As opposed to an actual police officer

I was reading an entertaining police e-novel, The Cozen Protocol, written by a pseudonymous author who is believed to be a former Milwaukee police officer.

At the same time, a friend of mine mentioned on Facebook that he was watching a John Wayne movie. My friend is a huge John Wayne fan.

Wayne portrayed a lot of cowboys and a lot of military officers. (Plus, regrettably, Genghis Khan.) He portrayed two cops in back-to-back movies, “McQ” and “Brannigan.”

Indeed, it’s easy to confuse the two. Both have ’70s-cool soundtracks …

… car chases during the movie …

… and car chases at the end of the movie:

“McQ” is the darker of the two, with the Seattle police lieutenant battling corrupt cops. Chicago’s detective Brannigan is sent to London t0 pick up a gangster for extradition, only said gangster gets away just before Brannigan arrives. (Otherwise it would have been a really short movie.)

Then again, both movies could be said to have been inspired by two previous movies both set in San Francisco, “Bullitt” and “Dirty Harry,” which have cool themes by the great Lalo Schifrin

… and, well, one of them has a car chase …

… while the other has a human chase that concludes with …

Both Bullitt and Callahan were inspired by a real-life San Francisco police inspector, David Toschi, the lead investigator of San Francisco’s never-solved Zodiac murders.

Wayne reportedly turned down the Dirty Harry role. (Which, had he taken it, probably would have ended the series after three movies, since Wayne died before “Sudden Impact” and “The Dead Pool.”) Before him, Frank Sinatra reportedly turned down “Bullitt.” In each case, it’s impossible to imagine someone other than Steve McQueen as Bullitt or Clint Eastwood as Bullitt’s SFPD colleague Harry Callahan.

The ’60s and ’70s were the zenith of cop movies (related, as you know, to cop TV), particularly movies about maverick cops. I wrote earlier about my formula for TV viewing: Cool car + cool theme music = something I’d watch. That applies to movies too.

Of course, each of these movies takes extensive liberties with police work. “Bullitt,” which painstakingly goes into detail of the investigation of a murder, nonetheless clashes with a politician by hiding his star witness-turned-corpse. Dirty Harry thinks Miranda is a dancer who wore fruit baskets on her head. McQ borrows a machine gun, and Brannigan accidentally tries to destroy London in the process of finding the fugitive gangster.

If you look at Dirty Harry as the five-movie series, the other thing each has in common is, well, eye candy for the male audience, beginning with Bullitt’s girlfriend, played by Jacqueline Bisset (whose character is 10 to 15 years younger than Bullitt, but who cares?):

Dirty Harry was a widower, but Eastwood had then-real-life girlfriend Sondra Locke in “Sudden Impact”:

McQ had Diana Muldaur (who later became the girlfriend of Taos, N.M., Marshal Sam McCloud when McCloud ended up in New York City). Brannigan was escorted around London by Judy Geeson.

TV Tropes would suggest that there are four kinds of police officers in TV or film:

  • The By-the-Book Cop, “the older (and usually whiter) cop, who believes in following the law as it is written, playing by the rules even when the criminal scum they’re after does not. A stickler for procedure, the BTBC is quick to chide their rookie partner for playing fast and loose out in the streets, and when they’re Da Chief, you’ll see them constantly threaten to suspend the loose cannon for their impulsive heat-of-the-moment shoot-first-ask-questions-later behavior. If they deem that the situation warrants it, they may bend the rules slightly, but they’ll never go so far as to break them; they are, after all, honest and incorruptible.”
  • The Cowboy Cop: “Sure, our society may be built upon rules and procedures, but they make for bad television. Sometimes you have to bend the rules, rough up the suspectsmoon your supervisors and shred the Constitution to get stuff done.”
  • The Dirty Cop: “Brutal, fascist, and often on the take from the local mob, this cop makes most criminals and prisoners look like…well, saints.”
  • The Rabid Cop, who “might be casually dirty, or overbearingly self-righteous, or anywhere in between, but they all have two things in common: a reckless disregard for civil rights, and an unwavering conviction that any person they’ve identified as “the perp” really is a perp (regardless of any contradicting evidence) and deserves to suffer. Rules and trials are for the PERMISSIVE LIBERAL ASS-WIPES! In a Good Cop/Bad Cop routine, they usually take the “Bad Cop” ball and run clear out of the stadium with it. Likely to enjoy using Torture for Fun and Information.”

Put two of these together (even of the same type), and you get the Buddy Cop Show.

You might conclude from what you’ve read that movies and TV shows that depict police are less than realistic. But there is a TV series in another country just waiting for some American producer to make. Lowbrow? Probably. Destined to be hugely successful? Undoubtedly.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present …

… “Alarm für  Cobra 11 — Die Autobahnpolizei,” which “combines the dead-serious tone and high production values of the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation franchise with car stunts worthy of Michael Bay or The Dukes of Hazzard. Nearly every episode has at least two or three frenzied chase sequences and at least one multi-car pileup. … Think about it. A petrol-exploding, collaterally-damaging, bullet-spurting take on the legendary hardcore profession of… writing traffic tickets.”

So? you ask. Here’s the thing: This series has been on German TV since 1996.


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