BWW Exclusive: COPS Exec Producers John & Morgan Langley on the Show's Lasting Legacy and 25th Season
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John and Morgan Langley, the father-son duo who serve as executive producers to the hit FOX reality show COPS, now entering its 25th season, have undoubtedly made a long-lasting mark on the television industry. John Langely, who created the show in 1988, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Feb. 2011. He has also won the American Television Award and been nominated for four Emmys. In addition to COPS, he and his son, Morgan, currently produce several other reality series, including VEGAS STRIP, ROAD WARRIORS, STREET PATROL, and UNDERCOVER STINGS.
Morgan Langley, aside from producing COPS, serves as senior vice president of production and development for Langley Productions. He is largely credited for expanding the company's range of shows. In addition to COPS, his producing credits include CODE 3, ANATOMY OF CRIME, and VIDEO JUSTICE. Morgan also heralds Langley Films, in which he produced 2010's BROOKLYN'S FINEST, starring Don Cheadle and Ethan Hawke, as well as the indie films DOGWATCH, TIPTOES, and WILDSIDE.
The Langleys recently sat down with BWW TV World, sharing some of their favorite busts from seasons past, and what viewers can expect in the upcoming season premiere, airing tomorrow night, Dec. 15, on Fox.
First of all, congratulations on the 25th season. That's incredible. How does it feel to hit that milestone?
John: Thank you - it's very gratifying to say the least.
John, when you first pitched COPS to Fox in 1989, did you have any indication it would reach the level of success that it has?
John: When I first pitched it, I honestly had no idea. I just wanted to get the show on, I thought it was a great idea. I believed in it thoroughly and I was pretty fervent about it at the time.
Back in the Mid-80s, I did a bunch of 2-hour specials about crime. During that process, I got to know a lot of the law enforcement officers, and thought it would be a great continuation of what I started back in 1982. I did a show called COCAINE BLUES, and went for a ride along at the time. I thought, 'this would really be fascinating to do a show in the footsteps of police officers.' That was the original idea. And when I did the shows in the mid-80s, they just rekindled that whole idea. Then I took it to Fox with some examples with what it could look like.
Now that you've hit the 25th season, what exactly is it about COPS that you think has resonated so well with viewers?
Morgan: I think it has to be the raw, unpredictability of the show. The format has remained the same since 1989. But when you're on the street dealing with human behavior, and dealing with challenging professions in America, it's just a source of never-ending unpredictability. And that makes for entertainment, that makes for a show that never gets repetitive.
What's the process like for choosing which precinct or police department will be followed in an episode?
Morgan: Well, COPS is a road show, and we like to represent different areas of the country, and give the audience some regional flavor. So we typically try to get some geographical variety in there: a west coast venue, somebody from south, somebody from the east coast. There's a big difference in a big city department and what it's like to ride along there and a really small, rural department in the south. Those are some of the different flavors we like to juxtapose in the show.
Do specific departments reach out to you and the crew, or do you approach them?
Morgan: It happens both ways. We've been so many places, that we'll check back with people and see if they're interested in us coming back. Departments regularly contact us, though. A lot of police officers are fans of the show. So it really happens both ways, and we kind of plan the schedule around geography and weather. We go where it's warm, because, well, crime happens where it's warm.
How hands-on are you with the show now that it's been on the air for so long?
John: Morgan and I are still very much hands-on with the show. No episode airs that we have not seen, scrutinized, reviewed, changed, combined, and reformed. So yes, very much hands on. I think that's quality control at this stage of the game. I mean, neither of us go into the field that much anymore, but we're certainly heavily involved in all post production.