Monday, February 05, 2007

Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

I admit. I am a sucker for cop shows. Law and Order. NYPD Blue. Hill Street Blues. Cold Case. Without a Trace. The Closer. The Shield. Hey, I'll even watch a re-run of Dragnet just to see Joe Friday carry a badge. I even like reality shows like COPS.

COPS, for those unfamiliar with it, rides with a different city or state police force every episode, and is "filmed on location with the men and women of law enforcement. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law." Yeah, right, that's a big part of their premise, especially when you think of their theme song - Bob Marley's Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you? Bad boys, bad boys.

So I should have been all over the new reality police show, Armed and Famous.

And I would have been if I don't find the entire premise ridiculous and, frankly, insulting to "the men and women of law enforcement."

For those for whom Armed and Famous has been beneath the radar gun, the show involves taking a group of C-list "celebrities" and turning them into police officers who would actually be protecting and serving the folks in Muncie, Indiana.

The "armed and famous" cops make the cast of Hollywood Squares look like the red-carpet brigade. Erik Estrada, who in some recursion around life imitating "art", used to play a highway patrolman in the 70's clunker TV show C.H.I.P.s. Johnny "Wee Man" Acuna, a skateboarding champ, star of the Jackass movies, and, not incidentally, a dwarf. LaToya Jackson, sister of Michael and Janet, and "author" of some tell-all on growing up Jackson. Trish Stratus, who is what we would have called in the good old days a "lady wrestler" (although in the good old days I don't believe that lady wrestlers looked quite this good). And Jack Osbourne, Ozzy's kid, who, I take it, is famous for being famous because of the reality show about his family that was on the tube a few years back.

The "plot" of the show calls for its, ahem, stars, to go through "real" police training, and become bona fide reserve police officers. They don't call it reality TV for nothing!

According to the CBS web-site (which I'm assuming will come down soon, given that the show has already been canceled) states that:

...the celebrities undergo police training...They learn everything from fire-arms to hand-to-hand combat, and even learn what it's like to be on the receiving end of a Taser shock as part of a process to be certified to carry stun guns. Upon completion of their training, they'll be issued badges and guns, partnered with veteran officers and immediately hit the streets of Muncie. The five celebrities will protect and serve on the busiest shift of the night, 6 pm to 2 am, responding to emergency calls, helping victims and making arrests.

Apparently these guys did go out on real calls - responding to, among other true crimes, a stabbing, a domestic disturbance, and a burglary. And LaToya and Trish went undercover as ladies of the night shift walking Muncie's wild side. (Remember when every other plot of Angie Dickinson's Policewoman seemed to be "Pepper plays a hooker.")

When I first looked at the web site, I could swear that there was a section that talked about Erik and LaToya having helped deliver a baby. When I looked at the picture of the "baby" they had allegedly help deliver, I could see that the "baby" was clearly made out of plastic, which certainly must have been a Taser-level shock to its parents. Well, they've still got the pictures up there, but there's no more "story line" about the baby they helped deliver. (I could only find a downloadable pic of Jack O with the plastic fantastic baby, but it shows it off quite well.) Guess holding a plastic baby doll and pretending that it's real was all part of their training.

In any case, the show has been canceled after only a few episodes - although I did see that one of the less mainstream networks is going to show a "marathon" of all four of the episodes that were made. Given the nature of the show and the level of the stars in it, I'm sure that even with so few shows to look at, watching would definitely constitute a marathon.

Of course, there is the laugh out loud aspect to the whole thing. I read that one of the perps apprehended by Erik Estrada (and his real cop partner) mistook Estrada for Emilio Estevez, which apparently set Estrada off big time. One Taser-shock a minute for you, you no good skel, until you get the name straight. (Skel is a word for no-gooder, which I picked up from Detective Sipowicz during my NYPD-watching days.)

Actually, I will be a bit tempted to watch this show, rather than just think about it and react to it. But I will resist because I think that having anyone become a "real-fake" police officer is an honest-to-goodness bad idea.

Yes, much of being a member of the police force is quite likely routine, boring, unglamorous, and undangerous. But when it's not... Who wants a cop who's more concerned that they're filming his "good" side, rather than focusing on the bad guy? Who wants someone in a tense, difficult situation who'll be distracting to everyone? Did it really help the Muncie police out when Emilio Estevez, I mean Erik Estrada, went ballistic when someone got his name wrong?

There are certain jobs that just don't lend themselves to these sorts of bogus impersonations, and police officer is one of them. I'd also add firefighter to the list. If my house is burning down, I want to see one of those big, brawny fireman there to carry me down the ladder - not Paris Hilton worrying about whether she's going to break a nail, or whining, "Ewww, she must weigh more than 115 pounds. That's so not right."

I also don't want anyone who plays a doctor on TV to show up in the examining room, thank you. Not even the guy who plays Dr. Kovacs on ER.

Airline pilots. No, no, no. No "this is your pilot, Kevin Federline. Just wanted to let you all know that if you look out the window on the left side of the plane,you can see the lights of Las Vegas, where I used to be a back-up dancer for Britney Spears."

Let's have a wee bit of respect for jobs that not only require special skills and training, but also have more than a little element of risk associated with them - and not just risk to the worker, but risk to the worked on, as well.

Stick to those jobs where it would be more or less harmless for a celebrity to fill in - Celebrity Marketers, anyone?

Celebrity Marketers? What was I thinking? As we saw from the recent marketing "bomb scare" in Boston, even marketing can't be said to do no harm. (Here are links to my Opinionated Marketers rant-o-ramas on this event: Bad Idea Marketing from Turner Broadasting, and More on "Adult Swim" Marketing Fiasco.

In truth, anytime a celebrity wants to pantomime someone's real job for real, rather than as an actor, it's going to be a) ridiculous; and/or b) insulting and demeaning to those who hold the job in real life.

Whatever the profession, let's not pretend that just anyone can zip in off the street and get the job done. Let alone these celebrity types who are so out of touch with reality to begin with.

Armed and Dangerous? Bad idea - and apparently the real world thought so to.

Citizens' arrest after just four episodes. Perp walk for the bad boy at CBS who came up with this notion. Book 'em, Dano.

P.S. Am I the only person who found it interesting that Muncie, Indiana, was the location for this show? As a Sociology Major, I read the Middletown books by Robert Staughton Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd. These were classic sociological studies written in the 1920's and 1930's that profiled the habits and characteristics of the city of Muncie, "disguised" by the authors as Middletown. One of the books was titled Middletown in Transition. Seems to me that, by letting themselves get wooed into doing a reality series, the Muncie P.D. made a little transition of their own from what I suspect was "Midwest sensible" to a pretty embarassing "famous for a day wannabe."

What would the Muncie-ites of Middletown have made of all this?


Jill said...

Two words for this Armed and Famous mess: "Horror Show".

Anyone that thinks it's a good idea to put LaToya Jackson in uniform and call her a cop should get their head checked. The whole cast was a disaster. And that's coming from someone who loved Officer Poncherelli in the good ol' days! It was excruciating to watch the show and I'm relieved that it's cancelled. Like a car wreck... it was hard to look away. And I couldn't get over the fact that this actually made the airwaves for as long as it did.

Personally, I'd rather watch C.H.i.P.s reruns. At least those were entertaining!

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