Cops, the great-granddaddy of the contemporary reality show, finally got its walking papers from the Fox broadcast network after 25 seasons, only to get picked up immediately by male-centric cable network Spike TV. The show has been on the air constantly since 1989 and remains ubiquitous in syndication on TruTV, G4 and several other outlets abroad.
It also began life as one of the cheapest shows on broadcast, since it was shot entirely on video and requires only the cooperation of local police departments to make an episode. Aspects of the series, especially the grainy video and the theme song (Bad Boys, by reggae band Inner Circle), have been featured in dozens if not scores of parodies, including on Fox itself. Orders for the show sometimes reached as many as 45 episodes in a season. All in all, more than 900 episodes of Cops have aired, "a portion" of which will be available to Spike (though not all) according to the network. The number of new episodes ordered was also undisclosed.
The acquisition by Spike is driven principally by the show's continued popularity in the demo, and by its preexisting relationship with John Langley, who created both Cops and Spike's own Undercover Stings. “Cops is a remarkable series that has been able to sustain strong ratings well into its third decade, a monumental achievement in television,” said Spike president Kevin Kay in a statement. “As we continue to grow and expand our audience, new episodes of Cops, with its loyal audience of adults 18-49, is the perfect addition to our prime-time lineup on Saturday nights.”
In recent days, the show has come under fire from African-American advocacy group Color of Change, which exhorted advertisers to put pressure on executives not to renew the series, claiming that the show portrayed black people—especially poor black people—in a negative light.
"With such a narrow range of black characters and personalities in primetime, the negative perceptions and distorted images presented by shows like Cops create an atmosphere of suspicion that desensitizes and conditions audiences to view harsher punishments and police misconduct—including police brutality and unconstitutional searches—as acceptable," read an email from the group last week. Color of Change is celebrating the move to Spike, calling it a "victory."