A Reality TV Legend Has Died

By Tristan Zelden | 1 month ago

cops reality tv 2

One of the longest-running reality TV shows was Cops. As of Saturday (June 26), the creator of the hit series John Langley has died.

The Hollywood Reporter confirmed the news from a family representative of Langley that the 78-year-old reality TV producer died in Baja, Mexico, of a heart attack as he was competing in a Coast to Coast Ensenada-San Felipe 250 race.

Langley is best known for the reality series Cops, which debuted in 1989 and ran for over 1,000 episodes ended in 2020. Producing with his son and long-time collaborator, Morgan Langley, the show went off to get nominated for four Primetime Emmys and is considered to be one of the most successful shows in the genre. It was popular enough that it would get caught up in pop-cultural references like the 2008 comedy Step Brothers.

cops reality tv

The reality show followed police officers around the United States as they worked. It was cancelled in 2013 by Fox. It was picked up by Spike, which later was rebranded as Paramount Network in 2018. It was officially axed last year after the death of George Floyd, which sparked protests across the country regarding systemic racism and police brutality.

Langley kept following law enforcement throughout his career with his other notable reality TV shows like Jail, which documented events in jails around the U.S., ran from 2007 to 2017. Another show that the producer worked on to give viewers another perspective of the law was Undercover Stings, which delved into undercover operations. It did not survive long as it only aired one season back in 2012. His early work follows this trend with documentaries like Cocaine Blues and Anatomy of Crime.

Outside of reality TV, the Cops creator dabbled with Hollywood movies while still sticking to his police-centered roots. He produced the 2009 crime drama Brooklyn’s Finest, which followed three unconnected officers who would end up in the same deadly situation. The film starred Richard Gere (American Gigolo), Ethan Hawke (Training Day), and Avengers star Don Cheadle. It was directed by Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer) and written by Michael C. Martin (Hell on Wheels).

john langley

Not everything was reality TV crews following police officers or making movies officers. His production company, Langley Productions, was attached to other films that told different stories. Leaves of Grass, a 2009 movie starring Edward Norton (American History X) and written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson, followed an Ivy League professor who teams up with his pot-growing brother to take down a local drug lord. Diverging further from what he was known for was Tiptoes, a film about a love triangle starring Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Kate Beckinsale (Underworld), and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club).

In 2011, Langley’s work producing and writing movies and reality TV shows would land him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Langley Productions is now run by Morgan Langley. He is also survived by Maggie, son Zak, daughters Sarah Langley Dews, Jennifer Blair, and seven grandchildren.