Typical night on the San Berdoo Freeway, driving along minding our own business, when a van suddenly hurtles up an onramp and into traffic, followed by four cop cars with sirens screaming and a light show to rival the Pink Floyd Laserium tributes that used to play at Griffith Observatory. This conglomeration of chaos disappears up the freeway. Hmm, we think, interesting.
Eventually, we take the 210 exit and start up the ramp. As we head around the Raging Waters hill, a surreal tableau is revealed: the four police cruisers stopped abreast of each other, taking up all four lanes. In front of them about 50-100 feet away is the van, parked.
We come to a stop just behind the cruisers, our faces bathed in red and blue flashes, with other “civilians” filling in to either side and behind us. We’re in the front row of a 21st Century drive-in movie. And just like in the movies, the cops are behind their open car doors, handguns and shotguns drawn. My friend and I glance at each other, then back to the front as we sink down in our seats, trying to put as much engine block as possible between our bodies and potential bullets…..
Not so far down that we couldn’t keep watching the scene, of course.
Then the cops start yelling at whoever is in the van.
Do you remember the last TV show actually set in Los Angeles? The first one that popped to my mind was the cancelled Ed O’Neill Dragnet, but then I remembered reading that 24 takes place here at least in part. I haven’t watched it yet, so I don’t know for that sure. I’ll rent the DVDs some day.
Here’s a few shows to get you started if you want to play along at home. And no, Jay Leno doesn’t count. Neither does the vacuous OC. (There is a brand-new show that has yet to premiere as of this writing, The DA.)
This sticks in my craw. Not that I watch so much television, but I get kinda crabbed out that none of the two hundred Law & Orders and CSI’s are set in Los Angeles. I love the Law & Orders. I love the CSI’s. But for crissakes, Las Vegas has a freakin’ CSI! Vegas! The city that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for all the SoCal gambling addicts driving across some hellish terrain to dump mountains of cash on the Strip.
One time on the Vegas show, a CSI employee from Bakersfield had a speaking part. Please. Bakersfield? So imagine my excitement when CBS announced they were going to add a new CSI show. “Oooh, CSI: LA!” I thought, naturally.
Nope. The new one is CSI: New York. Boy, that’s original, isn’t it? New York. Lazy sons of bitches, the lot of ’em.
At least Monk is in San Francisco. Well, ironically, they shot season 2 in L.A., though it’s supposed to be the Bay Area. But least it will still be set in San Francisco next season, right?
Where’s the snack bar? Never mind, we don’t want to miss anything. The cops are still yelling at the guy, pointing their high-powered lights and higher-powered guns at the van. It’s one of those old-school vans, the kind you always see serial killers driving. The back windows are painted over, so who knows what the hell goes on in there.
Finally, the driver’s side door opens. This spawns much frenetic tensing and aiming and more yelling from the cops. They order the driver to shut off the van and step out carefully, keeping his hands in full view, then start him backing towards them, hands in the air. A couple of the cops prepare to step forward. Of course, they have no idea if anyone else is in the van and will have to approach the sides blindly.
Now, don’t get me wrong. L.A. has a lot to offer without stupid television shows taking up the mental airwaves. It’s kind of like pro football: we’re quite fine without it, thank you very much. Besides, the movie shoots tie up enough of the city as it is. Imagine a passel of TV crews added to the mix.
There is a little secret about Los Angeles that New York and Miami and even Bakersfield don’t get: L.A. is the show. It’s all around us, entertaining every second of every day, all night long. You can be driving along, minding your own business, and suddenly find yourself in the middle of…
Well, you know.
Turns out nobody else is in the van, so the guy eating asphalt is cuffed roughly and tossed in the back of one of the cruisers.
There is an exclamation point on the end of the evening’s entertainment: one of the cops milling around afterwards accidentally discharges his shotgun. Luckily it’s pointed up the hill towards Raging Waters at the time, since he’s carrying it on his hip like Sam Elliott on the Tombstone poster, so the only result was laughing applause from the civilian audience. Right about then, the police began shunting traffic onto the shoulder and around the scene.
We speed off into the Southern California night. Condition: Clear.