If you are a bad boy, there is only one show that answers the age-old question “whatchu gonna do if they come for you?” and that is Cops. This show is one of the longest running shows on TV with a whopping 29 seasons. It’s simply one of the most mind-blowing things that you can see on television anywhere or anytime. For the few of you that are not familiar with it (and where have you been?), the show basically follows police officers around on their jobs, in different cities across America. This can obviously have some interesting results. On Cops you might see anything from a high speed car chase after a bank robbery to an officer arresting someone for being drunk in public. The one thing that all of the episodes have in common is that they are highly entertaining.
While most shows about police officers attempt to show some sort of cool version of a cop, the show Cops just tries to tell it as it is. Of course, the cops are not the most interesting part of the show, the most interesting part are the criminals, most of whom actually agree to be on the show. I mean, really? What is that about? But more on that later.
If you have ever been chilling out on your couch with nothing going on, flipping through the channels and then you realized that Cops was on and you got all excited, then you are going to want to read on. Here are 15 things you probably did not know about Cops.
15. It Has Been On Close To 30 Years
A lot of you, maybe even most of you, were not even born when this show started; it is one of the longest running shows ever on television. 29 years? Seriously? In 1989 the average rent was $420, stamps cost a quarter and if you were alive, the odds are that you had a really bad haircut. And the thing is, Cops just keeps rolling on and on, it literally can not be stopped. Fox finally pulled the plug and cancelled the show in 2013, but then Spike decided to carry the show. The thing is these shows are so cheap to make, all you really need is a camera guy, a sound guy, a cop that is willing to let you hang out with him, and a totally stupid criminal to do something that gets him in trouble and you are in business.
14. Cops Has Been Filmed In Well Over 100 Cities
One of the coolest things about Cops is how the show is filmed in so many different locations. One episode could be filmed in the midst of one of the biggest ghettos in the country, and the next could be shot in a totally rural area. The show has followed officers in 140 different cities in the United States, Hong Kong, London, and the Soviet Union. This obviously is very entertaining to watch, not so much because all of the different cops we get to see, more because all of the different types of criminals. Because after all, who are the true stars of the show? Let’s be honest, we really tune in to see what happens to all the lawbreakers, and to be glad that it is not us, and Cops surely gives us a look at dumb criminals all over the land.
13. The Producer Came Up With The Idea For The Show During A Cocaine Bust
Way back in 1983, John Langley was in charge of a film crew that was covering a cocaine bust for a documentary that was called Cocaine Blues, when he thought to himself that this could be a great idea for a TV show. Basically he said “Why doesn’t someone just follow cops around with a camera and see what happens, and catch all the details of their day?” While he thought it was a good idea, no one else did. A show with no narrator, no cast, no music, and no plot was not much of an easy sell for him and he didn’t have much luck selling the show at first. I wonder how many people that passed on Cops wound up kicking themselves later? 30 years in and still going strong, it seems that Langley had a good idea after all.
12. It Got Picked Up Because Of A Writers’ Strike
Langley kept pushing the idea to TV stations but no one was interested. Also you have to remember how different things were back in the ’80s- there were only a couple stations to pitch to. Soon a station called the Fox Network came along and right when they did a writers’ strike happened. All of a sudden the idea of having a show that did not have a script did not seem like a bad idea after all. No one needed to write what happened on Cops; all you had to do was put a camera guy and a sound guy in a police car and the show would write itself. Langley said of this “Suddenly, a show with no actors, host, script, or writers sounded pretty good.” Fox took a chance on his show, and the rest is history.
11. What About That Theme Song?
So whether you are a fan of the show or not you have to admit that the theme song is one of the coolest theme songs ever. The song was by a reggae band from Jamaica called Inner Circle, and the rights for it were bought by Langley for $2,500. I am not sure but I bet the guys in Inner Circle might be a little bummed about that now, although I bet back then $2,500 bought them a lot of beer. With that said, the success of the song led them to be signed by Atlantic Records and put out an album called Bad Boys that sold over a million copies, so they do have that going for them. They were around long before the song came out, and are still kicking around today. No matter what, they performed one of the best theme songs of all time.
10. Each Episode Has Three Acts
If you are a fan of the show, and if you are not you should be, you will probably notice that each show has three different segments. It usually starts off with an action sequence; most often either a car chase or a foot chase. Then it gets into act two, which is usually more of a “slow things down” segment where a cop might have a kind of funny conversation with someone about something that is not a big deal. The last segment is usually some sort of moral lesson, where we learn that using drugs, driving drunk, or engaging in prostitution is really not a good idea. Just because Cops does not follow a script, does not mean that it does not have a formula. Pretty much every episode follows the same three segment recipe.
9. It Used To Be More About The Cops
We know that you and the rest of the fans of the show like watching cops doing their thing on the job, but would you want to watch them go home and eat dinner with the wife as well? The original idea that Langley had was that he would not only show the officers at work doing their thing, but that he would follow them home as well. One of the first shows featured a cop coming home after a long day and arguing with his wife. Both critics and fans did not think much of the idea, and it was dropped pretty much right away. Which makes total sense; if I am watching this show I am doing so to see a cop battle with criminals, not battle with his wife about his pork chops being too dry, or the lawn not being mowed.
8. The Criminals Have To Sign Releases
Of all the things that are interesting about Cops this is the one that gets me the most. You know how out of all of these criminals, and battered wives, drunks, and victims, every once in a great while you see one that has their face blurred out so you can’t tell who they are? Well those are the only people that don’t sign releases. The rest of these people actually say that it is okay to put them on TV while they are being arrested and acting like idiots. There is literally no way I would ever do that, but Langley has said about 95% of them say yes just because they are so psyched to be on TV. Seriously? I know I am going to sound like someone’s Grampie right now, but come on! What the hell is wrong with people?
7. Some Departments Use It As A Recruiting Tool
If you ever wonder why so many departments would let film crews follow them around there is one good reason you may not have thought of. Recruitment. While it may seem easy to find qualified people to be police officers, this is not always the case and a show like Cops helps paint the police officers, and the departments they work for, in a good light. There are so many things that are negative these days that go on around the police and how they interact with citizens. A show like Cops does a lot to help recruit qualified people. When you think about it, how many times have you watched an episode and saw things that did not show the officers in a good light? I can’t recall it ever happening to be honest.
6. The Crew Has Jumped In Before
It kind of goes without saying that the crew can’t get involved. For one thing the show is a documentary of sorts and what kind of documentary would it be if the sound guy tackled a robber as he was running by? For another, well obviously it would be kind of dangerous for the crew to get involved, and in fact it is strictly forbidden. The only exceptions are when it is a life-threatening situation. One time a suspect was about to get an officer’s weapon and the sound guy was not having it and jumped in to stop this from happening. Another time a crew member gave CPR to a woman in distress as the cop involved did not know how. Talk about being in a bad situation as a crew member. To do something means you ruin the shot, to do nothing means that you risk something bad happening because of your inaction.
5. One Crew Member Died
While there is no doubt that the show has an excellent record on safety, there was one crew member that died. According to this article: “The suspect, whom police identified as Cortez Washington, 32, was struck by the officers’ gunfire, but fled outside the restaurant before collapsing. Officers continued firing on the suspect as he exited the restaurant, and that was when the “Cops” crew member Bryce Dion, 38, was also struck, said Schamaderer.” Dion was wearing a bulletproof vest, but a single bullet that hit his arm slipped into a gap in the vest and went into his chest.” While it is good that only one person has died in the almost 30 years of filming, this was still a huge tragedy.
4. They Shoot 400 Hours Of Footage For One Show
As you might imagine filming a show like this is not simple. It is not just a matter of putting a guy with a camera in a cop car and then the action starts. During a lot of a cops’ shifts pretty much nothing happens, at least not something interesting enough to be on TV. Much of a cop’s day is spent driving around, sitting in his or her car, and yes, even eating donuts. Each episode is 22 minutes long and to get those 22 minutes of entertaining footage, the crew films around 400 hours of footage. They either tape over or throw out the unused footage. I feel bad for all the poor criminals and victims that were hoping to be on TV but did not make the cut. Hey, it’s a tough world out there.
3. They Once Set Up A Sting
As we have already discussed, Cops usually follows a pretty set format, but when it came time to try and bust someone for solicitation of murder they had to make an exception. There was as undercover officer who had taped a woman who was supposedly trying to find a hitman to kill her husband. The local police got all tricky and set up a fake crime scene. The woman, Dalia Dippolito, came to see it and Cops filmed her when she heard the fake news. Dippolito was tried and convicted of solicitation to commit first-degree murder in 2011. She claims the whole thing was just a ruse on her part so she could post it on YouTube and become famous. It seems people are not buying that, because she is still in prison.
2. It Makes A Ton Of Money
Ever wonder how much people make off shows like this? Don’t, you will just get depressed. Way back in 2oo5 this article stated that: “Now in its 17th season, the show has brought in an estimated $500 million from network, syndication, cable, and DVD sales since its start, despite operating on a relative shoestring in the world of network television. While reality TV is constantly morphing to suit the changing tastes of fickle audiences, Cops long ago discovered a simple, enduring truth: Putting camera crews with police officers makes great TV.”
1. The Cops Don’t Get Paid
John Langley may have made hundreds of millions of dollars by filming cops, but he sure has not split any of that with them. “We don’t pay people to be themselves,” he told Entertainment Weekly in 2011. “If you pay them, you’re affecting their behavior.” Actually John, I hate to break it to you, but you might be affecting their behavior just a tiny bit by filming them for a show that’ll be on national TV anyway, don’t you think? So you don’t worry about that making them act differently but you think if you tossed them a little coin it might? Well, either way, it is hard to argue with the man who is behind one of the most enjoyable shows on TV. Here’s to you Cops- may you last another 30 years.