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NCIS: New Orleans was the only police procedural to tackle its flaws in wake of George Floyd's death

  • George Floyd's death one year ago today was the spark for a summer of reckoning with racism, police brutality and the way television prioritizes the police of view. "The summer of 2020 posed a problem for some creators of TV cop shows," says Kathryn VanArendonk. "After decades of coasting along as a reliable, profitable source of network-TV narrative grist, there came a wave of calls for cop shows to be pulled from the air — or, at the very least, to become less racist, less militaristic, less rooted in police perspectives. But how, without dismantling the basic idea of what a cop show is? One year later, it’s clear that most shows barely tried to answer that question. The original NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles paid service to COVID-19 and largely ignored Black Lives Matter; Law & Order: SVU included small, toothless police-accountability plots. Which is what made this season of NCIS: New Orleans so surprising. In small but meaningful ways, the series, which aired its final episode on Sunday (after being canceled unexpectedly in February), offered a model of how to retrofit an old-school police procedural into something more reform-minded. It did not reinvent the wheel, but it tweaked it. For most of its run, NOLA’s protagonist, with the fantastic TV name Dwayne Pride (Scott Bakula), has been a familiar, plays-outside-the-rules kind of cop, often making unilateral decisions about when to ignore the law in favor of what he sees as justice. In its seventh season, NOLA began to incorporate stories more explicitly skeptical of Pride’s tactics and wove them together with broader observations about the challenge of life in New Orleans for anyone without his cultural advantages. One NCIS investigator is frustrated when he realizes how few social services are available to a young mother experiencing homelessness. Loretta Wade, the show’s medical examiner played by CCH Pounder, finds herself burned-out, caught between the exhaustion of COVID and that of worrying about the safety of her Black son. Pride himself goes from self-certain white knight to a man questioning his privilege. The show’s new direction has been obvious enough that a vocal portion of its viewership grew frustrated. Facebook and Twitter commenters registered complaints about the show’s 'woke'-ness. But the ratings — 5 million viewers an episode — were decent, and for every tweet complaining about the show’s new 'anti-police and anti-white' agenda, there were others praising the show. (Why the show was canceled is unclear — the network said simply that it had 'hit the end of (its) cycle.”)"

    TOPICS: NCIS: New Orleans, CBS, CCH Pounder, George Floyd, Scott Bakula, Black Lives Matter