After 25 seasons on FOX as one of the network’s seminal shows, and one that helped to establish its brand, the reality show “Cops” was axed last spring. So creator and executive producer John Langley, with “beloved” son and co-executive producer Morgan Langley, started looking for a new home.
This fall, “Cops” reappeared — looking much as it always has and still airing on Saturdays — on male-centric cable network Spike.
“I love Spike, to be honest with you,” John Langley tells Zap2it, sitting in the show’s production offices in Santa Monica, Calif. “I think Spike is the bee’s knees. It’s got the right demo. It’s a good match. They are excited to have us. They’re promoting like mad. All those reasons make it fun.”
And, while “Cops” matches Spike’s focus on male viewers, it’s not leaving the ladies behind.
“We have a surprisingly big female audience as well,” Langley says. “It’s about 40 percent. So although it’s predominately male, it still has a great appeal for women.”
Over roughly 900 episodes (the 850th aired last February on FOX), “Cops” has become a living document of policing in the United States over the last quarter-century. That’s an accomplishment that Langley thinks will be important to more than just TV fans.
“A hundred years from now,” he says, “the sociologists will study it. I’m pretty convinced it will happen. They’re going to look back at law enforcement in the 20th century and the 21st century, and they’re going to go, ‘Well, here we have all this stuff. It’s all documented, so we can study behavior, laws and attitudes.’
“I get a kick out of that, to be honest with you. That’s amusing. As a former teacher, I think it’s interesting.”
As to what changes he’s seen in crime over the show’s run, Langley says, “I’ve seen a diminishment in crime statistically across the nation, which I suppose is a good thing, but all of that is a little misleading.
“Crime is a manipulable phenomenon. In other words, I can go and become a chief of police in any city in this country and lower crime. You know how? Very simply — don’t arrest people, don’t answer calls, and you will lower crime.”
But, Langley points out, all improvements are not necessarily illusory.
“There are many more educated cops,” he says, “well-trained cops, in America, because the standards have [been] raised over the years. You don’t get the cowboy factor as much, where you have the lone rogue cop going to go out there and shoot it out.
“Dirty Harry would have been brought up [on charges] and tried and convicted, I’m sure. That doesn’t happen much anymore. It’s generally improved across the board, from anybody’s perspective, from law enforcement’s and statistically.”
Among the cities featured this year is Stockton, Calif. — seen next in the episode airing Saturday, Nov. 9 — located amid the farmland of the state’s Central Valley. Along with its Gold Rush history and annual Asparagus Festival, Stockton also became the largest city ever to file for bankruptcy in 2012 (later surpassed by Detroit in 2013), and has a crime problem to match its budgetary woes.
In 2012, it was ranked the 10th most dangerous city in the U.S., just behind Baltimore.
Says Morgan Langley, who’s joined the conversation, “I was surprised with Stockton. I had no idea how bad it had gotten up there. It was one of the most active cities we have, if not the most. Stockton’s the kind of place you just don’t think anything about. Those cops have a lot on their hands, for sure.”
While people normally associate crime with big cities — or troubled ones such as Stockton — John Langley says, “It almost doesn’t matter where you are in this country — crime is democratic. It will be there, no matter where you are. It’s just a matter of degree.
“Obviously, if you’re in an urban environment, you have more crime. Big cities have more crime because they have bigger populations. It’s the rats in the maze; it’s the anthill. More stuff is happening, more activity.
“But I don’t care if you’re in Okarche, Okla., you’re going to find crime. It may not be as dramatic in terms of variety, but you will have everything you can think of.”
Of course, there’s crime in Chicago and Honolulu, but “Cops” viewers won’t get to see it.
“Chicago,” says John Langley, “who knows? It’s very top-heavy. It’s about the mayor. If the mayor wants you, you’ll go. It’s not the chief of police; it’s not the police department.”
In Honolulu, it may be more about preserving the city’s tourist reputation as a sparkling metropolis with tropical beaches.
Langley isn’t impressed with that argument, saying, “Look, we film in Las Vegas all the time. Do you think that prevents one person from going to Las Vegas?”