Saturday Matinee 2016 47: Live-PD (TV, 2016)

Television reality shows have long found the police worth following. The first of these was, naturally, the now defunct COPS, “filmed on location with the men and women of law enforcement.” A personal favorite is the A&E Network’s The First 48, which has followed homicide investigators in two or more major American metro areas for the last 14 years, but there are also shows that follow game wardens, roll with K9 officers, or ride along with another kind of detectives — the cruelty investigators of major metro SPCAs. Given the success of some of these shows, a few new permutations can be expected each season. But Live-PD is a permutation we weren’t expecting.

dan-abrams-live-pd

In a way, it’s a throwback to the early days of live TV, melded with the unscripted nature of reality shows. By Hollywood standards, it’s a ten-toes-hangout risk, because what the show does is follow police patrol officer, like COPS, but as the name implies, Live. (There is a delay of about two minutes, mostly to let producers scrub, bleep or blur things to protect citizens’ privacy and conform to corporate standards). It airs Friday nights on A&E for two hours (9-11 EDT). They capitalize on it by rebroadcasting a streamlined version on subsequent days, called Live-TV Rap Sheet. The first of eight budgeted episodes of Live-TV aired on 28 October; five or six of the episodes have aired.

How do they guarantee that you’re going to be seeing some action, and not just cops cooping behind the Dunkin Donuts on a slow night? Well, one, they’re going on Friday night, usually the kickoff of the weekend’s dope dealing, robbing, shooting and other stuff that we want law dogs taking their fangs to. And two, they’re going with six departments simultaneously.

There’s a lot of money in this: there are 30 cameras deployed, and six on-site producers, plus a whole command room, plus a host (Dan Abrams) and a couple of retired cops to tell Dan, who is curious but not expert, what he’s showing the audience.

live-pd-control-room

The first show was a bit rough around the edges, and they still lose signals sometimes and make production errors — but they’re so rare, and the action you’re seeing is so informative, that you’ll forgive them (and subsequent shows have been much tighter, presumably as the team starts to gel).

Acting and Production

There’s no acting, of course, except to the extent that the cops act differently when they know they’re on camera, and of course, the criminals loudly claiming they Dindu Nuffin.

Abrams seems to be learning all this police procedure along with the audience, and it seems to be making a police buff out of him. His enthusiasm for understanding what the cops are doing, and why, is infectious.

“Hey, that guy admitted he had seven beers instead of the usual ‘two beers’ — how often does that happen?” he’ll ask his retired-cop color commentators, and he still seems amazed — like a rookie cop, in fact — at the degree to which people throw transparent lies at the cops. The cop commentators, retired Dallas detectives Rich Emberlin and Kevin Jackson, are just right for the job: guys you’d trust, if they were on the stand and you were in the jury box.

(In the end, by the way, the cops had the drunk’s wife come get him, so they could get him off the roads, and return to anti-gang patrol instead of spend the evening writing him up. He was in good spirits, until she arrived, at which point he told her: “Violence is not the answer!”)

The producers and cameramen ride with the cops all week, not just Friday night, and this means that they build some rapport, and even more importantly, they can follow the action when Dan drops the feed to them, cutting from the Fort Walton Beach FL Sheriff’s Department to the Tulsa, Oklahoma gang unit. “Our producer there will fill us in,” Dan promises, and the downrange producer brings us up to speed before the audio cuts to, say, the cops doing a consent search of a stopped vehicle.

Having the cameras and producers running all week also means that they can get a lot of interviews and B-roll to edit into featurettes and interpose among the live scenes.

Key to the success of the format is the selection of participating PDs. They are:

Bridgeport, Connecticut PD — a metro department in a failing mill town
Fort Walton Beach FL Sheriff’s Department — large county with rural, urban and suburban areas
Richland County, SC — sheriff’s department, includes the state capital, Columbia SC.
Arizona Department of Public Safety — state police / highway patrol
Tulsa, OK PD — metro department gang unit
Utah Highway Patrol — state police / highway patrol

As you see, that gives them a good demographic, mission, and geographical reach.

 Accuracy and Weapons

There seems to be a dispute about how “live” it is because of the incorporation of B-roll and featurettes. We don’t know any other way a show like this could have been done at all.

It makes you wonder if a show like this could be done with military embeds.

Live-PD is an excellent look into the everyday life of the police and those they interact with. You will probably develop your opinions… perhaps they won’t be changed, or even shaken, but you’ll definitely have an awareness of complexities and nuances you don’t know already.

The bottom line

We’d say watch it; less because it is great TV than because it is a daring experiment, and daring experiments ought to be rewarded. And it’s certainly good enough TV that rewarding this daring experiment is not donning a complete hair shirt.

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • Amazon.com DVD page: (streaming page for the “rap sheet’ edited version).

https://www.amazon.com/LIVE-PD-Rap-Sheet-3/dp/B01N028O60/

  • Show’s own home page:

http://www.aetv.com/shows/live-pd

  • IMDB page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6237942/

  • IMFDB page (none):
  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (none):
  • Infogalactic  page (replaces Wikipedia): none (none on Wikipedia either).

 

14 thoughts on “Saturday Matinee 2016 47: Live-PD (TV, 2016)

  1. LCPL Martinez 29 Palms

    Thanks for the heads up on this, Hognose, I’ve seen ads on this, which I thought looked kinda cheesy, but will definitely check it out now.

    Since Chris Hansen’s “To Catch a Predator” I’ve been looking for show to look forward to. I know they did a reboot of “Cops” but that series just annoyed me, I think it was the editing which meant you get the impression that all cops were aholes and everyone they come across were tweakers or trannies.

    There was a really promising NBC series “the Wanted” which got canc’ed, here’s one episode with one of the guys that got killed in Benghazi: https://vimeo.com/9001439

  2. Matt

    They’re still doing new episodes of Cops for Spike TV on cable, plus they released a lot of old episodes from the eighties and nineties. Lots of mullets, mustaches and revolvers.

  3. Texas dude

    Ha ha. I caught part of one of these episodes the other night… in that odd kind of cognitive dissonance when “Cops” is playing in the background when you are in someone’s living room at three in the morning on a “disturbance ” call. I had an interesting conversation about the show, which I had never heard of, with one of the bystanders; at the end of our talk, I steered him (former Psyops guy having a hard time processing some of the stuff he dealt with and not why we were there) to our department counselor. He needed help and helping our REAL brothers is kind of why we keep showing up every night.

    Cops is an interesting show. It shows the sheer oddity and randomness of police work. And some really bad tactics, at times. My wife likes watching me watch it just to see me yell “handcuff that dude NOW! He’s about to run!” Don’t you understand body language?” F—— rookie!” It is good entertainment and at times examples of what NOT to do.

    Side note on “Cops,” it started out as somewhat of an expose but the producers and crew became quite enamored with real street stuff and changed the format. The first segment is the action one. The second is more mundane. The third is thought-provoking. They have stuck with that for years and still do it on the “Spike ” network.

    “Cops,” in an effort to suppress Heisenberg, gets the PDs to agree not to discipline any officers over anything they see on the episodes, and the PDs have final approval before anything airs. The intent is to get the cops to act “natural ” instead of playing for the cameras, even though I have been on camera my entire career and we play to the camera just to get people to shut up.

    One unnamed agency (on the border with Mexico) disciplined officers for some aired conduct that was eminently reasonable but didn’t meet some local PC policies. “Cops” covered the monetary loss to the patrol grunts for the subsequent suspensions, earning the trust of many cops for future tapings. And “Cops” will no longer film in one particular town.

    Cop work is really odd and most of the public has no idea how strange and stupid it can be. And as long as you keep paying us every other week, you won’t have to know, which is kind of the point.

    Thanks for bringing back the reviews, and have a great weekend.

    1. Raoul Duke

      “Cop work is really odd and most of the public has no idea how strange and stupid it can be. And as long as you keep paying us every other week, you won’t have to know, which is kind of the point. ”

      THIS.

      Most folks have no idea how fulfilling and frustrating (often at the same time) The Job is.

    2. Mike_C

      > that odd kind of cognitive dissonance when “Cops” is playing in the background when you are in someone’s living room at three in the morning on a “disturbance ” call

      Hah! I used to get something similar walking into a patient’s hospital room and seeing the program “ER” playing on the TV. “Hi, I’m Dr. C. Sorry if you were expecting George Clooney or Noah Wiley; you’re stuck with me.”

      Personally I don’t get what motivates a cop to be on such a program. During my residency, someone (I forget, but might have been PBS) did a series about physicians in training where they followed medical residents over a (composite) overnight call cycle. The administration sent out a “casting call” mass email to let us know about the opportunity. My reaction was the same as that of a friend who said, “Why in the world would I want to do that? I’m sure I’ll roll my eyes, or something like that over a 30-hour shift. Much less actually screwing up a procedure or something. And you just know the eye roll is what’s going to end up on the air.” I basically tried to not even appear in the background while the crews were wandering about filming over two weeks. Another good friend however volunteered. At 5’10” and about 140 lbs of long-legged, athletic Spaniard with flashing dark eyes and perfect English (but just enough accent to be charming), coupled with the assertive self confidence of actually being an excellent clinician as well, she was perfect for the “role”. You had to state (on a form) your motivation for why you agreed to be filmed. Most people said something such as “So my family can see what I do” or “To inspire kids [of my ethnicity]” [insert retching noise here] or the like. Spanish friend thought it a stupid question and wrote “To show the world that not everyone named [surname redacted] is a Mexican.” To this day I don’t know how much she was just screwing with political correctness to see what would happen (there’s a reason we were friends), versus completely serious. On the other hand, “I am European, not ‘Hispanic'” said in other contexts is probably a clue….

      Eye roll: What might prompt an eye roll? Here’s an example. One evening around 5 pm a middle-aged guy comes in to the ER with a complaint of “I have something stuck in my throat.” He got admitted to Internal Medicine and made it up to the ward around 7 pm. Turns out this fellow has no teeth, and had lost his dentures, but decided to treat himself to a nice roast beef dinner. So far so good. Along with the roast, he prepared carrots as a side dish. He got a package of those “baby carrots” and boiled them. But not enough (this is foreshadowing). The roast beef went down just fine, but he couldn’t chew the carrots (why he didn’t cut them up I have no idea), so he tried gulping down the carrots whole. Single baby carrots went down okay, so he got ambitious and tried multiple carrots at once. Which got stuck in his throat. But it gets better. This was two days prior to admission.
      “Why didn’t you come in right away, sir?”
      “Well, I thought they might work their way down. Didn’t want to trouble anyone. Anyway, yesterday they were still there, so I poured about a cup of mineral oil on ’em.”
      “Mineral oil?”
      “Yeah, I thought lubrication might help. You know, something slippery. […] But it didn’t work, so here I am. Plus, I’m getting kind of hungry.”

      — This is NOT where the eye roll comes in, by the way —

      So now we’ve got two days of barely-cooked (i.e. rigid) carrots pressing against the inside of this guy’s throat. Great. Apart from the mechanical obstruction, pressure necrosis may be an issue. This is clearly not a treat-with-medication kind of problem, and who do you call? It’s a little after 7 pm; people have just got home, and no one wants to come back to hospital, on-call or not, for this weird-ass problem. Surgery refused to see him, because it wasn’t (yet) a surgical issue. Gastroenterology has all those ‘scopes to play with, but they begged off, suggesting ENT. Despite “throat” being the “T” of ENT, they didn’t want to see him either. THIS is where the eye roll happens.

  4. bloke_from_ohio

    Fort Walton Beach can also be describes as a military town since there are a mess of installations within 10 miles of the city. It is also on right on the gulf so it gets a lot of tourists.

  5. Cap'n Mike

    I will have to check this show out.

    Slightly OT, but this has everything.
    Cops, Trannies, Trannies that are Cops and Liberal Hypocrisy.

    “Transgender cop’s uniform keeps her out of event she organized
    The city’s first transgender police officer was kept out of an event at the San Diego LGBT Community Center because she was wearing her uniform”

    https://www.policeone.com/community-policing/articles/243877006-Transgender-cops-uniform-keeps-her-out-of-event-she-organized/#comments_block

    1. Hognose Post author

      You left out, California, the land of fruits and nuts (grown with 100% imported water).

      I’ve just been alerted that the Pennsylvania State Police has their first tranny in the Academy. And they have been directed that “she” will pass.

      Of course, this may solve the problem of female officer upper body strength. Just make a bunch of dudes into females! Chop. Next! (Hey, if you’re gonna pursue promotion, you’re gonna lose your balls sooner or later anyway, in most major metro departments).

      1. Cap'n Mike

        Trannies in the Police Academy makes the whole Women in Ranger school thing seem kind of quaint.

        1. John M.

          From what I understand, local Police Departments are way, way, way ahead of the armed forces on the March of political correctness. Perhaps not all of them, but metro PDs, yeah.

          -John M.

  6. Raoul Duke

    A couple of observations about LIVE PD:

    1. The participating departments must have been scared stiff to air this thing; you’ll notice damn near every “patrol” officer in the first couple of episodes is a SUPERVISOR, either a sergeant or lieutenant. This is likely in an effort to “not let the slick-sleeve patrolmen fuck us up on TV”.

    2. The time delay was highly variable when I could hack it. Consider that some of the radio dispatchers at the various departments end their transmissions a verbal time hack, in 24-hour format: “Ten-Four, Unit 91, on scene at 1804.” Judging by that, some of the show was up to 15 or even 30 minutes delayed from the “live” network time. I’m guessing a “on-field ruling” by the lawy…er…referees was in order before they put it out.

    3. I mostly liked the show, but my significant other did not. She thought the format was too much like a football game, with stats. and all, and somehow reduced the element of danger the officers faced every night.

  7. Dienekes

    Personally I always thought “Barney Miller” was the most realistic cop show around. Loopy people abounded.

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