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Cop shows aren't what you hope they are Tom Basinski | Sat, Nov 20 2010 12:00 PM

Because I am a highly-regarded, well-respected retired police officer (or maybe because I've been around so long) people often ask my opinion of the cop shows on TV.

Going way back, I loved Dragnet and Adam-12. I didn't know at the time, but the programs were the propaganda brainchildren of Jack Webb (Sergeant Joe Friday), who was a shill for the LAPD. No matter. I watched both religiously. Besides, anyone married to Julie London is okay in my book. (That's for you older readers.) If watched today, I'd pan both shows.

My favorite fictional TV show was "Barney Miller." Even though it was mostly about detectives, the conversations and antics in the squad room were reminiscent of my days at CVPD.

Even though today's cop shows aren't very realistic, we must be realistic when evaluating them. In police dramas, the writers can't show the prolonged frustration of a case going nowhere for months, then finally taking a turn for the better. After all, they have to solve the thing in an hour or less.

I've watched several of the CSI shows and found them to be lacking in reality. I've seen a few NCIS episodes and nixed them too. Cops don't continually throw their weight around and get in peoples' faces from the beginning.

We have to treat suspects and witnesses with kid gloves. We want information and you don't get it by being heavy-handed. Granted, sometimes you have a real solid case and you might "explain the facts of life" to a witness or suspect in no uncertain terms (about an inch from his or her face). But, it doesn't happen often. Most of the time you hope they'll talk to you.

More recently I watched "Detroit 187" and "Blue Bloods." First, Detroit is in Michigan, and the California Penal Code section for murder is 187. There is no such corresponding number in Michigan. That title makes no sense. The show was poorly done, in my estimation. A few of my cop buddies like it though, for the tight drama.

"Blue Bloods" stars Tom Selleck, and for my money, anything with Selleck in it is okay. (My wife has had a thing for him for about 30 years.) That show was also unrealistic in its plot.

Over the years, "Hill Street Blues," "NYPD Blue" and "Homicide-Life on the Streets" were pretty good shows that showed the human frailties of the cops while still keeping the drama moving, even if they stretched reality a little.

Granted, in a drama one must suspend reality in favor of keeping the story moving and interesting. So, I was able to overlook some of the more unbelievable parts of "Blue Bloods" because the story line was interesting.

What really gets to me is the courtroom scenes in these legal/cop shows. I've been in numerous courtrooms over the years. The judges in nearly all of the shows are totally unbelievable.

The judges in the drama shows lose their tempers and get interrupted by the overbearing attorneys all the time. Try interrupting Judge Frederic Link of the downtown Superior Court and see what happens to you.

Lest you think I'm some kind of "realism" snob, read on. I love "The Mentalist." It is so unbelievable, but also entertaining. I also love "Castle," mainly because I'm a crime writer always looking for fodder for my next book. I've hung around some good-looking female cops, but none like Detective Beckett on "Castle." Yowza!

So, pick your programs, but make sure you suspend your belief while you're watching. And tell yourself that it really isn't like that.

"The First 48" is the best cop show on TV, but it's real, and not a drama.

Basinski has written 125 true crime stories and two true crime books.

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