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|Format||Reality legal programming
|Created by||John Langley
|Narrated by||Harry Newman|
|Opening theme||Bad Boys by Inner Circle|
|Composer(s)||Michael Lewis (pilot)
Nathan Wang (season one)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||25|
|No. of episodes||891|
|Executive producer(s)||John Langley
Malcom Barbour (1989–1994)
|Producer(s)||Paul Stojanovich (1989–1990)
Bertram van Munster
|Running time||approx. 22 min.
|Production company(s)||Barbour/Langley Productions (1989–2001)
Langley Productions (2002–present)
Fox Television Stations
|Original channel||Fox (1989-2013)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV) (1989–2007),
720p (HDTV) (2007–present)
|Audio format||Mono (1989–1990)
|Original run||March 11, 1989 – present|
Cops (stylized as COPS) is an American documentary/reality legal series that follows police officers, constables, and sheriff's deputies during patrols and other police activities. It is one of the longest-running television programs in the United States and in May 2011 became the longest-running show on Fox with the announcement that America's Most Wanted was being canceled after 23 years. The first episode was broadcast in 1989.
Created by John Langley and Malcolm Barbour, it premiered on March 11, 1989, and is scheduled to air its 850th episode during the 2012-2013 season. It won the American Television Award in 1993 and has earned four Emmy nominations. COPS' 25th season began on December 15, 2012. The series is currently one of only two remaining first-run prime-time programs airing on Saturday nights on the four major U.S. broadcast television networks along with CBS's 48 Hours Mystery. When it expanded to show two episodes in the 8PM hour, it was called Primetime Cops in promos for several years.
Cops is broadcast by Fox (with repeats from earlier seasons syndicated to local television stations and other cable networks, including truTV and G4), and follows the activities of police officers by embedding camera crews with police units. The show's formula follows the cinéma vérité convention, with no narration or scripted dialog, depending entirely on the commentary of the officers and on the actions of the people with whom they come into contact.
The show has followed officers in 140 different cities in the United States and in Hong Kong, London, and the former Soviet Union. Each episode is approximately 22 minutes in length and typically consists of three segments, with each segment being one or two self-contained police incidents.
Cops was created by John Langley and his producing partner Malcolm Barbour. In 1983, Langley was working on Cocaine Blues, a television series about drugs. As part of his research he went on a drug raid with drug enforcement officers and was inspired to create a show focusing on real-life law enforcement.
In the late 1980s, after producing a series of live syndicated specials called American Vice: The Doping of a Nation with Geraldo Rivera, Langley and Barbour pitched the Cops show concept to Stephen Chao, a Fox programming executive who would one day become president of the Fox Television Stations Group and later USA Network. Chao liked the concept and pitched it to Barry Diller, then CEO of the Fox Network.
A Writers Guild of America strike was occurring at the time and the network needed new material. An unscripted show that did not require writers was ideal for Fox. The first episode aired in 1989, and featured the Broward County, Florida, Sheriff's Office.
The original concept of the show was to follow officers home and tape their home lives along with their work. After a while the idea of following officers home was deemed too artificial by Langley and was abandoned. Thereafter, the format of three self-contained segments with no narrator, no music and no scripts would become the show's formula.
The first segment is usually an action segment to hook the viewer, followed by a slower, or more "lyrical" segment, and concluding with a more "thoughtful" segment. This has been the formula and visual style of COPS as the first network reality TV series and has remained so from episode one until the present day. Other innovations for its time included Langley's insistence that as few edits as possible be used, that all cameramen throw away their tripods and shoot exclusively handheld, and that natural audio be the score of the series.
The show ends with a recorded communication between a dispatcher and police officer before playing the closing credit music, which it has done since the second season began.
Cops has aired on Fox's Saturday-night lineup since its debut. Since 2012, the series has retained its traditional timeslot, but airs more intermittently as Fox Sports has scheduled more programming in Saturday primetime, with NASCAR in the late winter, Major League Baseball through the spring and summer, college football in the fall, and various UFC events through the year. Cops is then scheduled on weeks without any sporting events, followed by an encore of a Fox drama series.
Camera crew assistance
The camera crew that follows the officers are instructed to maintain a fly on the wall position, not interfering or making their presence known on camera unless necessary for the safety of officers and civilians on scene. There have been multiple instances where the safety of the officers has necessitated their involvement, however.
In one episode, the sound mixer for the camera crew, a former EMT, assisted a police officer in performing CPR. In another episode in season 11 that took place in 1998 in Atlanta, Cops camera operator Si Davis, who was coincidentally a Las Vegas Reserve Police Officer, had to drop the camera and assist an Atlanta police officer in wrestling a suspect into custody. The APD officer, it turned out, had been severely injured during a foot pursuit; meanwhile, sound mixer Steve Kiger, picked up the camera and continued recording the action which eventually made air. Because the camera crew was dressed in tactical gear, no one noticed that it was the camera operator in front of the camera.
In another episode a rape suspect fled and outran the cops only to have the cameraman follow him the entire time until police caught up and subdued him.
In an episode of season 14 (2001–2002) during the arrest of a man after a car chase in Hillsborough County, Florida, the sound mixer held the sister of the man away from the deputy after she tried to intervene in the arrest of her brother. Also, during the first episode of Season 22, a Las Vegas officer was scuffling with a suspect high on PCP, who eventually tackled the officer and required the camera operator and Las Vegas paramedics to wrestle the suspect off of the officer.
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All episodes of Cops, with the exception of the first season, begin with the disclaimer, "COPS is filmed on location with the men and women of law enforcement. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law." The first season disclaimer was slightly different by stating, "COPS is filmed on location as it happens. All suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law." Burt Lancaster provided the following narration on the pilot episode. "Cops is about real people, and real criminals. It was filmed entirely on location, with the men and women who work in law enforcement."
During at least the first season, episodes featured original scoring in a vein similar to the instrumental backing of the opening song. Some cues were short, others longer, usually over montages. Among the composers who scored episodes were Michael Lewis and Nathan Wang.
The series' 850th episode is scheduled to air during the 2012-2013 season.
In 1993, Cops went into broadcast syndication, and has remained in syndication since. As of 2013, it appears on cable on truTV, with the show also airing on G4, which will continue with G4's rebranding into the Esquire Network. An enhanced version of the series branded Cops 2.0 with web chat and program facts aired on G4 from May 2007-2009.
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Cops is broadcast in the UK on FX, Movie Mix and CBS Reality. In Portugal the show is aired on Fox Crime, in Brazil on TruTV, in Colombia on TruTV, in Australia on One and CI Network, In Japan on Fox Crime, in India on STAR World and FOX Crime, in Norway on Viasat 4, in Sweden on Viasat 6 and in Denmark on Canal9.
The Videos Cops: In Hot Pursuit. The DVDs Cops: Shots Fired, Cops: Bad Girls, and Cops: Caught in the Act include profanity and sexually explicit footage cut from the network version. A Cops: 20th Season Anniversary two-disc DVD was released in the US and Canada on February 19, 2008,
In 1999, Cops associate producer and sound mixer Hank Barr published The Jump-Out Boys, a book about the show's production.
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The show has been criticized for its predominant focus on the criminal activities among the poor. Critics of this aspect of the show say it unfairly presents the poor as responsible for most crime in society while ignoring the "white-collar crimes" that are typical of the more wealthy. Controversial documentary filmmaker Michael Moore raises this tenet in an interview with a former associate producer of Cops, Richard Herlan, in Moore's 2002 film Bowling for Columbine.
His response to Moore was that television is primarily a visual medium, requiring regular footage on a weekly basis to sustain a show, and police officers "busting in" on an office where identity theft papers are being created or other high-level crime rings are operating does not happen very often. It is therefore not likely to be recorded and thus not shown. The low-level crime featured on the show happens every day, providing large quantities of material suitable for taping.
Chicago Police Department Deputy Director of News Affairs Patrick Camden in 2005 stated in response to a request for Cops taping that "police work is not entertainment. What they do trivializes policing. We've never seriously even considered taping."
Impact of filming on the Dalia Dippolito case
During the trial of Dalia Dippolito, convicted of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, the defense attorney claimed Dippolito was tricked into signing the Cops release form. Also the defense claimed the husband orchestrated the plot to get aired on Cops.
The show X-Files released an episode "X-Cops" (season 7, episode 12) where Mulder and Scully collaborate with the police in order to catch a mysterious, shapeshifting entity. In the tradition of the real-life Cops program, the entire episode is shot on video.
- "Episodes: Cops". Retrieved 16 December 2012.
- Andreeva, Nellie. ‘Cops’ Cancelled By Fox, Picked Up By Spike TV Deadline.com (May 6, 2013).
- Ben Deci (May 17, 2011). "Fox Cancels America's Most Wanted". KTXL. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
- Our Foreign Staff (May 17, 2011). "America's Most Wanted is cancelled". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
- "The Official COPS Website". Cops.com. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
- Kondolojy, Amanda (October 12, 2012). "'Cops' Cruises Into 25th Season Saturday, December 15 on FOX". TV by the Numbers. Fox press release. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
- "Fox 2012-2013 Returning Series: Cops". Fox Broadcasting. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
- G4 (May. 24, 2007). "Cops 2.0 Press Release" (Press release). G4. Retrieved 28 July 2007.
- "Cops 20th Anniversary". Copsdvd.com. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
- Ben Grossman (July 31, 2005). "Bad Boys=Big Money; Cops has no stars, no plot and no contests, and it's a killer on TV". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
- David Lohr (September 22, 2011). "Dalia Dippolito Murder-For-Hire Case Featured In Controversial COPS Episode". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 10, 2012.
- Andrea Canning; Jessica Hopper (April 27, 2011). "Florida Woman Dalia Dippolito Uses Reality TV Defense in Murder for Hire Trial". ABC News. Retrieved March 10, 2012.