Publish date:
Updated on

COPS debuts on Fox

On this day in 1989, the hit reality-based television show COPS premieres on the Fox television network, and audiences hear the reggae beat of its distinctive theme song, Inner Circle’s “Bad Boys,” for the very first time.

Created by the producing team of John Langley and Malcolm Barbour, COPS placed cameras and production crews in the car with real patrol officers around the country as they went on raids and did whatever was necessary to catch the perpetrators of various drug-related crimes. The pilot episode, like the rest of that debut season, was based in Broward County, Florida, and followed members of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. The actor Burt Lancaster provided the voice-over for the pilot episode, but the rest of the show, shot documentary-style, was not accompanied by any narration.

At the time, Fox was only a fledgling television network, having launched in October 1986. The network took a chance on COPS after other major networks passed on it, leaping on Langley and Barbour’s idea in the middle of a five-month-long strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) during the summer of 1988. A reality-based show was ideal for the network at the time, as it would require no writers and was relatively inexpensive to produce.

COPS surprised the industry by becoming a hit; it is now one of the longest-running TV shows in history, with more than 700 episodes airing between 1989 and 2008. Its success spawned an entire new genre of reality programming that would gain traction during the 1990s and become a major cultural phenomenon by the next decade. Like any touchstone of popular culture, COPS has inspired numerous imitators–including the John Langley-produced series Jail and Street Patrol–and has been parodied extensively, most notably by the Comedy Central series Reno 911!

In February 2008, producers released a special two-disc DVD set to celebrate the 20th anniversary of COPS.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


MacArthur leaves Corregidor

After struggling against great odds to save the Philippines from Japanese conquest, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur abandons the island fortress of Corregidor under orders from President Franklin Roosevelt. Left behind at Corregidor and on the Bataan Peninsula were 90,000 American more

Lithuania proclaims its independence

Lithuania proclaims its independence from the USSR, the first Soviet republic to do so. The Soviet government responded by imposing an oil embargo and economic blockade against the Baltic republic, and later sent troops. Lithuanians have lived along the Nemen River and the Baltic more

Terrorists bomb trains in Madrid

On this day in 2004, 191 people are killed and nearly 2,000are injured when 10 bombs explode on four trains in three Madrid-area train stations during a busy morning rush hour. The bombs were later found to have been detonated by mobile phones.The attacks, the deadliest against more

Confederate constitution adopted

In Montgomery, Alabama, delegates from South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas adopt the Permanent Constitution of the Confederate States of America. The constitution resembled the Constitution of the United States, even repeating much of its more

Paul McCartney knighted

On this day in 1997, Paul McCartney, a former member of the most successful rock band in history, The Beatles, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his “services to music.” The 54-year-old lad from Liverpool became Sir Paul in a centuries-old ceremony of pomp and solemnity at more

Gunslinger Ben Thompson dies

Texas gunslinger Ben Thompson dies in a San Antonio theatre where accomplices of his longtime enemies ambushed and murdered him. Thompson’s career as a gunman began early. In 1858, when he was only 16, he wounded a black youth during a quarrel in Austin, Texas. Local citizens more

Great Blizzard of ’88 hits East Coast

On this day in 1888, one of the worst blizzards in American history strikes the Northeast, killing more than 400 people and dumping as much as 55 inches of snow in some areas. New York City ground to a near halt in the face of massive snow drifts and powerful winds from the more

COPS makes TV debut

On this day in 1989, COPS, a documentary-style television series that follows police officers and sheriff’s deputies as they go about their jobs, debuts on Fox. COPS went on to become one of the longest-running shows in television history. The show, which was created by John more

Mikhail Gorbachev picked to succeed Chernenko

Capping his rapid rise through the Communist Party hierarchy, Mikhail Gorbachev is selected as the new general secretary and leader of the Soviet Union, following the death of Konstantin Chernenko the day before. Gorbachev oversaw a radical transformation of Soviet society and more

Lincoln shuffles the Union command

On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issues War Order No. 3, a measure making several changes at the top of the Union Army command structure.Lincoln created three departments, placing Henry Halleck in charge of the West, John C. Fremont in command of troops in the more