It is too early to know whether the last weeks of mass protests will fundamentally change the way people see such programming and, more importantly, the way they will approach network scheduling. The viewing audience is barely monolithic, with plenty of options providing all sorts of flavors and niches.
These scheduling moves, however, felt like a tacit acknowledgment that TV had amplified its coverage of police work. While the effect of this can be debated in relation to scripted programs, the “reality” label worn by “cops” and its break carry a set of tingling problems.
Like so much on TV, the success of “The Cops” was a surprise to most people for now – it was a combination of events more than a master plan. Back in its infancy, the Fox network was broadcast in the genre, while the networks explored alternative programs due to a long-running strike by Hollywood writers.
Starting with local stations, Fox launched a law enforcement bloc that began with the “Americans We Want Most” in the final year of the Reagan administration, which Fox joined in 1989.
Those shows solved the problem for developers, offering a cheap way to fill the time on Saturday night, while at the same time becoming an unexpected grade winner.
The law enforcement message is aligned with the conservative insults of Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch. Still, the main momentum behind “Cops” was his ability to offer visceral excitement on a budget, back in the days before everyone became an amateur camera operator thanks to cell phones.
As noted, “Cops” barely focus on the heroic aspects of police work. But unlike TV and film scripts – including those that sympathetically portray officers – it came to the fore with “reality,” despite editorial choices and cooperative contracts with police departments that undoubtedly shaped and distorted the content.
A&E attributed the decision to “Live PD” “respect for the family of George Floyd and others who lost their lives.” As for “Cops,” Paramount Network has not responded to a request for clarification of its status, but the series is no longer on its website.
Some critics have called for a cleanup of such shows, though this seems unlikely. Several cable networks have lines dedicated to serious crime, and practically speaking, cleaning these shelves cannot happen overnight. (By the way, cops could still be seen at stations like WGN over the weekend.)
The logical next step would be to look soberly at the uploaded images and whether they are displayed responsibly. The song with the theme “Cops” famously asks, “What am I going to do?” At the very least, networks that want to show how they understand the movement need to start with that.