (unfairly and unintentionally) that cops and states attorney’s have no lives, and that prosecution lawyers have no souls. Also that the legal system is divided completely equally. And that if there isn’t a gigantic clang, you may never, ever, ever change scenes.
Rizzoli & Isles
Ammagad!!!! Chicks with guns!!!!
‘K, so with as little sarcasm as possible, who was smoking crack when they wrote this? To be honest, this show is my guilty pleasure, it’s fast, funny, and has female leads. BUT they both have to be ‘quirky’ and ‘sexy’ I mean seriously they may as well hire one of the Deschanel sisters with their super-far-apart-eyes and kooky cuteness to play the characters. These woman are not real!!!!! No female cop weighing 110lb has ever, in the history of mankind, flying tackled a 200lb biker and won. IT DOESN’T HAPPEN!!!!
The most frustrating thing about this show is that it’s the buddy cop theme but with chicks, which works to an extent, but it goes too far. I get it they are strong independent women, but you will never convince me that the skinny brunette who looks like she needs a good meal, will be able to roundhouse kick that guy into the arms of her partner the buff 180lb muscley dude. Added to this is my indignation that both lead characters being female have to be polar opposites as there are only two sorts of ladies in the world. The skinny tom-boy, and the refined countess. Eff that theory, I change my personality on an hourly basis and have been known to take on both of those traits in the space of 15 minutes. That may have to do more with my imbalanced brain chemistry than women in general though. What I’m trying to say is, for the first time when the leads are women, they play it too hard. If you’ve got a winning hand you do it subtly, not yell about it.
I call to the stand the people of TVland to attest to the fact that: It has all the makings of an awesome buddy cop-show, but portrays women in a ridiculously, unattainable light. I love it, I hate it. Women in law enforcement should feel a large amount of shame when watching this. How hard is it to break into the boys club and then have everything you worked for be turned into a vagina joke?
God I like this show, and of course it gets cancelled. Oh but only watch season one, it sold out and died off by season 2. Boomtown had a rare twist to it as cop shows go, it was told in the Rashomon style. For the uninitiated this means it was told from different perspectives in a non-linear timeline. Unlike some of the criminally bad shows on this list (ehehehe see how funny I am!) it had good character development, interesting storylines, and was not just a cop show, it included, paramedics, press, the district attorney’s office, beat cops, detectives. Did I mention they also do pretty okay on the main characters back story. All in all this show works (in the same vein of 3rd Watch) but it got cancelled, and it sold out completely before its cancellation. i mean really sold out. It bucked the non-linear story style at the start of season 2, and made the paramedic become a cop, got rid of the press and basically decided to eff up all the things that made it good.
Why? Why? One reason, it didn’t get the ratings, the critics loved it, I loved it, the people who remember watching it loved it, but it never beat out the competition. It suffered because it was understated, and inherently fun to watch. It’s biggest lie was that it walked the line between totally unbelievable cop shows, and gritty hyper-real ones. Apparently you can’t have it both ways. TV you lied that sometimes good things happen- what the eff!!!??!!
Objection your honour! Counsel is leading the witness!: I like this one, it lies enough, and is truthful enough. So of course it got cancelled, oh Boomtown, we barely knew thee.
I could call this a seminal show unlike any other but that would sound pretentious as hell, and I’m already pretty pretentious without adding to it forcibly. So this show, gritty, realistic, awesome, cancelled. What I love about this show is basically how a whole season is depicted as a year, and very little happens, but enough to compel you to come back over and over again. Like in real life. Its a character driven tour de force, god I’m a pretentious little tool- s’okay I am, I think I just proved it. this show is the highbrow cop show, it introduces politics slowly and seems to keep a good pace despite the fact that in the whole first season there are few explosions. McNulty’s alcoholism feeds into our desire for a broken hero, in a broken system. Let’s be honest who doesn’t like to see people battle their demons with a gun in one hand and a bottle in the other. But he shares the screen with Lt Daniels, Pyz, Kima, and a bunch load of other characters including the junkie, Bubbles, my personal favourite. The creators of the show hired local gang members in minor roles adding to the reality of it all. If anything the lie here is that it’s too real. Let’s be honest who doesn’t like to see people battle their demons with a gun in one hand and a bottle in the other. I know, I know, how do I manage to complain about absolutely everything – it’s a gift and a curse my friends, it really is.
The Wire is bone-crushingly depressing, and refuses to pull its punches, McNulty falls off the wagon so many times it’s hard to see him stagger back up. Pyz is so disgraced he makes amends by working at a school where he effs up the lives of some of his students. Kima sabotages the only healthy relationship she has. Daniels’ politically motivated wife harnesses his ambitions. All the characters compromise their lives for their jobs, and lose out in the end. There is no glimmer of hope, succeeding doesn’t lead to promotion for most, just a new depressing case.
The jury finds you: guilty of perjury, pretending there is absolutely no hope is as bad as pretending there’s always hope.
Any comments, or shows that I should have mentioned but didn’t- tell me in the comments. edit- I can’t believe I forgot 2 of my favourites, The Mentalist & Life: Damien Lewis is the only ginger I can tolerate aside from Christina Hendricks.
(First person to mention Midsummer Murders gets a steel capped boot to the face)