John Langley started out in reality TV with his 1986 special ‘American Vice: The Doping of a Nation’, which showed live drug arrests on primetime television
Hollywood director John Langley, who created the long-running TV show ‘Cops’ which helped usher in the reality TV era, on Saturday, died of an apparent heart attack in Baja, Mexico.
John Langley was 78-year-old and according to Variety was competing in the Coast-to-Coast Ensenada-San Felipe 250 off-road race. ‘Cops’ was canceled in 2020 after the George Floyd protests, and had become controversial for showing primarily the point of view of the police. For 32 seasons, it was a reality TV juggernaut, running for over 1,000 episodes and introducing the cinema verite style of documentary to television. The familiar theme song by Ian Lewis of Inner Circle became a part of pop culture. It remains in production for overseas networks.
After being canceled by Fox in 2013, ‘Cops’ moved to the Spike network, now Paramount Network before being canceled again in 2020. A podcast had detailed how police were able to remove portions of the shows that showed them negatively and how some people were coerced into signing waivers.
Initially, after trying for several years to find a network, John Langley and his production partner Malcolm Barbour was able to get the show on the air at the fledgling Fox in the aftermath of the 1988 Writers Guild strike, since it had no union writers.
In its early years, ‘Cops’ was nominated four times for Emmys in the outstanding informational series category. Barbour retired in 1994.
Before moving into TV, Langley wrote and co-directed the 1983 documentary ‘Cocaine Blues’ with Barbour. Pop culture figures including Frank Zappa, Hoyt Axton, and Paul Krassner appeared in the documentary which also featured footage of a drug raid with undercover officers.
Langley started out in reality TV with his 1986 special ‘American Vice: The Doping of a Nation’, which showed live drug arrests on primetime television.
He went on to produce series including ‘Inside American Jail’ for TruTV and ‘Las Vegas Jailhouse’, both with his son Morgan. His other productions included ‘Street Patrol’, ‘Vegas Strip’, ‘Road Warriors’ and ‘Undercover Stings’.
As per Variety, Langley’s son Morgan, who oversees Langley Productions and is an executive producer of ‘Cops’, survives him as does his wife Maggie, son Zak, daughters Sarah Langley Dews and Jennifer Blair, as well as seven grandchildren.