Cop Shows

A Critical History of Police Dramas on Television


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About the Book

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?

About the Author(s)

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.

Bibliographic Details

Roger Sabin with Ronald Wilson, Linda Speidel, Brian Faucette and Ben Bethell

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 228
Bibliographic Info: 49 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4819-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1643-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  v
Introduction by Roger Sabin  1
1. Dragnet (Roger Sabin)  15
2. Highway Patrol (Ronald Wilson)  23
3. Naked City (Ronald Wilson)  31
4. The Untouchables (Ronald Wilson)  40
5. The F.B.I. (Ronald Wilson)  49
6. Columbo (Roger Sabin)  58
7. Hawaii ­Five-O (Brian Faucette and Ben Bethell)  66
8. Kojak (Roger Sabin)  74
9. Starsky & Hutch (Ben Bethell)  82
10. Hill Street Blues (Ronald Wilson)  90
11. Cagney & Lacey (Ben Bethell)  99
12. Miami Vice (Brian Faucette)  107
13. Law & Order (Brian Faucette)  116
14. Homicide: Life on the Street (Linda Speidel)  124
15. NYPD Blue (Linda Speidel)  131
16. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Roger Sabin)  138
17. The Shield (Linda Speidel)  146
18. The Wire (Linda Speidel)  154
19. Justified (Brian Faucette)  161
20. They also served…: A Roll Call of Other Notable Cop Shows  (Ben Bethell)  169

Appendix: The Tommy Westphall Hypothesis: Or: Why Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order,  The Wire and CSI Don’t Exist  191
Chapter Notes  193
Bibliography  206
Index  213

Book Reviews & Awards

“smart and informative…valuable…excellent”—Classic Images; “thoughtful overview of the history of police dramas”—HARTS & Minds: The Journal of Humanities and Arts.