Police-reality show and Cops return two years after George Floyd
Two years after the death of George Floyd ended the runs of several reality-based police shows, it looks like the genre is making a comeback.
Earlier this week, the producers of Live PD announced a deal with Reelz Channel for a new version of the show with the working title On Patrol: Live and plans to air on Friday and Saturday nights from 8 to 11 p.m. Chicago time – the same nights the former A&E show Live PD aired from 2016 to 2020. The show followed police departments who participated in real-time with cameras though slightly delayed in order to avoid inappropriate content.
A premiere date has yet to be announced. The new show is being produced by Big Fish Entertainment, the same production company who was behind Live PD.
During its time on the air, Live PD took advantage of airing on the two low-HUT nights and scored ratings success, drawing as many as three million viewers each airing. The franchise spawned several spinoffs, including Live PD: Police Patrol, whose reruns were yanked from syndication in June 2020 as was off-network episodes of Cops, whose first-run episodes were pulled from Paramount Network.
Dan Abrams returns as host as does retired Tulsa Police Department Sgt. Sean “Sticks” Larkin and Deputy Sheriff Curtis Wilson, Division Commander with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department in Columbia, S.C.
Reelz is an independent cable channel owned by Hubbard Broadcasting, the owner of Chicago radio stations 101.9 The Mix, She 100.3, and The Drive and is also owner of flagship ABC affiliate KSTP in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where Floyd died at the hands of police on May 25, 2020. The station group’s chairman is 88-year old Stanley S. Hubbard, a known supporter of the Republican party and was a major donor to former President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
To differentiate itself from its predecessor, On Patrol: Live plans to include inviting citizens on ride-along and into the studio for commentary. But nothing was said about if these shows would resume using controversial tactics.
As documented here on this site, Live PD taped the death of Javier Ambler by Williamson County, Tex. sheriff’s deputies after a police chase and erased the video, leading Texas to ban television shows from filming ride-a-longs with law enforcement. Earlier, Bridgeport, Conn. and Tulsa, Okla. voted to ban Live PD from filming in their cities as much of the footage wound up on Police Patrol. The Tulsa Police Department however, did return to Live PD for its fourth and final season.
This marks the latest comeback for a genre written off as dead two years ago. Recently, streamer Fox Nation, who target audience is conservative viewers, recently revived Cops as a first-run show last September. The vast Cops library has also been sold to several streaming services including Redbox and Pluto TV as Langley Productions took over ownership of the library from Disney, who acquired the show as part of their $71.3 billion purchase of 20th Century Fox film studio, the show’s former distributor. Cops was initially produced by Fox Television Stations, the owned-and-operated group who counts Chicago’s WFLD and WPWR in its stable.
Since Floyd’s death, there has been another change in how the public views law enforcement. The “defund the police” movement has largely died down amid a sharp increase in crime across the country as Democrat politicians are avoiding the slogan altogether. The district attorney was recently recalled in San Francisco as smash-and-grabs proliferate, whose videos have wound up on newscasts nationwide. Most Republican candidates – including those running for Governor in Illinois, are running on pro-law enforcement themes and paint Democrats as soft on crime. A WGN-TV poll from last year showed residents were not happy with the way local Chicago leaders were handling crime – not to mention a stark divide on how crime was covered on the local news.
The return of police reality shows – albeit on smaller, less distributed platforms, proves there is still an appetite for this type of programming. But for fans, it’s going to be a harder find as bigger media companies are still avoiding the genre.