The police drama has been one of the longest running and most popular genres in American television. In TV Cops, Jonathan Nichols-Pethick argues that, perhaps more than any other genre, the police series in all its manifestations—from Hill Street Blues to Miami Vice to The Wire—embodies the full range of the cultural dynamics of television.
Exploring the textual, industrial, and social contexts of police shows on American television, this book demonstrates how polices drama play a vital role in the way we understand and engage issues of social order that most of us otherwise experience only in such abstractions as laws and crime statistics. And given the current diffusion and popularity of the form, we might ask a number of questions that deserve serious critical attention: Under what circumstances have stories about the police proliferated in popular culture? What function do these stories serve for both the television industry and its audiences? Why have these stories become so commercially viable for the television industry in particular? How do stories about the police help us understand current social and political debates about crime, about the communities we live in, and about our identities as citizens?
"Despite the genre's ubiquity and ongoing popularity in American television, no book has offered a compelling critical account of the cop show—until now. Through compelling readings of many landmark programs, Jonathan Nichols-Pethick connects textual style, industrial practices, cultural representations, and changing social contexts to reveal debates over crime, citizenship, realism, and mediation itself that will transform how we view one of television's most iconic genres." —Jason Mittell, Middlebury College
"Not only the authoritative work on police series—one of television's most multitudinous and enduring forms—but a first-rate piece of television studies. Nichols-Pethick connects 30 years of cultural, industrial, and storytelling developments in a clear and compelling analysis." —Amanda D. Lotz, University of Michigan
1. Introduction 2. Programming the Crisis: The Police Drama in the Post-Network Era 3. The Police Drama in Transition: Reconstituting the Cultural Forum in the 1980s 4. Stop Making Sense: Reflection, Realism, and Community in Homicide 5. Do the Right Thing: NYPD Blue and the Making of the Model Citizen 6. One Thing Leads to Another: Crime and the Commerce of Law & Order 7. This Cop’s For You: The Multiple Logics of the 21st Century Police Drama 8. Conclusion