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Mall Cops: Mall of America -- TV Review

"Mall Cops: Mall of America"

The Bottom Line

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There's a notion, perpetuated by films and comic strips, that mall security personnel are the Barney Fifes of law enforcement, exercising serious police muscles over the most minor infractions.

Now we get the lowdown. Here comes "Mall Cops: Mall of America," a half-hour reality series shot at Minnesota's famous and gigantic Mall of America and, well, that silly stereotype turns out to be pretty much the case.

Not that the men and women behind the mall badges and walkie-talkies are unduly pompous or authoritarian. To the contrary, they are respectful and helpful. It's just that their law enforcement duties consist mainly of giving directions, helping to find parked cars, telling people not to be weird and shooing the occasional drunk out of the mall (and onto public transportation).

Even reality producers, experts at injecting drama, conflict and significance into scenes where there are none, may have met their match with this 12-episode series.

TLC ordered the series after a half-hour "Mall Cops" special last October attracted 1.2 million viewers and a 1.0 rating. Hoping to match those numbers, the cable network sent three film crews back to Bloomington, Minn. to film 12 hours a day for three and a half weeks starting on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

The premiere episode, which takes place entirely on that frantic high-volume sales day, shows what can happen when 185,000 crazed shoppers descend on more than 600 stores and restaurants in search of unimaginable bargains. Actually, not that much.

One loony guy gets two warnings for dancing to music in his head. Another apparent escapee from a home for the bewildered gets an escort out of the mall for putting makeup on his face and saying odd things. An enthusiastic Salvation Army bell ringer gets a bandage for a finger blister. A Russian drunk soils his underwear en route to a booking for public intoxication.

That was the small stuff. The two big incidents were a foot chase that ended with the capture of a shoplifter ($1,500 in purses) and a bit of food court first aid to quickly resolve a young girl's seizure.

So, maybe you're thinking: If this is what happens on the busiest shopping day of the year, won't the other episodes be even more mundane? Judging from the second one, probably. But if watching "Cops" gives you the willies or you want to make a drinking game out of spotting the franchises, this is your show.

TLC will show two new episodes back-to-back each Thursday through July 1.

Airdate: 10-10:30 p.m. Thursday, May 27 (TLC)
Production: September Films USA
Executive producers: Peter Davey, Sheldon Lazarus
Co-executive producers: John Eric Streit
Supervising producer: Craig E. Serling
Senior field producer: Josh Silberman
Line producer: Kirk Anderson
Producer: John Axelson
Story producers: Brandi Wright, Lee Harmon
Production manager: Dave Taber
Voiceover: Dale Inghram