The Audacity of Tropes
The Keystone Cops in the early part of the last century brought us the image of hapless police unable to keep a good man locked up, rather than the bloodthirsty goon hired by the railroad to bash heads that would have been more accurate. The Police Academy films taught a generation that law enforcement goals were achievable if you could make a sound like a man farting into a fan with your mouth and if your name was Steve Guttenberg, and people were still wondering what the hell you were up to.
Observations from many late nights with TV cops.
The more famous the guest star, the more likely they’re the murderer.
- When Morgan Fairchild makes an appearance on Murder, She Wrote it’s merely to up the jiggle quotient. But when Matthew Modine finds work on the set of Law & Order consider the donuts glazed and the case closed.
Ossie Davis = “A Very Special Anti-Racist Episode”.
- And by Ossie Davis, I mean Delroy Lindo, Joe Morton or Clarence Williams III.
“I don’t know if this means anything…” = case cracker
- This trope makes an appearance – oh, I would say – about thirty nine minutes into every episode of Law & Order.
I could solve some real crime if I didn’t have bleeping paperwork/budget cuts/Albany on my ass.
- Gone are the days of wockalicious car chases and gratuitous door kicking symphonies. Nowadays you’re more likely to find TV cops complaining about departmental budget cuts than getting a call that sends them across town to investigate yet another off season Santa on Santa killing.
Females on the force always go undercover as hookers.
- The first couple of seasons of Miami Vice I thought Trudy and Gina were hookers since they spent the bulk of their screen time in spandex mini dresses and fur chubbies. Though, I should note, that Wojo once went under cover as a hooker. Wojo complained to Barney he didn’t want to wear an ugly outfit, stating Linda Lavin looked cuter than he did.
Black cops speak jive to suspects in custody, but only after stating, “I’m not your brother, brotha!”
- Det. Ed Green and Det. Frank Pembleton being the worst offenders.
Hey, they’re not there to break up your meth lab; they just want to find the killer.
- You can pimp your hoes, sling your smack or strip cars, provided you page the killer and lure them to an ambush.
If the defense attorney looks like Fisher Stevens the prosecution is screwed.
- Roll out the carpet; that perp is walking.
The criminal’s elder parents never knows the whereabouts of their n’er-do-well child.
- This was overused on Homicide: Life on the Street. Bayliss would ask if the mom had spoken to the perp lately and of course the answer was usually “no.” Pembleton would scan the room, find a holiday card and two jump cuts later QRT would be kicking down the door to a shithole rowhouse. The perp then is dragged out of the house by the neck of his stained tank top, while some woman in bunny slippers and a cheap red lace teddy shrieks, “He didn’t do it!”
The perps never leave when told they are free to go!
- Instead they try to go toe to toe with the cops always resulting in later being handcuffed and sent downstairs for processing.
Cops always say, “Innocent people don’t need alibis.” before immediately demanding the person provide one.
- This one always makes me laugh.
A version of this post previously appeared on Snarky’s Machine
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