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The Audacity of Tropes.

November 27, 2009

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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12 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2009 3:51 pm

    I’m just tickled pink that you like cop shows. Homicide was awesome despite it’s many over used tropes, but The Wire was a much better effort by the same creative team. Sometimes the characters would actually discuss tv and movie tropes!

    I stopped watching L&O after Jerry Orbach passed, nobody delivered the bitter one liners better than he did. The medical examiner came close:

    M. E. Elizabeth Rodgers: I got another body coming in. Guy took a javelin to the chest.
    Det. Lennie Briscoe: Why are you still in this line of work?
    M. E. Elizabeth Rodgers: Free javelins.

  2. November 27, 2009 5:07 pm

    I love M.E. Rodgers. She’s nearly as crispy as Briscoe. I stuck around until Green left. Without Green there wasn’t much point to keep watching.

  3. redlami permalink*
    November 27, 2009 7:06 pm

    My favorite cop show trope is the one where the cops talk to the same informant week after week, out in the open, and yet nobody’s knocked the guy off. Oh and he’s always cute and funny, even though he’s supposed to be a rat.

  4. November 27, 2009 7:11 pm

    Redlami – Lulz. They are always like right in front of the liquor store engaged in criminal activities, hoes walking back and forth…

  5. November 28, 2009 1:40 pm

    Gosh, I’m obviously behind on my cop-dramas! I only recognized half of these! I guess that’s what happens if you only watch the last few years of L&O…Does CSI count as a cop show? No, right?

  6. November 28, 2009 2:52 pm

    There’s also the “Hey Mrs. Killer, We’re ambusing you at the supermarket with photos proving your husband is a hit man/serial killer/adult scouting enthusiast” syndrome, a fact to which she is oblivious. Wives of murderers in TV cop-land are quite thick, apparently.

  7. redlami permalink*
    November 28, 2009 7:57 pm

    And of course, of the hoes walking back and forth, at least one is of the “still has a little bit of good that hasn’t been pimp-beaten out of her” variety and is willing to risk her life to unmask the real killer.

  8. November 28, 2009 10:16 pm

    i miss briscoe and green. law and order has changed too much.

  9. November 28, 2009 11:46 pm

    Crookedfinger, CSI totally counts. They don’t tend to focus as much on the court proceedings.

    Gudbuytjane, I love how wives always provide shaky alibis for killers but give them up when they find out the guy was cheating, well then all bets are off. Killing is okay, but CHEATING is unforgivable.

    Redlami, the ladies of the evening are always drinking hot cocoa, cheeky with the homicide cops (hate vice cops) and always KNOW all their names!

  10. November 29, 2009 10:35 pm

    Homicide was a classic!! I don’t think it can be duplicated.

  11. December 2, 2009 11:39 pm

    I love the fact you included Barney Miller in this list.


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