Cops and Courts

I’ve been assigned to teach our Fall introductory production course, so I’m starting to plan the syllabus. The tentative focus is “Television Drama: Cops and Courts”, looking at a variety of legal dramas. The main idea is that the students engage in both theory and practice, watching the shows and studying the form in lecture, then enacting the conventions (or breaking them) in production lab. The short list for screenings includes The Wire, Homicide: Life on the Streets, NYPD Blue, Cagney and Lacey, Law and Order, maybe The Shield, Rizzoli and Isles, The Closer, Southland, or Castle. I’m really hoping I can work in some RENO 911! or Cop Rock. So far the cops are definitely more numerous than the courts. Any other suggestions from folks? I’d especially love suggestions for some earlier television work as well as readings. Thanks for any help!

  1. missyhoward said:

    Are you restricting this to TV? If not, there’s that great court scene in A Few Good Men, with “You can’t handle the truth” quote. If I remember correctly there was some courtroom drama in Erin Brachovich. As for TV courtrooms, Matlock and Perry Mason. Here is a great list: luck!!

  2. Jennifer Lynn Jones said:

    Thanks! Yes, we’re pretty much limiting it to tv. I’ve chosen the parameters, but I don’t want to confuse the students by going back and forth.

  3. Phoebe B. said:

    This class sounds so amazing! For earlier shows, I might include Dragnet and/or Perry Mason for sure (Raymond Burr is the best). And then perhaps some fun stuff like Murder, She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder (with Dick Van Dyke!), or Miami Vice. As for readings, I would have to think more. But, off the top of my head Jason Mittell’s chapter in the American TV genres book on policing genres (and he talks about Dragnet there I think). Hmmm I am going to think more about this …

  4. Jennifer Lynn Jones said:

    Thanks! Yes, Jason Mittell’s chapter is on the docket (see, working the legal lingo in already), and an IU alum, Jonathan Nichols-Pethick, has a new book coming out on the genre in April, TV COPS: THE CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN TELEVISION POLICE DRAMA, that should be a good resource.

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