Monday, July 08, 2019

Breaking News: A police pursuit

So I turned on the TV at about 11:00 PM recently to watch some shows I had recorded. And a local station, KTTV,  had a live police pursuit. A car was cruising down the freeway followed by California Highway Patrol squad cars. He was heading up north on the 5. He could take that well up into Northern California (assuming he didn’t run out of gas).

The freeway was very light at that hour. A few big rigs in the slower lanes but primarily empty. The renegade vehicle was going at a cruising speed of 60 or 70. He was doing nothing erratic; not switching lanes. The CHP’s were not tailgating, they were giving him room.

So picture it – the KTTV sky-cam helicopter following a car at night driving along a wide-open freeway at a safe and consistent speed followed by other cars with flashing lights. Passing through such communities as Santa Clarita and Newhall.

I watched for a half an hour.

There was nothing exciting. This was no FRENCH CONNECTION wild car chase, no celebrity in a Bronco – just cars tooling along at night. The news anchors provided commentary talking to a police expert, but there was nothing riveting there. Basically, the game plan was to give the guy space, not do anything to endanger anyone, and wait him out.

Still, I found myself strangely engrossed. 7,000 channels, numerous streaming services with 20,000 shows to choose from – and I’m opting for an SUV joy riding through Valencia.

But I dunno, there was something almost Zen about it. Maybe the late hour contributed – it was the end of a long day and I was looking to just chill, but I was way more entertained than when I watched GAME NIGHT IN AMERICA.

Eventually I got tired and just went to bed. I wasn’t engrossed enough to care how it turned out. But I can’t remember when I enjoyed anything on KTTV more over the last few years.

In New York City one local station traditionally just shows a fireplace with a roaring fire on Christmas Day. And it gets ratings. I used to think that was crazy. Now I wish Netflix would carry it.

But let’s get real – stations carry these police pursuits because people watch them. Call it the “Lullaby of Broadcasting.” How many of my fellow Angelinos got a good night sleep because of this nimrod? Is a function now of television to numb us? We tried that with AfterMASH but it didn’t catch on. Maybe if we would have had Colonel Potter drive a 1953 DeSoto through Missouri every week we might’ve been a hit.

Oh, one final note on this police pursuit. It began on the campus of Long Beach State when campus police noticed the car was driving at night with its headlights off. I heard that and thought, “All the better. I’m getting a snack.”


E. Yarber said...

Because it's on television, you react as though the chase was a scripted show and wait for the payoff. Eventually you realize it's actually real life and there is no payoff. At that point you can turn off the TV and sleep.

Peter said...

To get me nice and sleepy, nothing beats a youtube video of thunderstorm sounds. Bliss.

But I must confess I've recently become fascinated by police videos on youtube, particularly the bodycam ones. It's astonishing to see the kind of shit cops have to deal with every day. I know there are some horrible racist cops out there, but a lot of the officers in the videos exhibit unbelievable patience in the face of the most appalling abuse and violence.

On a lighter note, during one of my youtube rabbit hole trips, I stumbled upon an hilarious individual nicknamed by viewers as Mobility Mary. She's taken down her channel, but uploads of her videos are still online. She is someone whose entire reason for being is to look for an excuse to argue with people in the street. She rides her mobility scooter on the roads and sidewalks of Los Angeles and records all her trips. The very fact she records every journey tells you she's eager to seek out confrontation.

One of the most absurd is her visit to a Whole Foods, where she berated a worker for standing in the handicapped zone despite the fact that the zone was completely empty at that moment. But she couldn't pass up the opportunity to rant at someone. His deadpan reaction to her is priceless.

Lemuel said...

Like watching Bob Ross paint.

Michael Hagerty said...

It's just how it is, Ken. Even in newsrooms full of people with bigger and better stories to cover, I've seen everything come to a halt and everyone stare at the TV. I do it myself. It's such an eye magnet that once, about 20 years ago, I suggested to the News Director at the large-market TV station I was working in that we should take half an hour of our evening newscast and just have our traffic helicopter zoom in on any random car and follow it home. Don't say anything incriminating about the driver....just "we're following this silver Honda Accord, it just left downtown and appears to be heading for..." for half an hour. I guarantee our ratings would jump.

He didn't take me up on it, but still.

Anonymous said...

Televised police pursuits are "reality" versions of The Running Man- entertainment provided by the less-fortunate, courtesy of corporate America.

Keith Nichols said...

It's apparently human nature to be more fascinated by events, especially those whose outcomes are not known to the viewer, than to watch something scripted and probably rehearsed. This is my only explanation of why I often end up watching golf or baseball. Last night, I spent a couple of hours watching on YouTube a competition among gigantic men lifting and carrying a 400-pound stone and dead-lifting a thousand-pound bar bell.

purplepenquin said...

My "smart" TV came with an app that not only plays a fire in a fireplace, but there are a variety of fireplaces to choose from. I also did a quick search on Netflix - they have a fireplace video as well.

You have two more wishes left - choose wisely.

Dhruv said...

At the end of the day we all want something nice to put us to sleep.

Not necessarily a chase, but someone driving thru someplace beautiful or for some people seeing others just gorging food.

For me, I always read this blog (or archived older posts) and the comments section late at night before sleep. Or Jimmy Kimmel's pedestrian videos.
Before internet, I used to just read some book and sleep.

This habit of people watching such travel videos before going to sleep has helped me.

I recently met YT target and they monetized my channel. My travel thru forest, highways and commentary on buses and trains has an audience and the main traffic is from 9:30 to 11:30 pm.

blinky said...

I find watching YouTube videos of that Wild Wonderful Off-Grid couple building their house super relaxing. It consists mostly of real time sawing, digging and nailing.
Heck, the number one video for 5 year olds is big trucks and tractors.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I admit it. I'm a certified car chase junkie. I'm one of those that will watch any chase at any time, even the less desperate ones. Unfortunately, here in L.A. most of the TV stations whimp out at the end of a pursuit. To explain, many years ago, a police chase ended with the suspect being shot and killed. From that day on most stations' helicopters zoom out at the end to ostensibly "protect" us from reality. God forbid anyone be offended by the truth. The First Amendment be damned. That's why the Mexican stations are sometimes better at this type of coverage . They're far less squeamish.
Going back to last week's blog about the MLB All Star Game, if there is a police chase on at the same time as the game there's no contest as to which one I'll watch.
Maybe they should have the police chase the base runners. If the make it home before they're caught, no penalty. But if not, they're beaten with nightsticks.
Now THAT I'd watch!

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I mean, isn't this an everyday occurence in southern California? :P

Dana King said...

One of the streaming services--I think it was Netflix--did show the fireplace on an hour-long loop last year. I know because my wife had it on while she was doing some of her Christmas-related chores.

YEKIMI said...

Maybe everyone was watching and hoping that when the chase finally ended O.J. Simpson would pop out of the car.

James Van Hise said...

You mean the police chase wasn't like those shows which show video of various police chases with the sound of sirens in the background, which you never hear while watching the real thing live?

Cory said...

You should try "Slow TV" on Netflix. It has things like a bonfire, a t5rain trip and other long scenic shows that last for hours. They also have a few channels of this on Pluto TV (just purchased by Viacom) which are nice to have up while doing something else like cleaning or reading.

ODJennings said...

Guy in Russia who walks up to 1000 random women and asks to touch their breasts (don't ask why, just go with it). It's in public, and he does it through their clothes, so the whole thing is PG-13 at best, but after 30 second you're strangely invested in his quest, and I guarantee you'll stick around to the end:

Chris said...

You said:

“In New York City one local station traditionally just shows a fireplace with a roaring fire on Christmas Day. And it gets ratings. I used to think that was crazy. Now I wish Netflix would carry it.”

Netflix has no fewer than five fireplace videos you can watch right now in the middle of summer, Amazon has at least three times that, all available in July.

Buttermilk Sky said...

So? SO? How could you just go to bed without knowing why they were chasing him (her)? I assume not just for driving with headlights off.

It sounds like there's enough footage for an all-car-chase channel. With your host Al Cowlings.

I once read about a cable system that had made space for a channel that wasn't ready to air yet, so they marked the place by showing a tank of tropical fish. When the Shoe-Shopping Channel or whatever came on, subscribers demanded the fish back, and it's there to this day. And I would watch it, in preference to a fireplace. Or TLC.

E. Yarber said...

There's always the live Loch Ness webcam for perpetually unrewarding viewing. No monster, but two sheep seem so relentlessly intent on being seen that I'm convinced they're auditioning to become internet influencers, or at least get their own channel playing video games.

Frank Beans said...

"The AFTERMASH effect", I like that. Pretty much sums it up, how we are all lulled into bland, repetitive media content once we've been overstimulated. Sort of like everyday life, the 24-hour news cycle and the resulting political complacency.

However let's try to not to let it happen. It's a temporary escape, but our collective life depends on it not taking us over. However uncomfy it may be, we gotta snap out of it.

Phil said...

My favorite car chase

I have watched it a hundred times.

Y. Knott said...

Mesmerized by an event set on cruise control, with no discernible end point, and commentators groping for interesting things to say ... this certainlly explains your affection for the All-Star Game!

James Marshall said...

Hello Ken,

I too have found myself watching police chases late at night, found it is easy viewing when unable to sleep.

We haven't had a fireplace for years, but did put a video of a fireplace on the TV last year, just to get that "Christmassy" feeling. The age we live in now, I guess.

I also have a Friday Question for you:

I love the podcast 'Hollywood and Levine' and the insight and humour it brings. Your stellar work with David Isaacs on 'Cheers' in particular is what led me to the podcast and this blog.

From 'Cheers' and 'Hollywood and Levine', you have inspired a friend and myself to do a podcast on 'Cheers', episode by episode,

We have recently discussed the episode 'The Boys In The Bar', and I wanted to ask, what struggles did you face when writing sitcom episodes that addressed important social themes and how did you and David keep the balance between seriousness and humour in those episodes?

Andy Rose said...

Pro tip: If you see a nighttime chase on Channel 11, flip over to Channel 2 or Channel 9, where you'll see the same video, only with their much more compelling chopper reporter Stu Mundel. (And I mean literally the *exact* same video. All three stations share the same helicopter.)

TorontoTheGood said...

Toronto"s City-TV had a late night 1am-5-am slot of a dashboard camera on a hired car as it drove around downtown entertainment districts. Mesmerizing, sleep-inducing and a better way to check road conditions.
Never once was there an accident, shooting or a crime caught on camera. Welcome to Canada. ;)

Tom Galloway said...

Way back in the late 60s/early 70s, the late Harlan Ellison had a tv column in the LA Free Press titled The Glass Teat. The columns were collected in two books; The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat.

In one, he pointed out the power of the video screen in two ways. First, if you have someone on stage speaking or whatever, and put up a tv next to them showing them live, people will watch the screen instead of the live speaker. And we're not talking 50 rows back watching the Jumbotron so you can actually see their facial expressions. We're talking equal image size and quality of screen and live.

Second, he recounted an anecdote from a high school teacher who'd learned a trick to quiet down their class at its start. They had a couple of tvs in the room that had been connected to a pilot project video feed of some sort, but that had shut down so they no longer had a connection to any content. Still, if the teacher turned on the tvs such that they showed nothing but static (remember, 60s), gradually the class would quiet down as all the kids started watching the static.

thirteen said...

I'm in Maryland. When it snows heavily here, I watch a webcam aimed at a nearby entrance onto Interstate 70. It's just so peaceful. One or two cars per minute, and you can hear them shusshing through the gathering snow. Sometimes the gaps between cars are so big that the tracks from the previous car fill in before the next one passes by.

BTW the original Yule Log was on Channel 11 in NYC. They have it on the web now.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

But let’s get real – stations carry these police pursuits because people watch them. Call it the “Lullaby of Broadcasting.”

I call it a Southern California Bedtime Story.

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mdv59 said...

I always thought someone should do a "Where are they now?" show that tracks down these car chase warriors to show the aftermath of their adventures. You'd think most are in jail but I wonder.

Vrej said...

The fireplace IS on Netflix!

McAlvie said...

Netflix does carry it. Or at least they used to. There were a couple of versions, even. Yes, I've pulled it up. Its like background music but visual. I think its like watching the weather radar while being snugly warm and dry at home.

Dan Ball said...

Back in the day, The Weather Channel was the go-to of my parents when they wanted Numb-a-vision. These days, it's HGTV/Animal Planet/MeTV.

Then, you have my in-laws on the other end of the spectrum who are anything BUT numb because they watch Fox News nonstop daily.

Cap'n Bob said...

Coincidentally, I watched a chase on YouTube a few nights ago. What floored me about it was the suspect signaled every turn and lane change. I suppose he didn't want to be nailed for failing to use his signals despite fleeing from the police, running stop signs and red lights, and speeding.

Leen said...

We here in Philadelphia have the "Yule Log" running all day on Christmas! Its cute with a kitten and dog running around the presents, but sometimes they also have a pig! Plus, doesn't Netflix now have the Yule Log too? I totally get where you are coming from...mind numbing TV is the best, when sometimes you just need your brain to be numb! Hope you are having a great day!

cLo said...

Not only is it on Netflix, but you can choose what kind of wood you want: oak, birch, maple, etc..

What they don't have is the one where there's a tween boy sitting in front of it, tossing bits of paper, matches, sticks, dog food, whatever, into the fire to see what happens. That's what I did with any fireplace I was near on Christmas.