The truth about TV cop shows

I don’t watch police drama shows on television. Most cops don’t. My wife, who spent her career as a detective and who specialized in crimes against women and children, will watch shows about actual crimes.

Actually, one or two of her cases have been picked up by production companies who came in, interviewed her, gave her the date it would air, and … well, nothing. That’s show business.

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As for me, cop shows are at the bottom of the “to-watch list,” mostly because they stray so far from reality. It becomes an exercise in frustration more than an enjoyable viewing experience. The only exception is “Reno 911,” which I love. Although intended for mindless entertainment, some of the antics remind me of distant situations equaling that level of absurdity. More on that after the statute of limitations expires.

Sooner or later, in conversation with those who we call “civilians,” it seems the question occasionally comes around as to the validity of police television shows. The short answer: few, if any, are true to life.

I have internet television, which affords me a wide range of shows as far back as the 1950s. The older shows are geared toward the investigation and getting the bad guy just before they roll the credits.

Columbo was a master of deception, filling the suspect with confidence through his bumbling nature and a wrinkled trench coat that he wore in Los Angeles in the summer. Yet, once Columbo walked away, then stopped, scratched his head, and turned to ask one more question, you knew the suspect was toast.

I don’t know why he had to drive that old car, though. LAPD detectives were, and are, issued cars — nice ones too. Still, he’s a favorite.

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Because I have access to older shows, I recently pulled up an episode of “Nash Bridges.” First, where is that police station? It looks like some fancy architectural building with an art deco motif. Also, who is doing the paperwork on those cases?

Nash and Cheech just drive off in that 1971 Plymouth Hemi “Cuda” convertible after a 10-minute shootout, put the top down, and cruise. Nice ride for sure — but even if it was confiscated from an evil drug dealer or worse, an Instagram Influencer, in reality, the district attorney who did the asset forfeiture or a high-ranking police commander would be tooling around town instead of a couple of detectives. Maybe that will hit the table of discussion after the statute of limitations.

So, let me get into the heart of the matter. Most TV shows are well off the mark. If not, they would be boring. Who wants to see the prime-time detective cut the shift short to go work his or her off-duty traffic job?

Now if you want the absolute holy grail of cheesy cop shows, look no further than T.J. Hooker, a police sergeant that hangs around the LCPD — wherever that is — police academy barracks, teaching all the beautiful and handsome police recruits with their 1980s hair. In fact, everyone’s hair is perfect.

I policed in the 1970s and 1980s and never reached that level of hair because my hair had other plans. If the wind blew my hair up, instead of it gently floating down, perfectly, in slow motion, it just stayed up there looking like a rooster.

In one episode of “T.J. Hooker,” the perpetrator, having committed a crime, is actively absconding with Hooker in foot pursuit. Hooker, realizing he cannot catch the much younger thief, pulls his P-24 baton and throws it. The baton skips along the road until it tangles the perpetrator’s feet and down he goes! Hooker hooks him and books him and not one hair is out of place.

Prior to the 1980s, there was one popular police show that was the very definition of cool cops and what they did every day on the job. The 1970s “Starsky and Hutch,” which should have been titled “Starsky, Hutch, and the 1975 Ford Gran Torino,” introduced the “hood slide.”

The hood slide was a way to exit the Gran Torino quickly; you’d slide across the freshly waxed red paint, land on your feet, then pull out the cuffs and gun before dragging the bad guy from the car you chased all over Hollywood. I thought I could use the hood slide in my toolbox, so I practiced it one afternoon.

Here is how it went.

I came to a full stop in my issued Ford Fairmont, leaped from the car — or rather, tried to, but found that I had not unbuckled my seat belt. I then unbuckled the belt and leaped across the hood, but I’d not developed enough speed to make it across, so I came to a stop about mid-hood — which was hot, so I rolled off and landed on my face.

Apparently, Hollywood embellishes hood slides.

So, next time you find yourself in conversation with a young police officer, instead of asking if television police dramas are accurate, just cut to the chase and ask, “Can you do the hood slide?”

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Credit: Reporter Newspapers

Credit: Reporter Newspapers


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