Thursday, July 27, 2006

Best Cop Show Ever

On jury duty as few weeks back, I had to fill out a questionnaire. “Do you,” the sovereign asked “watch police shows like Law & Order?” (I quote from memory).

Hm, that is a tough one. I don’t really watch Law & Order, except maybe as wallpaper, but I’ve certainly seen it (how can you avoid it?). But how to account for the fact that just now, in a mood of rapturous enjoyment, I am midway through Season #2 of Hill Street Blues? No doubt at all, this is the best cop show ever, but in what respect is it “like Law & Order?” I suppose I know what they are driving at here. Prosecutors complain that Law & Order skews their work. It makes juries think that there’s lots of cool scientific evidence, and that everything gets wrapped up in an hour (it may persuade them that cops are competent and efficient, also, but that is a more complicated issue). Hill Street Blues is, in so many ways, everything Law & Order is not. On Hill Street Blues, nothing finishes on a schedule, and some things do not finish at all. The evidence is low-tech to a fault. Of course most important, on Law & Order, no cop has a private life. Hill Street Blues cops have more private life than you (or they) can bear. In the end, it is the sheer raggediness that makes Hill Street Blues work: we have a whole station house full of cops, some more honest, or skilled, or diligent than others, up against bad guys of whom you could say the same, all trying to make it through the night.

Hill Street Blues dates: we are in the midst of the crack years here and urban America has a kind of dreadfulness which, I think, in some small way it has lost. But no matter: Middlemarch dates (I mean the novel). Okay, Hill Street Blues is no Middlemarch. But it’s no Law & Order, either. Instead it was and remainswhat I said before: best cop show ever.

Do I watch police shows like Law & Order? In the end, I said “no.” They didn’t choose me for the jury, for which I am most grateful. Would I have been a good juror—an informed and comprehending juror? I wonder.

1 comment:

tedjoy said...

While Hill Street Blues has its pleasures, it's still a long shot from being the best.

That honor has to go to Police Story which ran about the same time. Check it out and you'll be amazed at how wrong you've been.