Why Go On COPS?
January 3, 2005 6:43 PM   Subscribe

After catching a couple of back-to-back Cops reruns (the Mardi Gras edition complete with drunks and flashers of all sorts) I have to ask-WHY do these individuals give permission to show video evidence of probably one of the most embarrasing moments of their lives? Or do the producers of the show not have to get their permission?
posted by konolia to Media & Arts (17 answers total)
A family member of mine worked for a well known reality show that involved members of the public who did not know they were on camera until much later. Upon asking much the same thing, konolia , the answer came back that for more than a few of these people, finding out that they could be on television is akin to winning the Nobel Prize. Some even, upon hearing they were on camera, cried with joy.
posted by oflinkey at 6:53 PM on January 3, 2005

Considering two of the people on the episode I saw were arrested for public lewdness (they were trying to have sex in public, supposedly) all I can say is....wow. Momma must have been SO proud.
posted by konolia at 7:11 PM on January 3, 2005

I'm always asking why anyone would choose to appear on Maury, Montel, Jerry, Judge Judy etc. and expose their shameful little secrets and indiscretions. Do some people have absolutely no dignity? I can't believe people throw it away just to appear on TV. Is attention that attractive to some people?

Another thing that bugs me is - how on earth do the producers orchestrate those "surprise" visits ("well - your brother-in-law, lover and sister are backstage right now - let's bring them out")? You can't tell me they all don't come in from Clawhammer County on the same flight. As if the entire trailer park doesn't know the instant one of the mullet bunch is booked for a show.
posted by davebush at 7:14 PM on January 3, 2005

They do have to get signed releases...but often those are gathered while the person is still drunk. (Which makes me wonder if it's an enforceable contract, but that might be an entirely different question.) A co-worker of mine is in one of the Girls Gone Wild DVDs (she refuses to tell which one), but she's embarrassed by it and wishes she weren't in there.

And yes, some idiots will do anything to get on teevee. (There's a reason why pros call TV cameras "asshole magnets.")
posted by Vidiot at 7:15 PM on January 3, 2005

davebush, don't forget that some of that Jerry, etc. stuff is fake. There were some graduates from my high school who were good friends, but went on Jerry for one of those "You Were Mean to Me In High School- And Now I'm Hot!" shows. (heard the story from teacher)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:34 PM on January 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

I dunno the details of legality etc, but the short answer is, people are idiots.
posted by mdn at 8:35 PM on January 3, 2005

Some of my former neighbors were on Cops. I about died when I saw the episode.

As far as releases, wasn't there a big flap about the GGW people not getting releases and one girl sued? A lot of episodes of Cops are from before that time, so I wouldn't think that releases would be necessary.

And aren't there rules about being able to film people in public? I'm thinking of local news here, like when they show someone's gut as they walk out of the cookie shop. You just know they didn't ask and filmed from afar.

I am talking out of my butt, though. This is all speculation.
posted by sugarfish at 10:17 PM on January 3, 2005

People go on courtroom TV shows like Judge Judy for the money. They each start at say, four thousand dollars, and the amount of the "judgment" (usually hundreds of dollars) just means that one party gets paid a little less and the other paid a little more.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:44 PM on January 3, 2005

As long as someone is not recognizable, it is legal to show them on TV. That's why those shots of fat people are always from the neck down! Distance shots are OK, and anyone who's a "public figure" is OK, as long as they're photographed in public -- hence paparazzi. The COPS situation, however totally relies on people going right ahead and signing those releases. You can tell that some people don't because of the pixelated faces. It's apparently not always clear what exactly you're signing, and perhaps not everyone is wholly compos mentis, but the industry has a niche profession called permission specialist whose job is to get those signed releases one way or another -- probably ranging from deception to bribery ("we'll send your daughter's photo around to casting agencies").
posted by dhartung at 10:58 PM on January 3, 2005

It was my understanding that shows such at COPS (like Judge Judy and the like...) "help you out" if you sign the release.

Imagine something like, "Hey, we're working here with the cops, documenting what they do, we got you here on camera doing this illegal act and they are going to use it in court to nail you. Now if you'll just sign this form the cops will tell the judge you cooporated with us and he'll go easier on you than if you don't sign the form."

I could be wrong, but that's my understanding. Based upon the people who I have seen on the show, they really can use every bit of help they can get.
posted by pwb503 at 12:03 AM on January 4, 2005

Here is an NPR story from 2001 that addresses this exact topic. It is quite funny. They have to get releases from everyone that is on camera, and the reason that most of them sign the releases is, in their own words, because "criminals are stupid!"
posted by internal at 6:24 AM on January 4, 2005

As a former television news cameraman, let me just add my own voice to the 'people/criminals are stupid' argument here. No matter what story I was covering, fire, car accident, Al Sharpton's defamation trial, you could always count on a crowd of idiot kids or attention starved adults either trying to get in a shot by waving their arms around and dancing around or incessantly asking you if they could be 'on TV'. I guess it's like crack to some people, this idea of being on TV.
posted by spicynuts at 7:52 AM on January 4, 2005

davebush, don't forget that some of that Jerry, etc. stuff is fake. There were some graduates from my high school who were good friends, but went on Jerry for one of those "You Were Mean to Me In High School- And Now I'm Hot!" shows. (heard the story from teacher)

yep. these things are mostly filmed in LA, a city lousy with out-of-work, high-melodrama actors. i'd bet good money that over 75% of the folks appearing on those sorts of shows are FAKERS.
posted by fishfucker at 9:55 AM on January 4, 2005

(also, a friend has an anecdote similar to that of TPS's, so that's TWO).
posted by fishfucker at 9:56 AM on January 4, 2005

I am talking out of my butt, though.

You should be on Jerry! He'd pay big money to see that!
posted by five fresh fish at 11:31 AM on January 4, 2005

Yeah, I had a group of friends that were scheming to get on Springer under false pretenses, but when the time came to finalize their slot / buy their tickets / etc. they chickened out.
posted by bshort at 12:14 PM on January 4, 2005

Thanks, internal! Listening to the link now.
posted by konolia at 1:40 PM on January 4, 2005

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