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John Langley, the creator of the television staple series “Cops,” died over the weekend while racing in Mexico.
A family representative for the 78-year-old told The Hollywood Reporter that he died of an apparent heart attack while competing in the Coast to Coast Ensenada-San Felipe 250 off road race in Baja, Mexico.
Langley created the well known series “Cops” in 1989, one of the first reality shows in history, the Associated Press points out. The show would document police all over the country on their calls. It became notoriously known, and often ripped on, for its reggae theme song “Bad Boys” and many shirtless suspects on the run.
“Before the show premiered, Langley recalls, there was considerable doubt whether anybody would agree to have their image used in the context of being arrested. ‘The network thought it was a legal nightmare,’ he says,” Variety reported in 2013. “By the time ‘Cops’ had been on a few years, though, that became almost a non-issue. In fact, one of the occasional logistical pitfalls involved people seeing the camera crews and beginning to hum the show’s ‘Bad Boys’ theme, as they or someone else were being marched off to jail.”
"Cops" aired for decades on Fox Network following its premiere there, until it made the switch to Spike TV in 2013, which remained its network home after Spike relaunched as Paramount Network in 2018. The show ran for 32 seasons until its cancellation in 2020 amid the Black Lives Matter rallies, which sparked a national debate about law enforcement's treatment of Black people. Paramount's decision to cancel "Cops" came amid national and global protests over the death of George Floyd, who was killed after white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years last week for Floyd's murder.
Before creating "Cops," Langley wrote and co-directed the 1983 documentary “Cocaine Blues,” which examined the downfalls of cocaine misuse and starred artists like Frank Zappa and Paul Krassner. He also created the 1986 special “American Vice: The Doping of a Nation,” which featured shocking, live drug arrests on primetime television.
Additionally, he was a creative force behind shows “Inside American Jail,” “Las Vegas Jailhouse,” “Street Patrol,” “Vegas Strip,” and “Road Warriors” and documentaries “Terrorism: Target USA” and “Who Killed JFK?”
Before entering the entertainment realm, the Oklahoma-born man served in the intelligence unit of the U.S. Army, according to Variety. He was also an off-road racing enthusiast.