A&E effectively cancelled Live PD, its most-popular show, on Wednesday, in an indirect acknowledgement that the show cannot proceed to make entertainment out of policing. The decision came one day after Cops was cancelled by Paramount Network.
However, the network did not use the word “cancelled,” but instead said that it would “cease production on Live PD,” and left the door open to the return of this show or a similar one, with a broader focus beyond just police work.
“This is a critical time in our nation’s history and we have made the decision to cease production on Live PD. Going forward, we will determine if there is a clear pathway to tell the stories of both the community and the police officers whose role it is to serve them. And with that, we will be meeting with community and civil rights leaders as well as police departments.”
That suggests they’re looking for ways to broaden the show’s perspective, which has always been one of my central problems with the show: that it centers police perspectives while pretending it’s neutral and unbiased.
Just read Live PD‘s contract with police departments, which reveals how much control police departments have over the show’s content, and also has other details, such as how long the show’s tape delay actually is.
It’s unfortunate that it took nearly four years for A&E to admit what’s been apparent since the beginning—that the show does not include “the community” as part of its characters or its narrative. Of course, including that perspective is much, much harder than just riding along with police and filming their encounters with the community.
Dan Abrams ‘shocked’ that Live PD is ‘abandoning’ fans
Host Dan Abrams posted to Twitter that he was “Shocked & beyond disappointed about this.” Of course he’d be upset about losing his job. But what’s remarkable to me is how he spoke to fans of Live PD:
To the loyal #LivePDNation please know I, we, did everything we could to fight for you, and for our continuing effort at transparency in policing. I was convinced the show would go on.
Tuesday, he insisted the show was coming back, and wrote this:
All of us associated with the show are as committed to it as ever. We are still discussing some specifics but I want to assure the #LivePDNation that we are not abandoning you.
I can understand that he’s communicating with people who are upset about the potential cancellation of a television show, but abandoning? Will they really suffer without their ability to sit and watch people being arrested on television every Friday and Saturday night?
That kind of language clearly speaks to the relationship some people have with Live PD, but that’s a relationship worth examining. Many of the fans lashing out on social media are just regurgitating the show’s own narrative about itself, that it’s transparent. (Many of the fans are also just being completely, transparently racist.)
But a show that allows cops it’s filming to stop cameras at any time, and that gives police a chair in the control room to edit footage, is not transparent. Live PD’s contract even says that the show will only have “the appearance of’ no editing,” and that it is part of the “outreach effort” happening in police departments.
Perhaps those angry fans will redirect their anger over the cancellation of a TV show to helping to dismantle the systemic racism that shows like Live PD and Cops contributed to.