TV? New shows are there… and season is in full gear. Some of these TV shows are (sadly not) culturally heightened, thematically elevated, uplifting for the spirit, or inviting of foreign culture (unless we’re mentioning an indie film). But many wise people before me, have rightly pointed out that a society’s art is reflection of both reality and fantasy. So-called “reality TV”, which actually skews reality, often disrespects the intelligence of the American community. Other material however, heightens intelligence, casts a light on trauma, broadens the mind, or even celebrates the best of human experiences with one another. Sadly, some media still prey on racial division and dwell on crime as a never ending cash crop. That is bottom feeding when it is passed on as entertainment. More to that next.
Having studied film and television, including film and TV criticism, this post is about two new TV shows.
The first one, “Mars”, is about human mission to Mars airing on Nat-Geo. With claims of scientific accuracy and technological fact as projected, it boasts to be a story of human inspiration, survival, and pioneering. The curiosity factor certainly is compelling, as viewers can imagine themselves in this foreign planet environment, as a simulation.
Fascinating it is, that hundreds of humans have in real life, already added their names to the list of volunteers who want to journey to the red planet. This TV show will encourage more to add their names, and others to likely remove their names from the list I expect.
I am not one of those people to ad my name. The Earth is for me, as messed up as it may be. I am not an astronaut, nor am I a journeyer beyond the atmosphere designed to protect the perfect habitat that God ever could have made and DID make, for all Earthlings satisfied. This statement is not to discount the very important role that astronauts through history, willfully have accomplished for all of our benefit.
The TV show “Mars”, may inspire people and kindle the imagination. And, it may lead our children and grandchildren to embark upon such a mission after seeing this in movies and on TV. As for me, I’d rather die on the terra firma we all know also as our “Mother Earth”. I’ll stay grounded “Major Tom”.
There’s another show entitled “Live PD”. Though I have not seen it, what I have heard about it, sends alarm bells ringing.
If you are old enough to have lived through the 90’s, you probably are familiar with a real time (reality) show – which preceding this one, was called “COPS”. While policing is often dangerous, requires extensive training, and often need to use force, the TV show encouraged police brutality. And, similarly this new show “Live PD” seems to be a “recycle” with heightened abuse. Not always, but parts of America experience significant civil unrest. No part of the country has been void of violence against police, or as a result of policing and pursuing, seen violence against civilians. In those years during and shortly following the 90’s, the broadcasting of “COPS” just may have been fueling the civil unrest of the time. Conversely, scripted crime shows and carefully made documentaries on the subject, add some elements of fiction or blunt the reality, in order to soften the blow of very real violence. But, so called “reality TV” mixing in with police tasks cannot achieve this objective, and therefore in my view has very unpredictable dangers. Filming live police duties, interferes with the execution of justice: as it exist an arm of presumption, conviction, and justice for viewing audience.
For those of you who lived in or near Los Angeles when the show “COPS” was on the air, cop and civilian relations were not anything to boast about in LA. Today, in the absence of the show “COPS”, and a changing of the guard in police strategy, it appears to most that there is less violent crime and less police abuse. The argument is made that such reality TV does not increase the actual safety in the regions of the country were such shows are aired. Essentially, cameras, “unbiased and unfiltered”, document the cops in their daily duty as an arm of justice. With “COPS”, cameras captured very aggressive methods of the cops on camera, nationwide. The show generally conveyed a “dumb” criminal versus an “aggressive” cop. Did the show fuel hatred toward cops? Did the show reveal wrong doing? Or, did it reveal officers at their best?
Well, now years later, we have retaliation against cops; we also still have criminals. We also have elements of hooliganism nationwide. The question is, do cops enjoy being glorified on TV for chasing down crime? Does a TV camera give them a feeling of justification for brutality and pre-conviction? Does the camera, serve as propoganda to presume every pursuit as justified? Do the cameras provide a sense of safe-haven and cover? Should all police not be polite and professional… even with a presumed alleged law breaker, and off camera so?
How far is too far, when documenting police on duty? And, does this filming not only embolden cops, but embolden those being chased as well even moreso… out of fear that they are already convicted and documented as criminal? That is not a recipe for law and order. If you believe me, the only camera there should be, is the one that the force puts on a body cam and squad car. And, even that practice may have controversy and unintentional effects. TV viewers should not be kicking back with a beer and popcorn, rooting on cops on TV. Nor, rooting on the chased. It’s bad enough to witness tax dollars being strung out by the filming of slow pursuits on freeways. While it is newsworthy, the chases are extremely costly. When there is violence, broadcasting live violence to the masses… is certainly considered wrong and with good reasons. Violence can be reported verbally, but the acts themselves if caught on camera, should be shielded from the public news broadcast. There are still times that the violence must be shown or at least reported. But real lives…and violence shown “live” for “entertainment value” – NO.
The police might get reimbursed or even profit from the TV ratings of following such pursuits, but the shows offer no redeeming value to a person looking for a way to engage his mind, protect his family from horrific content on TV, and find some better distraction and respite from the ordinary workday. We have a right to enjoy quality TV – not predatory TV. And, TV shows that turn profit from such filming should face litigation.
With the original “COPS”, producers delayed broadcast, to have the time between production and air, to be able to bleep out license plates, faces, certain words, and some of the violence. It was still disgraceful TV however, and broadcast on regular channels. This was not good for children, and it made many civilians feel no more safety than if the show had never aired.
America needs to keep an eye on the police force that is there to protect and serve the people. Good police officers know exactly how and when to use force. TV should not contract with policing. We do not want TV shows getting in the way of arrests or adjudication, by way of so called “unfiltered” produced reality TV. When in fact, additionally, it cannot be “unfiltered” anyway so long as it has witnesses and interested eyes. It cannot “follow” “objectively” as participants have claimed, rather the exposition creates an alternate universe that glorifies and protects police corruption. Or, at its worst, it will create litigation warfare for every filmed event, that involves parties who litigate.
Such police chiefs participating with this show, should be ashamed of themselves for glorifying vanity, capitalizing on citizens, and even allowing profit at the erosion of legal rights. This would not be the first show to do this, but the risk of damage is far more worrisome with this show. I refer to it as “COPS 2.0”.
Where is the respect for fellow man, due process, and law with order? The phrase is not “law with glamour!” The best of those who serve in uniform want no glory, want no fame, do want justice… and know that their job is to serve and to create safety for all.
That is no simple task and they know it. We should be grateful for the police. Yet, we should not make a vanity show of them and risk the judicial process. Investigative reporting, is however different, and I do advocate for that.
I dislike so-called “reality TV” with some exception to certain journal style TV. But, they too walk a fine line. As do “small claims” civil affair courtroom dramas. This new show however, “Live PD” just takes the cake! Be warned America, about what you participate in watching. Do you really want to encourage police brutality and encourage their loss of control? Think about it this way, restrained police methods makes for unprofitable TV. People who watch this show, want to watch the chase, the hunt, the defiance, the chaos. This is a disaster waiting to happen, and this show does not get my vote of confidence.
We risk fueling racial disparity, where as of today, such racial divide is more limited. We face focusing people’s attention on not their lives, rather the exposition and exploitation of both the police force and all those being filmed.
Better it would be, to simply create one 90 minute documentary of some compiled events… that may risk being presented in a biased way, but remain truthful. Such a documentary could show the brazen attitudes of those who do not respect officers, by compiling certain limited footage gathered from around the nation. To some extent, the original “COPS” show did this.
There’s a saying from where I come from that says, where you feed yourself with trauma, you’ll find it. And once you find it, you might start to crave it. Seek the good everywhere, and the good will grow. Shine a light on the bad, and learn to defend yourself from rotting like an apple core.
We don’t want to rott. This “Live PD” is not one important movie, or one important book. This “Live PD” project would be a long TV series, with perpetual ill effects on society. Ill effects on black, white, latino, mixed minority, asian, cop, civilian, soldier, mother, father, child etc.
We cannot allow such a program to broadcast. I encourage you to write letters to the channel that airs it. Send a clear message to the producers and broadcasters, that we don’t want it! In its spot, we can instead air musician concerts! Musicians and bands from foreign countries and the USA! Make a replacement show request… send it in to the channel. No more ultra-machismo TV please! Our childrens’ quality of life is at stake!
Far better, is to watch a movie just out about now, that you may have heard of that is set in the 1950’s. It is a racial conflict story with a very redeeming message I am sure. It encourages mixed-race relations… a film that depicts the struggle so many of us still experience when it comes to living out dreams, exercising choice, and fighting against many odds and adversities to get to one’s destination. The success story is what invigorates. The “reality TV” tends to conversely treat people as though they are commodities, staged in false realities. Being the subject of the filming, however, does not ensure good product or verify complicity of the participants. This is why I refer to it often as exploitation and an affront to human dignity; human rights. There are times to examine hardship, to fictionalize, or to document. But documenting law procedure, private lives, and influencing enforcement of law with such meddlesome filming, is both in poor taste and divisive. The courtroom also, is a place for public trust and a discreet process. Media coverage of courtrooms’ proceedings should be limited to the public square, outside, and to unrecorded witnessing. Alleged criminals have for decades, been often afforded court sketches. This is a good tradition which preserves our democracy.
For TV and big-screen, as well as theater and all arts, we need love stories, war stories, teen stories, women stories, fantasy stories, musicals, and yes humor stories… indie and foreign made films still also. There is room for sci-fi still, the wonderful super hero stories we all can identify with whether or not we read comic books. These get passed on to the next generation. And yes, even Meryl Streep… even still after all these years, she is not in need of fearing “being sent out to pasture!” Is that right?
In closing: please, no more live “COPS” shows! Script it and with actors, like Dick Wolf did it. Isn’t that enough crime watching for us? I think it is. As much as I think there is already a saturation of cop and crime shows on our TV’s, “Live PD” would just be going too far.
Calling upon all “black lives matter” activists, in solidarity with these concepts I speak of here. And, remember that all lives matter, period. Calling on our buddy Quentin Tarantino… let’s nurture the police and civilian relations across the nation! Let’s also see that our police force remains respected and continually worthy of that repsect. Their job is difficult, and they must be mourned when they fall. This is the year to continue to improve policing! We have to keep an eye on our media, so that we do not create skewed interpretations of justice, reality, law and order. It is possible to respect and be grateful to our police, and, to also keep them bound to their training, duty, and obligation to serve and protect residents according to our just laws.