"If I Wrote a Cop Show": Issa Rae, Ramy Youssef and More TV Bosses Share How They'd Address the Moment

Issa Rae and Ramy Youssef
Jason Mendez/Getty Images; Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

"Show the successful transition to community ‘policing,’ which would hopefully make for a boring, uneventful show that would get canceled.”

The events of the 2020, starting with the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police, have inspired broader debates about how policing should look in America — and how it should look on TV.

Cop shows, propelled by the highly repeatable procedurals that have blanketed the dial almost since the medium’s inception, represent a significant chunk of scripted real estate. A Color of Change study released earlier in the year noted that a somewhat astounding 21 of the 34 fall 2019 primetime dramas on the broadcast networks alone focused on crime. So for THR’s annual Showrunners Issue, those in the Top 50 were asked how they would address the current moment if they wrote on a cop show. Here’s some of their feedback:

"Show the successful transition to community ‘policing,’ which would hopefully make for a boring, uneventful show that would get canceled.”
— Issa Rae, Insecure 

“Shut down the police station — and write what happens next. Give America the ability to visualize a reality without centralized police.”
— Ramy Youssef, Ramy

"Look into the Gordian knot of the relationship between the police and the people they are meant to protect."
—Kerry Ehrin, The Morning Show

"Show how reorganizing, reeducating police could be the answer to the current problems within the institution of policing."
— Kenya Barris, #BlackAF

"Dramatize the many things cops do that have nothing to do with catching violent criminals. Lot of confusion out there about what it would mean to defund the police or reallocate funds — and opinions exist on a spectrum. It feels worthwhile to help the public understand and process the debate in a very human, emotional way."
—Angela Kang, The Walking Dead

“Center a longform narrative around the perspective of people the police are interacting with. Changing the narrative lens through which we view policework to see how it changes our views on the traditional cop/criminal tropes and paradigms.”
— Lisa Joy, Westworld

"Create a world where whenever a police officer kills someone, someone in that police officer’s family dies instantly. So whatever grief they inflict will also be inflicted on them. Maybe we could call it Eye for an Eye."
—Lena Waithe, Twenties

"I think the most important thing with any writing is to try to be accurate, a less pretentious way to say "be true." Unfortunately, there's always a push to turn TV into propaganda — for the right or the left. And propaganda turns characters into types: this character represents the good cop; this one the bad cop; this one represents the African-American experience, [and so on]. ... The key is to try to push past that and try to find the real person underneath."
— Robert King, The Good Fight

"The issues that have come to the fore in the current moment are issues we'd already begun to explore in season three of 911, before the current moment got so damn current. We'll continue to do that and not shrink from it."
Tim Minear, 911

A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.