Cop Shows Have Family Appeal


Even at a time when some police in America are behaving problematically if not violently and even murderously against, my enjoyment of TV cop shows continues unabated. You might wonder: How does a progressive have such an attachment to such entertainment? Perhaps a look at the two very different series that I’ve been alternately watching, Blue Bloods and Hawaii Five-O illuminates some of the reasons why.

Blue Bloods is set in New York City, and that’s at the core of its appeal to me. As a youngster I was a fan of Naked City, and a decade after it ended Kojak became a favorite in both first run and later re-runs. In the ‘80s I liked Cagney & Lacey. Regular readers will also be familiar with my liking for Law & Order and its Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent spinoffs. I lived in “The City” during some of my most formative and favorite years from 1975 to ‘89.

The shows do keep me attached to the city I feel is at least as much my home as my upstate New York hometown. Blue Bloods, which has run for seven seasons with an eighth in the offing, is redolent with NYC atmosphere and culture. Focusing on a family with three generations in the NYPD, it fulfills what I like about some of the best cop shows in that with every episode it is a morality play. It also depicts an ideal of policing: officers, detectives and a commissioner who are dedicated to doing their job with honor and integrity. It is, at its core, a show about striving to do the right thing.

The family structure of its cast and their Sunday dinner together ritual also provides a way for the issues that come up in every episode to be discussed and debated. (I also just noticed after all the years of watching that all the Regan family members from the commissioner [played by Tom Selleck] down through his police offspring and assistant DA daughter have widow’s peaks. I don’t know if this was purposeful in casting, but it is a small and subtle sign of a genetic connection.) Each show also has a number of storylines that at times also intersect. It’s well structured TV entertainment.

As well, both cop sons of the commissioner have female partners, and strong ones at that – a nice touch of feminism.

Hawaii Five-O is a completely different animal, as is its appeal to me. I was a fan of the original series, which was also a completely different animal from the reboot.

I’ll plead guilty pleasure with that show. The Hawaii setting and how islands culture is threaded through the series is an appeal to me. It offers touches of paradise. And then the underside.

It’s also in a way about family: how Five-O head Steve McGarrett is the son of Jack McGarrett; the relationship between Danny Williams and his daughter; and how Chin Ho Kelly and Kono Kalakaua are cousins. Plus it is also about the “families” we form in our lives outside our blood relatives, in that the Five-O task force functions like one, even with having a near-sibling rivalry yet bond between McGarrett and Williams.

The episodes are rife with vehicle and foot chases and wild shootouts that all go beyond reality in almost cartoonish ways. When spy ties and games and foreign adventures were brought into the show I almost groaned, yet I have come to accept it as part of the mix. It’s a show that’s packed with action and adventure. It also has splashes of sexy. In short, it’s unapologetically entertaining and escapism galore, especially the Hawaii setting.

But what probably charms me most with it is that Five-O has likable characters. Due to what I feel are justifiable salary disputes or not, after all this time and success, main secondary actors Daniel Dae Kim (Kelly) and Grace Park (Kalakaua) getting paid as much as the two leads, they have left the show before its eighth season. It will be an interesting challenge to replace them. I’ll tune in and hope I’ll remain a fan.

Ultimately, I suspect the appeal to me with both shows is seeing police who are good cops and good people. With too many bad apple police creating severe problems, it’s reassuring to get that in my entertainment.

Populist Picks:

Book: London by Edward Rutherford – This 2000 year fictional history of the city is rich with real historical facts and the weaving and interwoven paths of a number of family lines. A wonderfully entertaining way to brush up on and learn more about English history and trace the development of one of the world’s greatest metropolises.

TV Documentary: Kardashian: The Man Who Saved O.J. Simpson – He is the man to blame in part for his irritating celebrity offspring. He also may have had a role in destroying evidence in the trial of his friend and client Simpson. This Netflix film on Robert Kardashian fills in the details and uncovers his possible misdeed.

TV Documentary: Jackie: A Tale of Two Sisters – Again, Netflix is proving itself a fine source of documentaries with its “Tale of Two Sisters” series. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her younger sister Lee Radziwill are interwoven into recent history in this fascinating tale.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email

From The Progressive Populist, Febuary 15, 2018

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