heather lewis   On Hiatus  
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  The only trouble I have with summer is TV, or the lack of it. There are some advantages. Summer does become a vacation again--from VCR programming. And you can read other things besides TV Guide. I'm shameless about my attachment to TV. I always have been. As a kid I'd duck out of my own birthday party if Lost in Space was on.

I grew up glued, but you can't blame my parents. They weren't the right generation, which explains why we didn't get color until well into the seventies. It also explains why they hated it when I watched, which in turn explains why I wanted my own personal copy of that ABC ad, the huge yellow one that said: It's a beautiful day, what are you doing outside?

I could make the argument that I love TV because my favorite babysitter let me stay up to watch The Fugitive, after she'd sent my older brother to bed. Maybe that's also why cop shows have always been favorites. The Fugitive wasn't exactly a cop show, but some of the elements were there. And when it went off the air in sixty-seven, Dragnet, the mother of all cop shows, returned.

Adam 12 showed up a year later. Adam 12 played a pivotal role for me. It became a bridge into the Seventies. A transition from the 'just the facts, ma'am' artificiality of Dragnet and Adam 12 to the gritty realism of all those Seventies cop shows. By then, cop shows appeared with almost every channel change--Police Story, Police Woman, The Rookies, Streets of San Francisco, The Mod Squad. Okay, maybe Mod Squad wasn't exactly realistic, but then, like Hawaii Five-O, it started in sixty-eight.

Maybe none of those shows were very realistic, but they seemed like the real thing at the time. And Hawaii Five-O stayed on until 1980, acting as another bridge into another decade. It's pretty hard to imagine that Hawaii Five-O's last season was the same year as Hill Street Blues' first. If the Seventies gave cop show quantity, the Eighties meant slim, if quality, pickings. Hill Street, Cagney & Lacey--these are the only cop shows I remember, and I caught on late to both. My viewing habits inexplicably had grown lax.

Now, in the Nineties, cop shows are back, and I'm back on the couch with my remote in hand. NYPD Blue, Homicide, Law & Order, Prime Suspect--compared to the eighties it seems like a boom. Almost any night of the week you can watch cops. Though each year the season shrinks. Network ads brag about all-new episodes just weeks into the new fall lineup.

This year was particularly brutal. Usually you can at least count on the sweeps for three months of new shows. But last February's Olympic coverage meant more reruns, so apparently no one was watching anything. Cable, of course, provides a refuge. Any day of the week you can watch Law & Order three times--four it you're an insomniac. You'll have to watch the same episode at least twice, but if you're desperate.... I'm more likely to resort to McMillan and Wife. I've tried Hawaii Five O, but It doesn't work. Maybe there's a reason it's on the Family Channel.

The other option, of course, is reading. This is something almost any honest writer will admit they're loath to do. I did read a lot as a kid. I don't remember if I read more during the summer, but probably. Back then, I didn't notice the end of one TV season so much as the beginning of the next one. And I didn't really read cop books, unless you count The Hardy Boys, which were my brother's hand-me-downs.

With books there was no gradual transition, like from Adam 12 to Mod Squad to Police Story. It just seemed like one day I was reading the Hardy Boys, and the next, The Day of the Jackal, or The Odessa File. Frederick Forsyth was a definitely a favorite. My bent with books seemed to lean a little more toward espionage, but maybe I just read what was lying around the house.

I distinctly remember a period of screening books for my mother--letting her know whether Fear of Flying was too racy for her, that kind of thing. This is probably why I've read some Jackie Collins, but no Joseph Wambaugh. Maybe its even why I started writing cop books. And now that I've started writing them, I can't begin to read them. I've tried, but it always feels like homework.

Maybe this summer I'll give cop books another try. Make up my own reading list. Do they still give out summer reading lists? I should at least read some Wambaugh. Maybe Wambaugh could be the transition from TV to books. It's not impossible. He did create TV's Police Story, which then spawned Police Woman. Maybe if I spend the summer reading Wambaugh, I won't need TV by fall. It might just work. But what if it does? After all, I only just bought that thirty-one-inch set I'd been dreaming about for years.
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Copyright © 1998 Heather Lewis.