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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 show isn't suitable for kids. While it's interesting to see the types of calls that officers respond to, most of the footage is graphic and violent. Many of the calls involve prostitution, domestic violence, fights, robberies, and drug deals. Suspects sometimes fight back, which can be scary. Sometimes the cops use a lot of force, which can be upsetting. Suspects often use profanity, with the strongest words bleeped.
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What's the story?
COPS, one of the longest-running shows on TV and considered one of the first reality shows, follows police officers from across the country as they perform their jobs. A camera crew accompanies the officers as they respond to calls, and the action results from the often violent and bizarre encounters that the officers have once they arrive at the crime scene.
Is it any good?
Much of the show's appeal comes from getting a peek into the daily life of a police officer. However, the glimpse we're given isn't appropriate for kids. The calls that are chosen for each episode are selected for their shock value, and it's hard not to be shocked by much of the footage: drunken brawls, domestic arguments, and armed criminals that fight back. Also, at times it seems that both the suspects and the officers are performing for the cameras, so it's hard to tell how "real" these scenes are.
Crime scenes can be bloody, and suspects and officers often get seriously injured. A recent episode, for example, featured an armed suspect on the run, a bloody trailer-park brawl, and a domestic violence call. Unless your teen is considering a career in law enforcement, there doesn't seem to be much reason to expose your kids to this show.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether or not they think this is a fair representation of a police officer's job. Could every day on the job be this dangerous or exciting or outrageous? Do you think the officers and suspects would act differently if they weren't being followed by the cameras? Why has this show remained so popular for so long?