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Speeders: The Lighter Side of Cops

The cheap thrill in the new Court TV series Speeders — sort of a law-enforcement version of Punk’d — is in waiting to see what various mph scofflaws say to the cop with the trailing videographer. But after seeing one episode (the show premieres tonight), the perceived dynamic that results from a camera in tow is probably a little different from what you or I might experience in the real, nonrecorded world of cop pull-overs. For one thing, on Speeders, the featured cops — including officers from California to Florida — are invariably nice to their bustees: firm, but pleasant. Even jokey. One good-humoredly knocks down a septuagenarian lead foot’s fine by citing him for just 10 miles over the limit as opposed to the radar gun’s 15-over reading. And you think, sure, what else is a puffed-up badge wearer on national TV going to do? Be the jerk all of us good and decent moving violators have experienced at one point or another?

Invariably, the drivers complain, lie, insist they weren’t going as fast as the officer thought, or engage — as one annoyed doctor did — in an ethical discussion about which members of society should get lenient treatment. (Obviously, in this guy’s mind, healers belong.) One perturbed speeder even cursed, calling his ticket writer an “asshole” directly to the camera, and willfully ignoring the order to stay in the vehicle. I thought, well, sure, why wouldn’t you vent if your bust was being lovingly captured by a Court TV crew? The cop has to be nice. He’s not going to pistol whip you or fudge the numbers or kick out your light and cite you for it ’cause he doesn’t like your pleading yap. He’s on camera. Speeders may never reach the dizzying personal lows captured by Cops — although one drunk driver’s inability to reach the end of the alphabet is laugh-out-loud funny — but it’s a solidly entertaining example of a reality TV asset: the court of public excuses.


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