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Half of US broadcast network dramas are about cops

Adam Epstein
Member exclusive by Adam Epstein

Perhaps one reason why America’s national reckoning on police brutality took so long to arrive is because TV is conditioning its citizens to view cops as reliable heroes.

Of the 69 scripted television dramas that aired on the big four US broadcast networks (CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC) in the last year-and-a-half, 35 were about law enforcement, according to a Quartz analysis. CBS was responsible for 16 of those on its own. About 70% of the network’s dramatic programming from 2019-2020 were about cops.

Quartz defined cop shows as any scripted TV drama in which the main characters are law enforcement officers or their allies—including the FBI, private detectives, and military police—and their jobs are integral to the story (think CSI, Blue Bloods, or Chicago PD). The few ongoing cop comedies, like NBC’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, were not included. Neither were reality shows, such as Cops or Live PD.

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