It’s Okay! They’re the Good Guys!

It’s a common scene in a cop show.

The cops arrest someone and maybe it’s during the arrest, maybe during the interrogation, one of our guys loses his cool and gets a little rough with the suspect. And, you know what? We’re fine with that! Punk had it coming.

It’s yet another way that copaganda inures us to questionable police conduct.

We are firmly on our good guys’ side. We understand their frustration when a suspect won’t give up information or if they run and have to be chased down. These are bad guys after all. We’d lose our cool, too. Especially when some punk won’t talk and there’s a bomb about to go off or some kidnapped person’s minutes are ticking away. If our guys get a little aggressive in the pursuit of justice, it’s all good. After all…they’re the good guys. Sometimes a choke hold is necessary.

The shows are great at normalizing this. It makes sense that our cops would get a little rough while arresting a suspect, especially if they ran or were resisting. It makes sense that our cops might need to utilize a little physical persuasion during an interrogation. Lives are on the line. And besides, these are the BAD guys. Who cares if they get a little roughed up?

Except how often do we watch those arrests and those interrogations and the suspect in question turns out to NOT be the bad guy of the episode? Pretty often considering the first person arrested is seldom the culprit in an hour long police procedural. You can argue that it’s all in the pursuit of justice, but that argument doesn’t hold up against a person’s rights.

Ah, yes, those pesky rights that apply to everyone, not just the good guys. How our cops often lament how they’re forced to observe a suspect’s rights when they’d really rather smack them around.

And how often they ignore those rights and go right ahead.

We all know how much I love Horatio Caine, but the man crosses lines like he’s running a touchdown. Given that his line-crossing increases as the seasons progress, I could argue that his increasing disregard to the rights of suspects is a response to traumas he suffers over the years, but that’s a post for another day. The point is that Horatio has no problem threatening physical violence or getting outright physical with a suspect. In one episode, it’s insinuated that he beats the shit out of a pedophile for “resisting arrest”. Another insinuates he does the same to a guy who abused his girlfriend, but at that point, he was no longer even a suspect in her death. And in yet another episode, Horatio and Boa Vista get a guy in the backseat of one of the Hummers and it’s implied that they inflict some pain in order to extract information.

These three incidents are presented without any question to Horatio’s actions. Because we sympathize with him and in fact, identify with him. We’d beat the shit out of a grown man preying on teenage girls. We’d beat the shit out of a guy who was fond of DV. We’d do a little painful persuasion to get crucial information from someone already in custody.

However, we are not law enforcement. And there are very good reasons why law enforcement is not allowed to do such things.

But this is the standard for these shows. There’s no real attention brought to this sort of police violence other than mild warnings as a means of twisting the tension and providing a barrier to our good guys saving the day.

Unless they happen to be falsely accused of police brutality.

In a third season episode of CSI: Miami, Horatio is accused of police brutality and Calleigh has to clear him, which she does, of course, because in this instance Horatio hasn’t done the violence that he’s accused of.

It seems like every cop gets falsely accused at least once. Ponch and Jon. Starsky and Hutch. Reed and Malloy. It’s a rite of passage for a TV cop, like a police involved shooting. The focus of these episodes is always the same: the injustice and unfairness of our heroes being accused of brutality and how easy it is for people to make those claims. These people are only saying these things because they have an agenda. They hate the police. They’re petty. They’re either seeking retribution for getting caught committing their own illegal transgressions or trying to detract from them. Because only bad cops engage in brutality and our heroes are never bad cops.

Inevitably, like Horatio Caine, they’re cleared of any wrongdoing.

And then right back at manhandling the next week.

One cop show that didn’t really normalize police violence was Barney Miller. First of all, we didn’t see any of the arrests. We were told that the suspect had to be chased or that the suspect resisted, but it was understood that no violence ensued during these apprehensions. At least there was no apparent evidence or mention. Second of all, a preponderance of the criminals the 12th precinct dealt with where, well, harmless. There were some armed robbers and assaulters and the like, but this is a comedy. Most of the perps that the detectives arrested were of the nature of blind shoplifters and women throwing toilet seats out of the window because their husbands locked them in the bathroom and sugar addicts who fall off the wagon in hilarious fashion.

When the subject of police brutality came up in conversation, Wojo was usually the detective mentioned, particularly in the early seasons. He had a tendency to be aggressive in his arrests and it got him into trouble more than once. Inspector Luger was a great champion of police violence as that’s how things were done back in his heyday. He was painted as out of touch and his methods antiquated. The policing techniques of the 12th didn’t require rubber hoses or anyone “falling down” the stairs. Policing had evolved beyond that.

Which wasn’t an accurate reflection of reality, but it was a decent attempt at providing a counter thought to plant into people’s heads.

Police violence isn’t normal and we shouldn’t accept it as such.

Not even from our law enforcement faves.

TV Bosses I’d Work For

Have you ever watched a TV show and thought to yourself, “Man, I wish they were my boss”? Well, I have. So I put together a short list (in no particular order) of the TV bosses that I’d work for.

Barney Miller (Barney Miller)- I feel like this is probably an obvious choice for someone enamored with police shows. Not only did Barney have a more reasonable approach to lawbreakers, he also had an excessive amount of patience when it came to the people in his squad room. He’d finally get to his breaking point, but it took some persistent aggravation. Given that I can be aggravating, it’s good to know I’d probably never get to that point with him, thanks to Wojo and Levitt beating me to it.

Steve McGarrett (Hawaii Five-O)- A no-brainer if you know me, Steve McGarrett is in many ways the ideal. He’ll mentor you, correct you, joke with you, go to bat for you, but he won’t tolerate any bullshit. You gotta put in your effort. I love a boss who has your back, and Steve definitely has the backs of Five-O.

Horatio Caine (CSI:Miami)- Much like Steve McGarrett (as I’ve written about), I dare say that Horatio would go even further for you, particularly in the later seasons when he was decidedly less attached to the rules. He’d do everything possible to turn you into the best CSI he could, but he’d only help you if you were willing to accept it. Some lessons have to be learned the hard way. Right, Ryan? I have no doubt Horatio would kill for you, though, and I really appreciate that kind of dedication.

Miss Kitty (Gunsmoke)- Leaving aside the not-explicity-said-but-definitely-understood nature of the work some of the Long Branch employees were doing, I have no doubt that Miss Kitty looked after all of them. From bartenders to saloon girls, she wasn’t a successful businesswoman because she let the clientele walk all over her and abuse her staff. She’s the fuck around and find out boss.

The Middleman (The Middleman)- All of the patience of Barney Miller, the mentoring of Steve McGarrett and Horatio Caine, and the protective nature of Miss Kitty, with a healthy dose of optimism and clean language. He makes ridding the world of comic book foes less of a chore and more of a good day at the office.

Sgt. Getraer (CHiPs)- As far as bosses with a sense of humor go, Gertaer is up there. Think about it. He had to deal with Ponch’s bullshit all the time. If he didn’t learn to laugh, his blood pressure would have been through the roof. He also has the ability to roll with the punches, which is a pretty good quality to have. Probably the only boss on this list that would go country-western dancing, roller skating, and participate in some questionable athletic shenanigans for charity.

Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Stargate: Atlantis)- If I’m in another galaxy with the prospect of never returning to Earth and our best chance of survival is making new friends, I’m going with Elizabeth. She kept things under control, put people in their place (I’m looking at you Shepherd), and didn’t take any shit from anybody -Wraith, Genii, or Replicator. She had things under control even when they were out of control and honestly, I wish she would have been in charge every Black Friday.

Colonel Sam Carter (Stargate: Atlantis)- Everything you got with Elizabeth, but with the added bonus of a military background, a different science expertise, and some “I have seen some shit” experience. She was also perfectly cool with blowing shit up and I need that in a boss.

Richard Woolsey (Stargate: Atlantis)- If you’ve seen the show, I know what you’re thinking, but let’s be real. Once he got broken in, Woolsey made for a pretty good boss. As a bureaucrat, he brought an element of sneakiness to his dealings with with others in the Pegasus Galaxy and was a pretty crafty negotiator. He also quickly figured out it was best to leave the science to the scientists and the defense to the military. A boss who knows when to let the workers do their thing and when to rein them in is valuable.

Is it cheating to have three bosses from the same show? Maybe. Did I exclude some excellent bosses from this list? Probably.

But this is my list.

Go make your own.

Rerun Junkie Show–CHiPs


Back in the long long ago of my childhood of the late ’80s/early ’90s, I discovered many of my beloved reruns thanks to my grandma’s much better cable and living close enough that I could spend weeks in the summer at her house. One of those shows was CHiPs. Oh yes. My love of ’70s cops shows started when I was quite young. I can remember watching this show during the summer at grandma’s house (along with a slew of other reruns) and then being thrilled a few years later when it ended up on a line-up on a channel I got at home and could watch after school. I believe it was on after Starsky and Hutch.


CHiPs follows two officers of the California Highway Patrol, Officer Jon Baker (Larry Wilcox) and his partner Officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Erik Estrada) as they fight crime under the watchful eye of Sgt. Joseph Getraer (Robert Pine) and alongside their fellow officers including Officer Arthur Grossman (Paul Linke), Officer Barry Barizca (Brodie Greer), Officer Bonnie Clark (Randi Oakes), Officer Jebediah Turner (Michael Dorn), Officer Gene Fritz (Lew Saunders), Officer Kathy Linahan (Tina Gayle), Officer Sindy Cahill (Brianne Leary), and Officer Benjamin Webster (Clarence Gilyard Jr.). Baker also partnered with Officer Steve McLeish (Caitlyn Jenner) for some episodes (Estrada was sitting out due to a contract dispute) and Officer Bobby “Hot Dog” Nelson (Tom Reilly) stepped in after Baker left the CHP to go back to Wyoming (Wilcox left the show), bringing along brother Officer Bruce Nelson (Bruce Penhall) as a trainee. And of course, the whole squad was kept running by the brilliant Harlan Arliss (Lou Wagner). It should be noted that Michael Dorn sported a magnificent cop mustache during his run on the show and I appreciate that dedication.

Since the show is all about the highway patrol, there was a lot hot freeway action with chases and accidents. And while many of the crimes dealt with some sort of moving violation, be it speeding, racing, car theft, or trafficking of some sort, some of the storylines moved off the road, so to speak. There was always a main story weaved into the other minor crimes along with whatever shenanigans Ponch and/or Jon were getting into. Sometimes everyone got in on the shenanigans. For example, I just watched an episode that involved the CHP helping to care for a bunch of orphaned babies. Yes, really. Robert Pine demonstrating how to most effectively soothe a baby (“skate and sway”) is something we all need in our lives.

But there were also drag racers, stunt drivers, off-road racers, and demolition derbies, and we need that in our lives, too. Thank goodness this show provided. Not one to shy away from the things that made the ’70s great, Ponch and Jon often found themselves doing the latest hip things, like land boarding or hang gliding, either undercover or just for fun.

Because of the nature of the show, it was easy to work in guest stars for not only the main storylines, but for the smaller crimes, too. And since the show’s six seasons ran during the late ’70s and early ’80s, we’re talking the cream of the rerun crop here.

Just a scant few of the guest stars that cruised through include Gwynne Gilford (Robert Pine’s wife playing Sgt. Getraer’s wife); Larry Linville, Herb Edelman, William Schallert, Shelley Berman, Tom Poston, George Lindsey; teenagers Danny Bonaduce, Robbie Rist, Leif Garrett, Christopher Knight, and Moosie Drier; William Smith, Robert F. Lyons, Don Stroud, Mills Watson; Halloween franchise alums Pamela Susan Shoop, Nancy Stephens, Tony Moran, Hunter von Leer, Cliff Emmich, and Kyle Richards; Katherine Cannon, Christine Belford, Mary Crosby, Joanne Linville; future Growing Pains stars Tracey Gold and Joanna Kerns; Reb Brown, Richard Roundtree, Alex Rocco, Brion James; Emergency! vets William Boyett, Tim Donnelly, and Vince Howard; Jenny O’Hara, Elaine Joyce, Anne Lockhart, Anne Francis; Escape to Witch Mountain kids Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann; The Howling stars Dee Wallace and Christopher Stone; Troy Donahue, Rudy Vallee, Dough McClure, Edd Byrnes; Poltergeist stars Dominique Dunne and Heather O’Rourke; Ed Harris, David Caruso, Michelle Pfeifer, Kelly Preston, Bryan Cranston; Black Sheep Squadron vets Simon Oakland, Robert Ginty, and Dirk Blocker; Clu Gulager, Robert Englund, Kip Niven; Welcome Back, Kotter graduates Ron Palillo and Robert Hegyes; Dwight Schultz, A Martinez, Fred Dryer, Gary Sandy, Edward James Olmos, Gerald McRaney, Markie Post, Martin Kove, Anne Ramsey, Soleil Moon Frye, Moon Unit Zappa, Keenan Ivory Wayans; Ironside alums Don Galloway and Don Mitchell; Sonny Bono, Eric Braeden, Julie Newmar, Miguel Ferrer, Royal Dano, Ellen Travolta; Gilligan’s Island castaways Tina Louise and Jim Backus; Alice Ghostly, Richard Deacon, Don Most, Alan Sues; F-Troop vets Ken Berry and Larry Storch; and comedy legends Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, Rich Little, and Phyllis Diller.

Believe me when I say that I didn’t include everyone I wanted to. The show really is a gold mine for guest stars.

Part of that is because it was easy for celebs to do a cameo or in the case of a couple of episodes, uncredited appearances thanks to the CHP charity efforts.

There are at least two of these episodes I can think of off the top of my head. Both of them were two-parters, but one is legend.

The Season 4 episode “The Great 5K Race and Boulder Wrap” features Ponch trying to recruit celebrities for a charity function, a couple of thieves with a fancy motorcycle and side car, and a boulder threatening Milton Berle’s house. Don’t worry, everything works out okay, of course, and we get treated to our CHP officers getting dunked in a dunk tank by the likes of Michael Cole, Todd Bridges, Richard Kline, and one of the Landers sisters. The fun and games is also attended by Cindy Williams, Rose Marie, Peter Marshall, Ruth Buzzi, Vic Tayback, Betsy Palmer, Marcia Wallace, Merlin Olsen, Conrad Bain, and Dean Butler.

However, the Season 3 opener “Roller Disco” is the ’70s glam and WTF that dreams are made of. In addition to a group of roller skating thieves (Jim Brown and Fred Williamson on skates!), a really annoying roller skating brat, a whiplash guy looking for revenge, and a burnt out rock star, Ponch is in charge of the Skate with the Stars charity event. That’s right! Stars on skates! Melissa Sue Anderson, Richard Hatch, Victor French, Wesley Eure, Nancy Kulp, Phillip McKeon, Brett Somers, Dick Van Patten, George Peppard, Jo Anne Worley, and more. Yes, it is as glorious as it sounds. Only a disco ball glitters more.

Of course, most episodes weren’t this glitzy. Even though Ponch and Jon were the focus of the show, the secondary characters got their chances to shine in episodes, too. Bonnie thought about joining a stunt show; Barizca helped out his parents; Getraer had his hands full with his own kids as well as Ponch and Jon; and Grossman…well, he’s Grossman.

And since this is a cop show featuring traffic, there were also plenty of peril episodes. Everybody wrecked at least once, and some of those wrecks weren’t accidents. In one episode, someone deliberately targeted our CHiPs and ended up taking out Jon and Grossman. Some wrecked worse than others. Ponch, Jon, Bonnie, Sindy, Gertraer, and Grossman all ended up in the hospital at one point in time or another. Poor Sindy ended up being accused of causing an 11 car pile-up and it took the Chippies working the MAIT team investigation to clear her.

One of the more memorable wrecks, at least memorable to me, was when Ponch ended up crashing into a store and ended up with a display case poised to decapitate him. Thanks to Jon, Barizca, Turner, and Grossman, Ponch escaped without a physical scratch, but the mental wounds nearly kept him from doing his job. And there were episodes that were a little more emotionally involved for our CHiPs, in between the romances, daredevils, wayward kids, pranks, motor cycle gangs, martial arts, pot farmers, and road rage.

I’m sure back in the day women, men, and enbys of the guy-liking persuasion probably sorted themselves into one of two categories: Ponch or Jon. I admit that in my teen years, I went between the two. But ultimately, my heart belonged to Grossman. When it comes to my fictional men, there’s something about a chubby, awkward one that wins me every time. Plus, he was in Motel Hell. My opinion hasn’t really changed much in my elder years, though now I definitely have a thing for Bonnie, too, and I totally see the appeal of Getraer. Take that Chris Pine. Your dad will always be cooler.

But whichever category you fall into, you know that these Chippies will be keeping you safe on the freeway.

Grab your skates.

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