Police Reality Shows Dropping Like Flies

With Cops and Live PD, two of the best-known examples, cancelled in two days, who's next?

cops police

Mere hours after the Paramount Network announced they had cancelled the venerable docuseries Cops in the light of the George Floyd protests, A&E followed suit, officially dropping their own entry into the genre, Live PD.

Cops had been one of the longest-running shows on American television, first airing on Fox in 1989 before its move to the Paramount Network (then Spike TV) in 2013. Its 33rd season had been scheduled to premiere on the 8th of June. Live PD’s cancellation appears to have come as a similar shock – it had been renewed for 160 more episodes earlier in 2020. As recently as the 9th of June, Live PD host Dan Abrams was assuring the public that the show would return, taking to Twitter to state “We are still discussing some specifics but I want to assure the #LivePDNation that we are not abandoning you” only for the cancellation to finally come on the 10th.

In the case of Cops, this appears to be a broad reaction to the killing of George Floyd and the anti-police sentiment stemming from that, Cops being the longest-running and possibly most popular example of the police reality show. But Live PD’s cancellation has the feel of a mea culpa, following the revelation that the show had destroyed footage of the killing of Javier Ambler, a case too similar to that of Floyd’s to avoid comparison – like Floyd, Ambler was being forcibly restrained and repeatedly said “I can’t breathe” before his death.

Cops originally came to be during the 1988 Writer’s Guild of America strike, when Fox was looking for cheap and non-scripted content to fill the holes left in its schedules. Although not the first police documentary show, it would prove hugely influential, with most examples of the genre since copying its pared-down approach of putting a cameraman in a squad car, and spawned a sea of imitators.

The UK alone fills out its TV listings with programmes as diverse as Traffic Cops, Cops With Cameras, Motorway Cops, Brit Cops, Sky Cops, Cop Squad, Police 24/7, Police Interceptors, Road Wars, Street Wars – in short, the news that this kind of reality show is being cancelled at short notice puts a lot of jobs at risk, and will make a lot of people in the industry very nervous.

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