A daily newsletter guide to what is happening on your screens - TV, streaming, movies, games, VR, AR
Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
TV cop shows are, uh, having a moment
ALSO: Elmer Fudd lost his gun. AND: Twin Peaks protests.
US networks and TV shows are having a genuine problem right now tonally with the content of their shows. Citizens are taking to the streets to protest cops and police-related violence. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but a LOT of TV is focused on cops. And sometimes those cops are involved in violent acts.
Cops and robbers is practically the foundation on which TV drama is built.
Kelly Lawler has a good article at USA Today that looks at the drama created on cop shows and how that now feels at odd with the current moment. I’ve broken a paragraph up from her article here:
TNT’s “The Closer” saw Kyra Sedgwick’s deputy police chief Brenda Leigh Johnson bend the rules of Miranda rights to get her suspects to confess, while villainizing an Internal Affairs investigator.
On CBS’s “Elementary,” “police consultants” Sherlock (Johnny Lee Miller) and Watson (Lucy Liu) conduct warrantless searches and hand over fruit of the poisonous tree to detectives who make arrests using illegally obtained evidence.
The network’s “Blue Bloods,” perhaps the most pro-police series on TV, is rife with this kind of misbehavior among cop characters and baffling decisions by suspects, and even aired an episode where a black man threw himself out a window to fake police brutality.
Worth listening to is the most recent episode of podcast TV’s Top 5 from The Hollywood Reporter. Lesley Goldberg and Dan Feinberg spoke with Law & Order: SVU showrunner Warren Leight about the pressures placed on his show and how he has been actively working in recent years to explore progressive policing subjects to what is otherwise a very traditional format that relies heavily on classic cops and robbers tropes. I’m not a Law & Order viewer (of any of the branded series), but found it to be really insightful.
A reminder: If you started a subscription to new Aussie streamer Binge on its launch day, your two-week trial concludes today.
Over the weekend cable channel A&E pulled episodes of its high-rated show Live PD. The show follows cops on Friday and Saturday nights with arrests broadcast live to viewers. Meanwhile Paramount Network pulled the season 33 return of reality show Cops with no plans to air it anytime soon (if ever again).
GOAT game show Jeopardy will run out of original episodes at the end of this week. This is concerning as host Alex Trebek continues to battle Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The longer Jeopardy goes without filming new episodes raises the possibility of Trebek having filmed his last episode. Grim.
Always Be Watching reader Andrew C got in contact to ask why there wasn’t an Always Be Watching podcast. That’s when it occurred to me that I should stop being so relaxed about promoting it in this newsletter.
Each week on the ABW podcast I am joined by longtime friend and TV enthusiast Chris Yates. We discuss the shows we’ve been watching recently, play TV trivia games, and sometimes bring in guests (which we’re planning to do a lot more of).
Note: This week’s episode sounds a little funny - I just did a serious hardware upgrade of the ABW podcast recording facilities (which will make it easier to record guests), but screwed up my mic settings on the record this week.
It’s genuinely nice to live in a world where there are once again new Looney Tunes cartoons being made.
The new incarnation keeps a lot of the spirit of the classic cartoons, updating them to meet the modern era. That doesn’t mean Bugs Bunny now walks around with AirPods while Daffy Duck posts a sweet new TicTok video. It means that the show is just more reflective of modern sensibilities.
For example, Elmer Fudd no longer carries a gun.
In a feature article from the New York Times:
The old “Looney Tunes” violence is here, too: the sticks of dynamite, the intricate booby traps, the anvils and bank safes dropped on unsuspecting heads.
“We’re not doing guns,” Browngardt said. “But we can do cartoony violence — TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in.”
The article also delves into the intimidation of working on such vital legacy characters that have served to inspire so many artists working in animation:
After the initial high, the gravity of the project set in. “It’s hard, any time you have to work on your favorite thing,” said Alex Kirwan, a writer and supervising producer. “It’s like someone saying, ‘All right everybody, we’re writing new Beatles songs! Everyone get to work writing Beatles songs.’”
“I’d say there was a good month of just terror,” he added.