“Get woke, go broke” is a refrain that I learned at InstaPundit. Unfortunately, it often isn’t true. See, e.g., Nike and Starbucks. Happily, though, broke does sometimes follow woke. A case in point is the Arts and Entertainment cable network.
The only reason I know about the TV show “Live PD” is that my daughters watch it obsessively. Or used to, anyway: A&E canceled “Live PD” after the George Floyd riots. What was wrong with “Live PD”? It played nothing but actual footage of police officers in action: going on patrol, making stops, chasing suspects who make a run for it, and so on. It was pure reality TV. As such, it conveyed some uncomfortable facts. The police officers were nearly always polite and professional. The people they came into contact with were often dangerous, devious, high on drugs, and professionally criminal. The police almost always looked good, and some of them became mini-cult heroes. A lot of these police officers were black.
You can see how the raw reality portrayed by “Live PD” was at odds with the fictitious narrative of police brutality that is mandatory ideology in today’s corporate board rooms. A&E is co-owned by Disney and Hearst, so “Live PD” was doomed. The corporate suits canceled “Live PD” on June 10.
But “Live PD” was by far the most popular program on A&E. The Wall Street Journal describes the effect of its cancellation:
Ratings for A&E Network have plummeted since it canceled the hit police reality show “Live PD” on June 10, a sign of how much the network relies on law-enforcement programming.
Average prime-time viewership for A&E between June 11 and July 19 was 498,000 people, down 49% from the same period last year, according to data from Nielsen. In the key demographics of adults 18-49 and 25-54, the declines are 55% and 53%, respectively.
The show, which follows police on their rounds in multiple cities simultaneously, averaged about 1.9 million viewers for its Friday and Saturday night episodes, repeatedly re-aired on other days. It spawned several successful spinoff shows, also canceled.
Most people naively assume that corporate executives are concerned more or less exclusively with their companies’ profitability. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Many CEOs, likely most, care more about their standing within their (mostly liberal) peer group than about their shareholders’ returns. Toeing the left-wing line on issues like policing, that do not seriously impact corporate executives themselves, is a cheap way to gain plaudits at the country club.
Happily, such feckless pursuit of self-gratification is sometimes punished. As in this case, where A&E stupidly canceled its most popular program–by far–so that its viewership is now down by 50%. It would be nice if some liberal A&E, Disney and Hearst executives saw their incomes drop by 50%, but don’t hold your breath.
PAUL ADDS: I found it interesting that reality cop shows were purged, but fictional cop shows weren’t. Fictional cop shows have dominated television for decades.
When I was a kid, prime time viewing consisted mainly of variety shows, westerns, and cop shows. Westerns disappeared early on, and I think variety shows vanished as well.
But not cop shows. Indeed, according to this article:
Shows about police officers, detectives and other law enforcers made up nearly a fifth of the scripted shows on network TV in the 2019-20 season — which was on the low end of things over the past decade. Crime shows outnumber every other drama subgenre (family dramas, medical shows and the like) on the broadcast nets, and have for some time, and they’re among the most-watched series on TV.
I don’t watch any of these shows. However, I have seen many a movie about cops, as well as foreign dramas about them. Such shows are often aired on the French channel my wife watches, and “Nordic noir” is an entire genre devoted largely to police officers, detectives and law enforcers in Scandinavia (an outstanding genre, in my opinion). Europeans are as into “police procedurals” as Americans are.
In nearly all of the American cop movies and foreign television cop shows I’ve watched, law enforcement personnel are the good guys, though there is often a rogue cop in the picture. And the good guy cops aren’t above bending a rule or two. They may not be Dirty Harry these days, but they are far less mild mannered than the cops on shows like “Live PD.” Yet, it’s the real cops, not the more flamboyant fictional ones, who have been cancelled.
Often, cop movies and shows feature two officers, typically of different races or national origins, who become buddies. Maybe it was “Lethal Weapon” that started this trend. In addition to spicing up the drama, these duos may provide a sufficient bow to diversity to allow the glorification of cops that ensues.
What’s my point? I have two.
First, the popularity of these dramas presumably reflects not just the public’s taste for crime shows, but its respect for the police (and disdain for politicians who typically come off as lame or evil). Decades ago, if I recall correctly, Clint Eastwood explained the popularity of the Dirty Harry genre by saying that, with crime on the rise (in the 1970s) the public needs to believe there are folks out there who willing to do what it takes to to protect them.
The public still does. And it believes that police officers are those people. Who are the other candidates, woke politicians?
Second, Hollywood isn’t ready to kill the cop show/movie golden goose. If its execs were truly woke, these shows and movies would disappear, the way westerns have. (I believe neither of my daughters, both in their 30s, has ever seen a western.)
I’m not saying it won’t happen. As John says, we shouldn’t underestimate the willingness of Hollywood execs to place approval from members of their peer group above profit. But it hasn’t happened yet.
What I expect is cop shows and movies that retain the key elements of the genre but that are more woke around the edges. Has there been a transgender cop hero on television or in a movie yet? If not, stay tuned.