How Do You Account For The Popularity Of The Crime/Cop Genre With Television Audience's?
Tuesday 23rd March 04
How Do You Account For
The Popularity Of The Crime/Cop Genre With Television Audience?
In this assignment I am going to be looking at two different crime/cop shows which are famously known by audiences. After watching and discussing episodes of ‘NYPD Blue’ and ‘The Bill’ I am going to use my notes to talk about how famous the two shows are with television audiences and in what genre they fit in. I will also be discussing the two episodes I watched and try to point out the main characters and the representation of the two shows.
Firstly the popularity of the crime/cop shows are very popular with television audiences this because most things that happen in the shows are realistic and actually happen in most of our lives, or we have experienced them before. Therefore this makes it popular to watch as we as the audience want to see how different people react to the same crimes that we have experienced. Most Crime/cop shows tend to change the genre sometimes adding comedy to it to give the audience fun and excitement. However most crime/cop shows are inclined with crime, danger and fights. To gain successful for this type of genre crime fiction, they played with the genre by adding their own ideas to make it popular and more realistic towards their audiences.
Crime fiction quickly became a stable of TV programming as British Television developed and grew during the 1950s. The genre encompasses a wide range of programmes and new angles are repeatedly being developed. Many of these programme trait policemen, with uniform or plain-clothes, who try hard to investigate crimes and try to find evidence to solve the particular crimes.
Series are those programmes which have the same stars and the same locations every week but which have different stories each episode. Theses stories are self contained, unlike serials whose stories continue from one episode to the next. In the early days of television the most popular series were westerns, but since the 1950’s the police series has taken its place as the most successful series genre. Moreover unlike western it is a genre that has been easily adapted by many countries world wide and has been successful. The two genres have both in television and films, have several parallels.
The genre itself has had many prime classics including ‘Columbo’, ‘Poirot’ and ‘A Touch of Frost’. But the history of crime/cop shows comes in a variety of forms. The ‘Advanced Level Media (2nd Edition) by Angela Bell, Mark Joyce and Danny Rivers (Hodderton & Stouton 1999) book provides a background to the genre as a whole pointing out programmes such as ‘The Bill’ that features policemen and their domestic lives whilst others feature specialists who work in conjunction with the police such as a forensic psychologist in ‘Cracker’ or a pathologist in ‘Silent Witness’. Many programmes feature private investigators, from Sherlock Holmes to Inspector Morse and others focus on individuals who encounter crime and rise to provide a solution ‘Murder, She Wrote’.
This is a preview of the whole essay
The two shows also have a history with NYPD Blue being one of the longest running and critically highly praised police dramas in broadcast history receiving many awards since its network debut in September 1993 as it was one of the most successful ones of all time. (Including 4 times Emmy Award winner Dennis Franz who plays Detective Andy Sopiwicz). The Bill has also gone on to become a popular programme since its network debut in 1983, and has dominated the screen with an estimated 10.75 million viewers, and attracting different audiences from different age groups.
Like all genres there are generic conventions that we would associate with the crime/cop genre such as a familiar setting (i.e. a police station, prisons) that the audience can be familiar with and central locations/domestic situations. These are similar conventions to that of soap operas. “…crime is an aspect of many single dramas on television as well as series which are not predominately concerned with crime such as soaps or hospital series like ‘Eastenders’ or ‘Casualty” (by Advanced Level Media 2nd Edition).
Moreover there are also crime scenes and car/chase sequences with occasional set pieces where there is conflict (e.g. gun battles, fighting) between the police and the criminals. The characters themselves are usually conflicting to add to audience appeal and make it more realistic as we also as audience experience and see this in out lives. Iconography can also be included into the genre conventions, as they are symbols that an audience would expect to see in an episode and associate it with crime/cop shows. Examples include; Guns/Baton, Police Badge, Hats, Walkie-Talkies etc.
The narrative of crime/cop shows often run in a linear narrative (events in chronological order) as to not confuse the audience, and if a viewer has missed many episodes they can quickly catch up.
The plots of each show are both similar. In the episode from ‘NYPD Blue’ the plot unravels the death of 4 girls in a Latin area in New York. As witnesses provide information, it leads to the discovery of Siopwicz (Dennis Franz) partner who has been missing since an under-cover operation. Although the detectives are assigned to different cases, they all connect with the interview of a shooting victim who is later revealed to be apart of the robbery/homicide and another under-cover operation with a wire taped to a suspect in order to catch the murderer of Sorenson. Similarly the plot in ‘The Bill’ begins with a conspiracy involving the Superintendent and deals with the conflict between a Reverend and his daughter about her boyfriend, and a domestic violence case in court where Jim Carver (Mark Wingett) prosecutes against his wife due to her drunken violent actions. Both episodes deal with a domestic/moral issue that happens in our lives too.
The representation of the police varies in both shows; the males in particular are a cliché of the genre (dominating the situation). In ‘NYPD Blue’, Siopwicz (Dennis Franz) is presented as an authorative, strong-minded and driven officer who is passionate about bringing criminals to justice and someone who respects his job and partners very well. He is also emotional and sensitive as we see the disappearance of his partner Sorenson. In comparison, Jim Carver (Mark Wignett) from ‘The Bill’ also shares the same contributes with his sensitivity towards the situation with his wife. He is driven to reform his wife and teach her a lesson for her benefit and try to make her a better person for the sake for their child, Ben. Both characters are also recovering alcoholics, which can seem as a negative view on police officers who are meant to uphold the law, but it also appeals to the audience as they are presented as ‘normal’ individuals, with ‘normal’ problems in their lives, again relating to us as an audience as people in our lives go through similar things .
Other characters are also clichéd with Baldwin Jones (Henry Simmons) inevitably being the stereotypical good cop/bad cop as he ‘negotiates’ with a criminal to progress (using force). His partner Greg Medavoy (Gordon Clapp) is the opposite with a more calm and methodical approach who tries to solve cases in his own way. This opposing relationship between partners also exists in ‘The Bill’ with partners Tony Stamp (Graham Cole) and Kerry Young (Beth Cordingly). Tony Stamp being the stereotyped good cop/bad cop delivering punch lines such as “I keep nicking you Curtis” who intimidates Curtis while Kerry Young takes a more calm approach, although there are times when she matches up with her male peers. This is because she is a character than can basically “kick ass” she is not afraid and will do anything to find evidence and solve her cases which she is involved in, so that she can gain more authority and respect by others.
The females are presented as matching up to their dominantly male counterparts. This ‘battle of the sexes’ can also contribute to the audience appeal as conflict gains interest. In ‘NYPD Blue’, Connie McDowell (Charlotte Ross) is very masculine and patristic. In one scene she storms into the toilet interrupting Sipowicz ‘slash’ and demands respect from him. She also gets emotionally involved with her work and also involved with matters not in her manual of work. At the end of the episode she stops Sipowicz from returning to alcoholism and encourages him to move on, she in a way is someone who can encourage the males and tell them what to do such as Sipowicz. Her characteristics also can be compared to Kerry Young from ‘The Bill’. She also tries to equal the men and is very feisty and strong during duty. She is also presented as a passionate worker who can get emotional/too involved with matters beyond her duties. At the end of the episode she proclaims to Reverend Andho (Christopher John Wallace), “Reverend, your daughter needs support”. Both females are outspoken as opposed to Honey Harmen (Kim Tiddy). Honey on the other hand is the stereotypical ‘Essex blond girl’ who wears shorts skirts and tops to emphasize her cleavage, she is very supportive when it comes to helping others such as Jim carver as she is beside him through the whole court case providing him a shoulder he can cry on. Moreover I believe that to her, her image is much more important than her job. In the court case scene she is dressed in an inappropriate miniskirt-top combo. She also tries to fight the ‘blonde bimbo’ stereotype stating, “I’m not 40 watts”. Eva Sharpe from “The Bill” (Diane Parish) is also outspoken like Connie and Kerry, but a male actor could easily play many of her characters’ attributes. She is the stereotypical copper, ‘a Londoner through and through’ who is streetwise, cockney and knows the pros and cons to the business. In some ways she is a stereotypical black person with attitude and knowledge of the streets and can figure out most cases better than the other cops. She in a way is resourceful as she is very independent about her job. From my point of view is seeing her characteristics and role as cope matches the girls in “Charlie’s Angles” who are all also independent and smart.
The ethnicity of the characters in both shows is also interesting as they communicate and fight against stereotypes. ‘The Bill’ superintendent Adam Akaro is played by a black actor (Cyril Nri). This is a very respected and uncommon position. At the start of the episode he is questioned on how a previous officer entered the building and murdered another individual. Akaro admits it was his fault and is willing to face the consequences but the police official disregards the situation, claiming he is good at his line of work. It could be due to his colour, with the police force striving for a more cosmopolitan institution, but it also demonstrates the loyalty others have for each other within the force. Akaro’s the same in ‘NYPD Blue’ (the chief) is also of an ethnicity minority (Peutro Rican), disregarding the stereotype.
The criminals and victims tend to fit more into the cultural stereotypes in both shows, this also means that their characteristics matches us as the audience and ordinary people in society. In ‘NYPD Blue’ we are presented with a stereotypical Puerto Rican woman called Maria (Jessica Lugo) who has attitude and is very rowdy and isn’t willing to co-operate. In comparison, the Reverend’s daughter in ‘The Bill’, Carla Andho (Vicki Elliott) is also the stereotypical streetwise teenager with big earrings and small skirt. She is also the typical teenager, rebelling against family traditions displayed by her father who is the stereotypical African parent - self-righteous and very religious and protective as he wants the best for his children jus as any other parents in life. The criminals are enclosed with stereotypes, ‘NYPD Blue’s’ Julian Pisano (Lenny Venito) and ‘The Bill’ equivalent Curtis Wright who is a typical black “rude” boy that is aggressive and lies to get to his own way, both cocky and arrogant. Julian Pisano in particular who is willing to yell and good deal for his way out. Both criminals and victims are presented with stereotypes. ‘The Bill’ however, tends to go for a more balanced approach compared to ‘NYPD Blue’ in presenting their criminals/victims. Curtis’ cousin Darren is fighting against his stereotype, having been just like Curtis and convicted of crimes such as TDA, he now works for a meat company and is working for a living, he is a guy who is trying very hard in life to succeed and get away from the ‘ghetto life’ . This is a very positive and good representation of black people who are normally presented as thugs and thieves in the street of London; this therefore demonstrates that there are some out there who try very hard to be successful in life. The police as a whole in both shows are presented as loyal and standing for each other in help of need, although there are many negative aspects such as the good cop/bad cop, the criminals are also presented as a whole with stereotypes. This is done to appeal to the audience who would be familiar with the characters and relate to them as most things that happen in the two shows and episodes are real life situations.
In regards to the technical aspects of the shows, both have a very distinctive style that is different from the other. ‘NYPD Blue’ has a sleeker and stylish approach with up-beat music and abstract camera angles of the New York City skyline to keep in rhythm with
New York – the city that never sleeps. The camera is hand-held which gives an effect of realism, making the audience feel a part of the narration and make them feel that as if they are actually walking with the characters on the show. Similarly ‘The Bill’ also has hand-held camera angles to have the same effect but they have a more down to earth approach with a soap-opera style look. This could also have the realistic effect. Lighting in both shows is also iconographical in that the audience would expect to see a dark/grim setting on murder scenes and a busy, bustling police station. ‘NYPD Blue’ makes more use of non-diagetic music compared to ‘The Bill’ who makes it more stylish and matching to the location and the scenes and shots of the episodes.
Values and Ideology are presented in both shows. In the two episodes, moral issues were raised such as alcoholism (Sopiwicz and Carver) which both are recovering alcoholics. The Bill also raises the issue of domestic violence with the court proceedings against Marie Carver, and the issue of underage sex, spun from Carla and Curtis, is also raised. Clearly, the good cop/bad cop cliché (Baldwin Jones) can also account for the values of the police power and their methods. These ethical issues exist in this genre and shows so that the audience can relate to them and be delighted by the officers and their physical side.
Finally coming to a conclusion I have realized why theses crime/cop shows have become popular with television audiences because both shows raise moral issues such as domestic violence which some of us as an audience may have faced and can relate to. Moreover by seeing these negative things on TV the audiences therefore want to know how to deal with them like the characters in the shows. As a result of this the crime/cop shows have become more and more popular in society and the world as each country today has its own cop shows.