As reported by Variety, screenwriter and television producer John Langley, whose greatest contribution to culture, for better or worse, was the creation of the television show The cops-is dead. Langley apparently suffered a heart attack in Mexico while competing in the Coast To Coast Ensenada-San Felipe 250 off-road race. He was 78 years old.
Langley’s television legacy is obviously thorny, given this The cops became and what he started to represent, but that’s not quite what his vision for the show was. Variety quote a TV Academy interview he gave in 2009 in which he noted that as a ’60s kid’ he is ‘kind of anti-authoritarian by nature’ and that if you told him beforehand that he would create a TV show about cops , he would have guessed that his name would be Pigs. Rather than trying to glorify the work of the police or pass off the police as infallible extensions of the mighty arm of justice, the original idea was that The cops was simply an unfiltered look at the machinery of the police system – which is why there was no narrator or reenactments explaining to the viewer how to feel. (Unlike a newer competitor PD live, which went on to become the greatest show in the world by becoming the absolute worst version of what The cops could have been.)
But, of course, whatever Langley had in mind for The cops when that Created, it quickly became his own thing… and that thing glorified the cops and made them look like infallible extensions of the arm of justice. Critics accused the show of forcing people to sign waivers, and law enforcement fought successfully to eradicate negative imagery, and the show was eventually launched from the increasingly respectable Fox Network on Spike TV, then on the Paramount network. The cops was canceled last summer following nationwide protests against police violence sparked by the murder of George Floyd, though Paramount immediately moved away from the show to such an extent that he wouldn’t even admit ever having aired it.
That being said, Langley and The cops had a big impact on television outside of the copaganda. The show is Truth cinema the style became a cliché for news shows and it popularized a style of reality TV that was less about telling a story, and more documentary style, and more about just putting a camera in front of some people and watching what was happening whether or not the things that happened were in fact real or if they had been orchestrated by the people behind the camera, which would also be related to the The cops heritage. For this reason, he is considered the “godfather of reality TV”.
Beyond The cops, Langley worked on Jail, Vegas strip, that of Antoine Fuqua Best of Brooklyn, American Expose: who murdered JFK?, and Terrorism: targeting the United States. Langley is survived by his wife and four children.