Judge Dennis Prince bravely went on a ride along as the DVD Verdict officials carried out a sting operation to capture and prosecute DVD renters with past due accounts.
Our reviews of Cops: Bad Girls (published April 15th, 2004), Cops: Caught In The Act (published April 15th, 2004), Cops: Shots Fired (published April 15th, 2004), and COPS: Wildest Chases (published October 20th, 2015) are also available.
Bad boys, bad boys, what'cha gonna do?
No matter what your take on "reality TV" might be, here is the one show that raised the bar to its highest level, only to cause imitators and also-rans to lazily scurry underneath it. COPS was launched in March 1989 on the heels of a five-month writer's strike. Serving as an experimental original program from the emerging Fox Channel, the show was absolutely startling for its time, providing everyday viewers an in-the-face opportunity to ride along with the brave men and women in blue. These police officers' bravery, mind you, is not to be taken for granted, the hand-held cameras capturing the sort of unprecedented peril that would assault the senses of most of us but which actually serves to emote fast thinking and daring intervention on the officers' part. Working on the viewer's consciousness to effect a "what would I do" pondering, the show was immediately embraced by the Saturday night viewership and has proven its popularity as we're now looking at this 20-year anniversary DVD release. Given that the tone of the program was to press the onus of response upon the criminals and various miscreants encountered ("Bad boys, bad boys, what'cha gonna do? What'cha gonna do when they come for you?), the show further aligned itself with a viewership of potential victims and provided a weekly dose of justice served on their behalf. Criminals, too, were watching, seeing the stupidity of the offenses wagered and, hopefully, they recognized that the police officers across the nation are largely unrelenting in their pursuit of those with ill intentions.
This two-disc release serves as a perfect "COPS primer," providing a condensed look back at two decades of visceral verite that is nearly impossible to turn off once you've begun watching it. Disc One begins with the COPS: 20th Season Special episode, originally aired in September 2007. Taking a well deserved bow for its previous 19 years, this show serves as a 45-minute highlight reel neatly organized under various themes such as "Resisting Arrest," "Under the Influence," and "Crimes of Passion." Excerpts are identified by the season in which they originally appeared and they run rapid fire, each about three minutes in length. While you won't find the depth of narrative of the encounters and investigations that air in the weekly episodes, you'll find enough human drama—and destitution—to keep you riveted. After this, you'll find two regular episodes, the pilot episode from 1989 and a 2005 episode, "Las Vegas Heat." These two full-length episodes (about 45 minutes each) are accompanied by optional audio commentary from executive producer John Langley, joined by former Fox Channel executive Stephen Chao and real life featured officers, Nick Navarro and Jerry Wurms. All content here is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio and the video quality is generally good, not by fault to the disc mastering but, rather, due to the extreme situations in which it is captured, week in and week out. Audio is presented in the original Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, again affected in clarity as a result of the unpredictable situations in which it is captured. Extras on this disc include a fun Parodies and Tributes featurette, comprised of 15 minutes of notable spoofs and mentions elsewhere within film and television. Famous Fans Favorites looks at notable personalities including actor Chris O'Donnell and director Richard Donner as they describe what they like most about the series.
Disc Two offers additional compilation programming by way of two hour-long specials, "First Ten Seasons" and "Second Ten Seasons." The compelling element here is the opportunity to see how the show progressed and improved over the years, wisely electing to discard the early "staged" and "establishing shot" content to focus, instead, on the more engaging point-of-view camera work as the situations unfold—and usually unravel. Extras on the disc include the excellent featurette, The Story of COPS, in which we get a 22-minute look into the making and evolution of the show. Cops on COPS offers insight from ten actual police officers featured on previous episodes, they who offer comment and hindsight analysis of the situations the engaged in, captured on film. Seeming rather superfluous by this point in this two-disc foray is Lights! Camera! Action! Toughest Takedowns, a 34-minute show of cobbled clips. As with the previous disc, the content here is presented in 1.33 full frame format with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio track.
As compelling as all of this is, what's disappointing is the fact that none of the content here is presented unedited. That is, all of the language "bleeps" are still here as are the video obscuring of nudity. Not that I want to see any of these perpetrators in the raw, mind you, but I think there has to be a heightened sense of shock and dismay the officers have to endure when they encounter such outrageous situations. For the DVD viewer, and the hardcore COPS fan, this would likely complete the visceral ride-along experience.
All said, this COPS: 20th Anniversary Edition release is certainly worth a look. You look on with amazement, bemusement, empathy, and pity as you witness the crimes some folks try to commit in our society. Most of all, you'll gain a greater appreciation for law enforcement, they who put themselves in harm's way every day to keep the rest of us safe. Even though there are plenty of documented and prosecuted cases of police misconduct, you'll find the many officers featured here are working harder and with more integrity than they credit for.
"Our main goal is for everybody out here is to go back home to our families the same way we came to work."
Not guilty. Case dismissed.
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