The Squad: Prison Police -- TV Review



In Tennessee Prison, like all maximum-security prisons, there are gangs, fights, drugs, snitches, leaders and homemade knives. In addition, there is a staff of prison police officers whose job it is to enforce the rules and protect prisoners from one another.

A&E's reality series "The Squad: Prison Police" has been fashioned out of this ebb and flow of tedious tips, searches and interrogations. Not that there's a lot of snitching; inmates know this can be dangerous to their health. As for interrogations, let's just say this isn't exactly "The Closer." No wonder, then, that the most exciting parts of the series are the title graphics and production techniques that amp up the drama.

"Squad" revolves around eight prison officers. It's impossible to tell whether the subjects are motivated by the production crew or a sincere desire to keep the peace, which in this case means keeping a lid on this House of 10,000 Felons. Regardless, they mostly perform their joyless duties with grim determination and little emotion.

During the first episode, an inmate is asked about a cell phone and drugs found hidden in the cable box in his cell. They are not his, he says. So one wonders, "Who cares?" A subsequent prison raid produces decent footage but little results.

Now the squad turns up the heat. According to the snitch, a crooked corrections officer is a key drug supplier. Prison officers set up a sting operation, and it works. Well, sort of. The double-dealing corrections officer cops a plea and gets 94 days, just a few more than Lindsay Lohan, who merely failed to follow her probation requirements to the letter.

During another episode, a gang fight in the prison yard leads to a stabbing or two. It's up to the squad to find out who stabbed whom, so that the guilty parties get an additional year added to their sentences. The officers manage to sort out the scuffle, but no one, not even the instigators, really cares much about the consequences.

For a series like this to work, there should be dramatic video or, at the least, stories that make viewers relate to and care about the various squad members, neither of which happens here. Despite warnings of graphic violence, it's all pretty tame compared to scripted shows. At the same time, even the best of these officers approach their jobs with an air of fatal inevitability. Then again, it's hard to muster excitement about protecting thousands of murderers, rapists, drug dealers and violent robbers.

Airdate: 10-10:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5 (A&E)
Production: Wild Eyes Prods.
Executive producer: David Keane
Co-executive producer: Aaron Bowden
Supervising producer: Ryan Spyker
Series producer: Arcadia Berjonneau
Field producers: Shawn Jenkins, Daniel Callis, James Lockard
Director of photography: Mark Morris
Production manager: Jody Leggett
Composer: Dylan Berry