Cop Shows: A Critical History of Police Dramas on Television

Cop Shows: A Critical History of Police Dramas on Television
By Roger Sabin, Ronald Wilson, Linda Speidel, Brian Faucette, Ben Bethell

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Product Description

From cops who are paragons of virtue, to cops who are as bad as the bad guys...from surly loners, to upbeat partners...from detectives who pursue painstaking investigation, to loose cannons who just want to kick down the door, the heroes and anti-heroes of TV police dramas are part of who we are. They enter our living rooms and tell us tall tales about the social contract that exists between the citizen and the police. Love them or loathe them--according to the ratings, we love them--they serve a function. They've entertained, informed and sometimes infuriated audiences for more than 60 years. This book examines Dragnet, Highway Patrol, Naked City, The Untouchables, The F.B.I., Columbo, Hawaii Five-O, Kojak, Starsky & Hutch, Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Miami Vice, Law & Order, Homicide: Life on the Street, NYPD Blue, CSI, The Shield, The Wire, and Justified. It's time to take another look at the "perps," the "vics" and the boys and girls in blue, and ask how their representation intersects with questions of class, gender, sexuality, and "race." What is their socio-cultural agenda? What is their relation to genre and televisuality? And why is it that when a TV cop gives a witness his card and says, "call me," that witness always ends up on a slab?

Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #1109339 in Books
  • Published on: 2015-03-09
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: .46" h x 7.49" w x 9.87" l, .0 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 228 pages

Editorial Reviews

"valuable...excellent"--Classic Images; "thoughtful overview of the history of police dramas"--HARTS & Minds: The Journal of Humanities and Arts.

About the Author
Roger Sabin/ is a professor of popular culture at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. He has written several books, and reviews for the international press. He lives in London, United Kingdom.

Ronald Wilson

is a lecturer at the University of Kansas where he teaches courses on film genre and theory. He is the author of a book about the gangster film. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

Linda Speidel writes for academic journals and co-runs a community cinema. She lives in York, United Kingdom.

Brian Faucette, lectures at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in North Carolina and specializes in representations of masculinity. He lives in Hudson, North Carolina.

Ben Bethell is an associate lecturer at the University of the Arts London. He lives in London, United Kingdom.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
3A Disappointment
By Lee Goldberg
I had high hopes for this book because I'm a huge fan of cop shows. I was expecting to glean some new insights into familiar and obscure shows, and new details about how these shows were made, the impact they had on culture, etc. What I got instead was a very scholarly, very broad series of essays about individual shows that revealed nothing new...besides the authors' opinions about them, which I don't really care about. I was also dismayed by the sloppy errors, which made me wonder if they actually watched the shows they were writing about...or were simply lazy in their research. For instance, in their chapter on Hawaii Five-O, they make a passing reference to Stephen J Cannell's unsold reboot pilot, which was shot but never aired. They say that Gary Busey starred as McGarrett. In fact, nobody played McGarrett in the pilot...and Busey was co-lead with Russell Wong. This information is easily found on the Internet and in many other reference books. Later, in their short summary on TJ Hooker, they say "CBS picked up the show's final season, which was a marked by grittier plotlines and a location shift to Chicago. .. the changes proved deeply unpopular with fans." That is absolutely wrong. The final episode of the last ABC season was set in Chicago, and was a pilot for a potential reboot, but when the show moved to CBS, they kept the original concept, setting, and storylines (going so far as to only use car chases from previous episodes instead of shooting new ones!). The only thing that changed was that Adrian Zmed was dropped from the cast. So not only are they factually wrong, but the conclusions they came to about "grittier storylines" and the audience dissatisfaction with them is total fiction. If that is an example of their academic rigor, I grade this term paper a C-.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
4the chronology of cop shows reflects changing social interests
By Henry Berry
Five academics from England and the U.S. write 20 highly-informed, pithy essays on the popular TV genre of “cop shows” over the past 50 years. As Sabin notes in his “Introduction” and as the essays demonstrate, with respect to such shows, the term genre does not mean generic. The cop shows over the past, post-War decades beginning with “Dragnet” through the recent “The Wire” and the current “Justified” reflect changes in American society over this time.

Introducing the essays, Sabin notes too that the cop shows uniquely reflect the “social contract” between the country’s citizens and other residents and law-enforcement and the legal system. This aspect of the shows is dealt with, but does not define or restrict the content of the essays or imply a dominating theme or perspective. For the articles necessarily varied in content considering the changes in American society including changing demographics, views toward authority, interests in different personalities and female characters, and curiosities about ways of life in cities and rural areas are as much essays on popular culture and cultural studies. In the course of the essays, one sees the low-key, quietly authoritative Sgt. Friday of “Dragnet” becomes replaced by the more individualistic characters of Kojak and Columbo, the feminist team Cagney and Lacey, the cool, atmospheric “Miami Vice,” and the more recent gritty urban dramas with ensemble casts including woman and ethnic characters. More than entertainment, in the elements of fetching, sometimes challenging characters, plots, locations, and such, the shows grappled with social interests of their day—which is the theme running through the diverse essays binding them together.

By academics followed by notes on “Recommended Episodes” and “Further Reading,” the essays are not light reading; though they are not arcane since their subject matter is so familiar, a part of American popular culture, absorbed into it. Who even though she may not have been born when he had his day is not familiar with “Dragnet” and Sgt. Friday at once conventional and inimitable?

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
4Agree with the stories chosen.
By MJ Book Addict
This is could be college ready for TV genres, cop shows so if you are looking for a light or entertaining read put this book down and move on to another. If however you enjoy reading "heavy" books proceed. This had a good mix of cop shows giving a good explanation of why they're included and what made them unique to their eras. A good mix of shows and I enjoyed the 'Recommended' that is included for those in the top spots.

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