The success of A&E’s Live PD has led the network to add more 150 episodes to the show’s order, for a grand total of 293 three-hour episodes, which will be 879 hours of watching police do their work live on Friday and Saturday nights.
Season three of the show begins tonight (A&E, Fridays and Saturdays at 9).
Live PD has been a ratings success for the network: A&E says that in August alone, it “was the #1 program on all of TV among [people ages 24 to 54 and 18 to 49] … propelling A&E to be the #1 TV network on Fridays and Saturdays for the month … beating all broadcast nets” in those demographics.
It’s also had positive real-world impact.
The show has a segment telling the stories of missing children, and the network says “Tips from Live PD viewers have helped law enforcement to recover seven children,” and the “the “Wanted” segment, in which law enforcement agencies across the country ask viewers for help in finding suspects wanted in crimes, has led to 11 fugitives being caught.”
In a press release, A&E’s Elaine Frontain Bryant praised the series and said:
“Live PD has tapped into the cultural zeitgeist in ways we never imaged. Our viewers are passionate and are truly engaged with the show. In fact, they have helped law enforcement agencies find missing children and wanted fugitives. We want to extend our thanks to our loyal viewers who have dubbed themselves the ‘Live PD Nation,’ along with the communities and law enforcement agencies that have welcomed our cameras into their neighborhoods. The team at Big Fish Entertainment, along with our incredible on-air talent and studio and field crews have masterfully produced a technically challenging show week after week.”
She didn’t mention the baby whose arm was broken on live TV; or the women who saw her son’s body on the show and learned he was dead; or the police departments that have backed out, in one case because the show was making viewers think there was more crime than there actually is.
As you might have guessed, I have some issues with the show.
Its successes are admirable, as is its goal to bring transparency, but its effects and consequences are not clear, nor is the production willing to be clear about key decisions it’s making.
Last year, I interviewed executive producer Dan Cesero about how Live P.D. is produced, including about the privacy of people who are filmed, and whether or not they can opt out.
When I asked if Live PD can film and show people without permission, he gave a vague answer and suggested that the show was entertainment that holds itself to the same ethical standards as news programs. But he wouldn’t tell me what those standards were.