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John Langley (1943–2021), creator of “Cops”

by Linnea Crowther

John Langley was a TV producer best known for creating the hit reality show “Cops.”

Influential reality TV

When Langley came up with his idea for “Cops” in the mid-1980s, reality TV was not yet the phenomenon it would become. In fact, he had trouble finding a network that was interested in his concept. No other show was doing anything like what Langley envisioned for “Cops,” filming police in action and presenting the results without a narrator – and without reenactments, relying instead on the actual footage. But Fox finally took a chance on “Cops” in 1989, and the show went on to run for 32 seasons, moving to the Spike network in 2013 before being cancelled in 2020. “Cops” – and its iconic theme song – became a cultural phenomenon, influencing the development of reality TV and earning Langley the nickname “the Godfather of Reality TV.” Langley also produced shows including “Inside American Jail,” “Undercover Stings,” and “Video Justice.”

Langley on the popularity of “Cops”

“I really believe in the show, obviously, and I kept turning down anybody’s modifications of it. They wanted me to put in music. I’d said no. They wanted me to add a narrator. I said no. They wanted me to do recreations. I’d said no. I just stuck to my guns. I thought it was a pretty simple idea that was straightforward and doable, but no one quite saw it. Now everybody sees it, of course.” —from a 2014 interview for Parade

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Tributes to John Langley

Full obituary: Yahoo!

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