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The Audacity of Tropes

April 28, 2010

Guns don't kill people, paperwork does!

The Shark Guys created a list of Top 20 TV Cop show cliches which is both comprehensive and hilarious.

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.

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A version of this post previously appeared on Snarky’s Machine
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10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2010 7:37 am

    “I don’t know if this means anything…” = case cracker

    Since you pointed this out, I can’t help but laugh each time I hear this in a cop show.

    My favorite trope is the funny and lovable informant who meets with the cops out in the middle of the street. What’s the shelf life of such a stoolie out in the wild anyway? Certainly not a full season.

  2. April 28, 2010 9:21 am

    Classic Snarky! I love this list.

    Oh, and it looks like Justified is going to go back to the days of wockalicious car chases, churches blowing up, kicking doors down, and punching street thugs in the face because they’re getting sassy. Although, less wah wah pedal soundtrack, more twangy geetar soundtrack.

  3. April 28, 2010 9:46 am

    I have to admit, sometimes I watch Starsky & Hutch just for those really awesome chase scenes and the good music. It can’t all be threats from Albany, budget cuts or paperwork. Sometimes a few colorful informants are in order.

  4. April 28, 2010 10:08 am

    Sometimes a few colorful informants are in order.

    Huggy Bear ftw.

  5. April 28, 2010 10:31 am

    I’m partial to Noogie Lamont and Trini DeSoto/Izzie Moreno as seen on Miami Vice.

  6. dan permalink
    April 28, 2010 11:01 am

    LOL! your tropes are a bit funnier than the other list :)

  7. evmaroon permalink
    April 28, 2010 11:39 am

    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.

    God, no kidding! I kind of didn’t get that entire show, now that I think of it. I was much more into Murder She Wrote.

    Also, totally agreed on the Special Guest Appearance vis a vis character guiltiness. I’d also like to mention that there may be a sub category, something like Special Guest Appearance by an Actor Playing Against Type. Here I think of Lynda Carter, Alan Alda, and Michael Gross. And I can’t forget Chevy Chase playing a hilarious rendition of Mel Gibson! Extra points to Chevy!

  8. April 28, 2010 11:51 am

    Special Guest Appearance by an Actor Playing Against Type. Here I think of Lynda Carter, Alan Alda, and Michael Gross. And I can’t forget Chevy Chase playing a hilarious rendition of Mel Gibson! Extra points to Chevy!

    Chevy Chase was HILARIOUS! All the guest stars tend to run together on me, but I remember that one!

  9. April 28, 2010 11:56 am

    Ev, YES on the wife. Always defiant until being made aware of his infidelities! It’s like murder is cool, but cheating is UNFORGIVABLE.

  10. Alyssa permalink
    May 15, 2010 3:28 pm

    What I love are the previews for the Episodes with the Very Special Guest Stars: “Mathew Modine (Chevy Chase, Jaqueline Smith, insert name here) gives the Performance of a Lifetime! On an All-New (“Law & Order/SVU/Criminal Intent/CSI pick your city, etc.) It’s like the movie trailers where they read entire reviews (or at least, that’s how it feels) in order to sell the movie. AND the source of the glowing review is written in print so tiny you almost can’t tell that it’s Bob of bob’smoviebloggin’.com.

    Lame.

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