Who Do You Root for When You Watch the TV Show COPS?
My friend Tim Groseclose passed along this interesting passage from the book Scratch Beginnings by Adam Shepard. The premise of the book is that the author, having just graduated from college, sets out to see if — starting with the clothes on his back, a sleeping bag, and $25 — he can build that into a furnished apartment, a working car, and $2,500 in savings within a year without using any of his contacts or mentioning his college degree.
This is how Shepard describes the experience of watching COPS with the folks in his homeless shelter:
But we didn’t watch TV’s original reality show like I used to when I was a kid. Growing up, I used to love watching that show so that I could see what idiots there were around the nation and find satisfaction in the fact that no matter how crazy I thought I was, I was more stable than those people.
Nope. We watched it in a completely different light. We cheered for the suspected criminal the whole way through. It didn’t matter who was on the other end. We always cheered for the guy the cops were after. Guys would be huddled around the TV set hollering, “Go mother f—–r! S–t. Go! Hop that fence! Go! Go! Ah. Ah. Ah, damn, they got ‘im. Again. They got ‘im again. He shoulda hopped that fence like I said. Damn. They always get ‘im.”
And they would always give the criminal the benefit of the doubt. After a long chase, the cops would dig in the suspected criminal’s pockets and find some illicit drug or whatever, and the guys at the shelter would look around at each other and murmur, “S–t, that’s bulls–t. You know that’s bulls–t. They planted that on him. He ain’t have that on him before. They put it there so their stupid TV show can get ratings.”
And they were serious, too. Every night we would watch, every night we would pull for the criminal, and every night he would be dragged away in handcuffs.