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Cop Shows: A Critical History of Police…

Cop Shows: A Critical History of Police Dramas on Television (2015)

by Roger Sabin

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I loved reading this book. there are 19 shows with main essays written about them, each one a chapter of about 8 pages or so detailing the history, cultural influence, critical reviews of the era and episodic best of each show. there is also an honorable mention chapter that gives a short essay on numerous other shows that weren't discussed in their own chapter. ( )
  NickKnight | Jun 24, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As an overview of the shows therein contained, this book worked. It drew excellent connections between shows (especially when noting actors and crew who spanned several shows, or who went on to other types of shows). I enjoyed reading about the changing cinematic styles used on differing shows, which makes me appreciate certain filming techniques more fully, and I particularly enjoyed the connections the authors drew between certain shows and the cultural and political atmospheres surrounding them (such as Ronald Wilson's evaluation of the show "The F.B.I" and the political backdrop of the 1960s, discussed on p. 54). The book also tries to maintain a dialogue about race and gender on cop shows that runs through its several chapters (not an easy feat, given the numerous authors). This was interesting, but might have done better as a separate book; I found it occasionally at odds with the otherwise very straightforward descriptions in several chapters.

Overall, I enjoyed several smaller features of this book. The facts it contains are frequently really interesting, and I learned a lot about cop shows that were released well before my time. On the other hand, perhaps I am not an appropriate reviewer for this book, because I can think of no practical purpose it might serve. To me, it is not academic enough for its recommended use in the classroom. Many of the chapter bibliographies note that scholarly sources on these shows are "surprisingly scant" (Wilson 30) or that "[v]ery little has been written" (Bethell 89), so perhaps this book is simply attempting to initiate the scholarly dialogues it so severely lacks. However, I wish that the chapters themselves had included more actual examples from the shows (such as sample dialogues or evaluations of the most typical or important episodes from a series) and from immediate (if non-scholarly) reviews and sources that analyzed them; I also wish that the chapters on more frequently analyzed shows had engaged more with the sources listed in the bibliographies and notes. Other critical responses were often noted (especially in Sabin's chapters), but rarely actually introduced to the writers' own arguments.

In sum, I feel as if this book tried to be at once both popular and scholarly, and ended up balanced between the two without actually accomplishing either. However, I learned a lot from reading it. ( )
  palaephata | Jun 20, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found this book both intelligent and readable, adjectives not often together describing scholarly works. It is true that the book could be more readable, but it's good enough if one is interested in the subject matter.

For this reader, COP SHOWS is useful in two ways. One, it's fun to read about old series I've seen and pick up interesting bits of information about them. Example: Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, was a cop adviser to Dragnet and other series. Interesting also how many actors and actresses were on several different series.

The second way COP SHOWS is helpful is that it gives me information about series I've never watched, so I can decide if I want to try any of them. In my case it convinced me that I'd not like the CSI programs, but might want to try The Wire.

The 36 brief studies of other cop shows at the back of the book should have been given the same, full treatment as the main programs. A bigger book, yes, but better.

There is a hilarious appendix at the back of the book, a page and a half bit ,"The Tommy WestphallHypothesis" that "proves" that Homocide:Life on the Street, Law & Order, The Wire, and CSI don't exist. ( )
  CharlesBoyd | Nov 28, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
One of the things I miss most about having TV is cop shows. Even though I know most of them are far-fetched and formulaic, I couldn’t help but watch them whenever I wanted a bit of entertainment that still could make me use a few brain cells. It’s almost enough to make me get satellite service. This book didn’t help. For most people it will be a nostalgic look back at some old favorites. Of course there is some critical analysis thrown in as well, but I mostly felt that with shows I wasn’t old enough to watch (FBI) or haven’t yet (The Wire). At times though it feels very much like the textbook it is; that there are discussions that I’m supposed to be having, but as a solitary reader, can’t. Like the transition from lone cops like Columbo to the buddy system, both of which are still staples of the vehicle. I had no idea that Starsky and Hutch pioneered this change.

Things start off with the granddaddy of the genre; Dragnet, which I have watched a time or two, but is pretty well before my time. Moving through a few shows I don’t know at all to ones I know only by reputation; Columbo, Hawaii Five-O and Kojak, my personal nostalgia started with Hill Street Blues, a show I watched with my mom through pretty much all its seasons. I never made the soap opera connection, but it’s definitely there. That and the ensemble cast which continues with even very new cop shows. The authors bridge and delineate very well, transitioning from one leading type to the next. At the end are the honorable mentions; the shows that contributed in smaller ways to the oeuvre as a whole. ( )
  Bookmarque | Nov 25, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is designed as a primer for university students studying the history of US cop shows. Despite that, it is perfectly accessible to any reader interested in the subject. Each chapter is 8 or so pages long, and covers a single cop show pf some historical significance in the genre. The chapters follow a uniform format, and describe the contents of the show, something of the making of it, and some analysis of the focus of the show and what makes the show significant. At the end of each chapter is a short recommendation of what episode or two to watch to get an idea of the show, and a brief bibliography for recommended further research. The book spans from "Dragnet" to "Justified" and also provides briefer summaries of other shows not treated in depth. This is a perfectly fine introduction to the subject, and provides intelligent fodder for further thought and research if one were so inclined.
  Capybara_99 | Nov 18, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786448199, Paperback)

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 over 60 years.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:26 -0400)

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