HomeEntertainmentJohn Langley, Known for Creating ‘Cops,’ Dies at 78

John Langley, Known for Creating ‘Cops,’ Dies at 78

(Photo by Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The brain behind the long-running TV show “Cops,” John Langley, has passed away. According to his representatives, the 78-year-old died Saturday after reportedly suffering a heart attack in Baja, Mexico. At the time, Langley was a competitor in the Coast to Coast Ensenada-San Felipe 250 off-road race.

In his professional career, many knew Langley as the mastermind behind the beloved “Cops.” For over 32 seasons, Langley was the helm of the reality TV powerhouse. With over 1,000 episodes to date, the show ushered in a new television genre that uses documentary stylings. But, even if you’ve never seen an episode, you can recognize its familiar theme song by Ian Lewis of Inner Circle became a part of American pop culture.

After attempting to find a network to back the show, Langley and his production partner Malcolm Barbour were able to get the show off the ground and onto airwaves thanks to fledging Fox. 

After its first few seasons, the show was nominated four times for Emmys in the outstanding informational series category. In 2013, Langley was honored by the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE.) At the time, Langley recalled that there was plenty of doubt about whether or not the show would be a flop. 

“The network thought it was a legal nightmare,” he told Variety at the time. By the time ‘Cops’ had been on a few years, though, that became almost a non-issue. In fact, one of the occasional logistical pitfalls involved people seeing the camera crews and beginning to hum the show’s ‘Bad Boys’ theme, as they or someone else were being marched off to jail.” 

‘Cops’ Creator John Langley Known for Paving New Road for Reality TV

Before the massive success of “Cops,” Langley wrote and co-directed the documentary Cocaine Blues in 1983 alongside Barbour. Well-known figures such as Frank Zappa, Hoyt Axton, and Paul Krassner appear in the documentary. 

In 1986 he got his reality TV start when creating “American Vice: The Doping of a Nation,” which depicted live drug arrests on television. 

Afterward, he and his son Morgan produced other reality TV series such as “Inside American Jail” for TruTV and “Las Vegas Jailhouse.” His other work included “Street Patrol,” “Vegas Strip,” “Road Warriors” and “Undercover Stings.”

He acted as a producer on Brooklyn’s Finest. The film served as a crime drama that premiered at Sundance. His other documentaries included Terrorism: Target USA and Who Killed JFK?

Before his time behind the camera, Langley was born in Oklahoma City. When he was older, he served in the intelligence unit of the U.S. Army in the early 1960s. Afterward, he graduated from Cal State Dominguez Hills and attended U.C. Irvine to complete his graduate program. 

Morgan, who oversees Langley Productions, survives him and his wife, son, daughters, and his seven grandchildren.