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'Cops' moves from Fox to Spike TV

Sheriffs in Hillsborough, Fla., interrogate two occupants of

Sheriffs in Hillsborough, Fla., interrogate two occupants of a car about suspicious drug activity in the "Liar Liar, No. 6" episode of "Cops." (Credit: AP)

"Cops," the little reality show that helped launch a network and an entire genre -- and sparked some controversy in the process --  is switching networks, from Fox, where it began a quarter of a century ago, to Spike TV, where new shows will air in the fall.  

“ 'Cops' is a remarkable series that has been able to sustain strong ratings well into its third decade, a monumental achievement in television,” said Kevin Kay, Spike TV chief. “We continue to grow and expand our audience with new episodes. [It's] the perfect addition to our prime-time lineup on Saturday nights.”

Created by John Langley, “Cops” premiered March 11, 1989, and has aired more than  900 new episodes -- that's right, 900 nights  -- and helped Fox land some beachfront property on a night and at a time when people actually watch TV: Saturdays.

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"Bad boys, bad boys . . . Whatcha gonna do when the come for you?"  The song by Ian Lewis and Inner Circle performed was a late-1980s TV anthem as well as a theme that signaled something quite new and even a little shocking: Cops busting down doors searching for bad guys, often when they were acting badly . . .

It was reality TV of the you-are-there-and-will-be-shocked variety. It was raw, it was rough and there was simply nothing else like it on television. And per some critics, it was also racially divisive (see below). But with "Cops," Fox did what it had set out to do -- offer an alternative to the Big Three; it wasn't exactly a quality alternative, but that never part of the thinking at Fox anyway. "Cops" has receded dramatically, of course, and Fox reduced its order last season. A cancellation was expected, and did arrive, so for Langley, the Spike reprieve is must be some sort of wonderful and unexpected lifeline.

Said he in a statement : "After 25 seasons with Fox, we are delighted to find our new home with the Spike family where we previously aired 'Undercover Stings.' And we are doubly pleased that our 'Cops' time slot remains Saturday nights for our fans. It may be bold to say, but we are looking for yet another record-breaking run with Spike!”

Meanwhile, Color of Change sent out this statement after Fox axed the series: “We have been working tirelessly to push this damaging reality TV series off prime-time network television, and today we applaud Fox for dropping this toxic show from its lineup," said executive director Rashad Robinson. "Out of prime time, 'Cops' no longer has a mainstream platform and will have a significantly smaller audience. Research shows that exploiting persistent dehumanizing stereotypes that marginalize black Americans have real-world consequences, and there is much more work to be done to bring about a significant cultural shift in the ways we are portrayed in the media."

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