A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this caught-on-camera series makes constant fun of "stupid" criminals. The host -- a comedian dressed as a police officer -- is a harshly stereotyped Southern "deputy" who encourages viewers to laugh at the criminals' poor decisions. Also mined for humor are vehicle crashes and collisions between cars and pedestrians (injuries aren't shown up close or in detail), and even the actions of real-life cops. Kids who watch could end up taking police work (and authority in general) much less seriously.
What's the story?
Like Cops by way of Mystery Science Theater 3000, BANDITS VS. SMOKIES offers viewers a highlight reel of real criminals' embarrassing encounters with the law. Full of misguided high-speed car chases, vehicle collisions, and just plain bad judgment calls, the series uses voice-over narration to put a comedic spin on cops' run-ins with dim-bulb crooks. Video footage taken from security tapes, surveying aircraft, and dash-mounted police cameras captures the subjects' missteps, which range from the mundane (a drunk pedestrian runs headfirst into a parked car) to the moronic (a driver veers off a highway sans exit ramp, sailing off the edge onto the treetops below). Running commentary gives made-up motives to the actions of both the criminals and the cops, attempting to put a funny spin on their thought processes and interactions. Some scenes are taken even further in the name of comedy -- in one, for example, a pedestrian darts through a busy street to avoid the cops, bumping into people and cars as he goes -- on screen, each contact earns points in a game of so-called "Bandit pinball."
Is it any good?
The stereotypes kick in right off the bat, with comedian/host donning "typical" deputy attire -- complete with impenetrable dark sunglasses -- to oversee each episode as a Southern-talkin' "Smokey." As he introduces the clips, he encourages viewers to get hearty chuckles at the expense of the criminals' poor judgment and misfortune.
Not surprisingly for a show like this, there are plenty of vehicle collisions (with buildings, people, and other cars), but injuries are never shown. More problematic is the often-negative light that the show casts on law enforcement -- thanks to both the host's strongly stereotypical behavior and the goofy thoughts and actions attributed to real cops in the line of duty. While some adults may enjoy the show's broad humor, younger viewers who see what could have been a serious conversation between a cop and a criminal get turned into a seemingly lighthearted exchange of casual jokes might get an inaccurate impression of the right way to interact with police officers and other authority figures.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how law enforcement is portrayed in the media. Do reality series like this one and Cops cast police officers in a favorable or negative light? How? Do you think they give an accurate impression of how officers work and criminals behave? How does where a show takes place change its portrayal of police? (Think about The Andy Griffith Show, Dukes of Hazzard, and CHiPS, for example.) How do current crime-based TV shows like Law & Order and CSI give a different impression of police work? Are any of them more realistic than others? How? Also, is it OK to laugh at authority figures? Can comedy ever do more harm than good?