Unpredictability of ‘Live PD’ Delivers Real-Life Drama to A+E Networks

The drama on “Live PD,” which tracks actual cops in the course of duty, rivals that of any scripted drama set in a police squad.

One recent episode followed police as they pursued a suspect driving a car with a little girl on board. Viewers watched as the vehicle flipped over. Miraculously, the man and the girl emerged unhurt. But there was still more to come. The man used the child as a human shield. 

“It was really intense,” says “Live PD” host Dan Abrams. “Any time there are children involved, we all get that much more concerned, that much more apprehensive.”

Yet that is part of the allure of “Live PD.” The show has producers scanning 32 live feeds from across the nation, each one focused on a cop trying to do his or her job. Since the show’s launch on A&E in 2016, other networks have attempted to replicate its format, and A&E has created other series from some of its segments and concepts, including a program that follows firefighters. 

“As you watch the police officers do what they do, there’s an uncertainty that they have when they approach a vehicle — unlike a highlight-reel show that other police shows have done in the past,” Abrams says. “With this one, you don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

You could say “Live PD” was born out of necessity. Executives at Big Fish Entertainment, the production company behind it, realized that at a time when more TV viewers were moving to streaming services, a program that had to be watched live would be more compelling. The team noticed police departments across the U.S. “were providing these timely updates over the course of an evening” to local residents via Twitter, says Dan Cesareo, who formed Big Fish. “We found it fascinating.”

Getting things right took time — even after “Live PD” launched. Producers had to get access to police departments. Once they got on air, they had to learn to steel themselves against the temptation to jump from one feed to the next whenever a conflict or action appeared to be in the offing. “When you do something new that hasn’t been done before, there’s not a road map,” says Cesareo. “It took us four to six months, probably, just to get comfortable with our own setup.”

Abrams gives credit to A+E Networks chief Paul Buccieri for giving the producers time to find their way. In earlier broadcasts, he says, “the audience would feel they got invested in something, and we’d cut out for the big shiny object somewhere else.” Hosts and staffers needed to develop “the instinct for letting these stories play out more,” he says. “Let’s try to make sure the audience doesn’t feel ripped off.”

More TV

  • Steve Stark

    Steve Stark Named President of Newly Formed MGM/UA Television

    The newly formed MGM/UA Television label has found a president in Steve Stark, who previously served as MGM’s president of scripted television production and development. MGM Worldwide Television Group chairman Mark Burnett made the announcement late Friday, adding that Stark has extended his contract with the studio as part of his new role. “We are [...]

  • Bad Education

    TV News Roundup: HBO Sets Premiere Date for Hugh Jackman's 'Bad Education' (Watch)

    In today’s TV News roundup, HBO Films set the premiere date for “Bad Education” starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney and “Volcano Live! with Nik Wallenda” tapes Chris Harrison and Sage Steele as hosts. CASTING “The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison will host “Volcano Live! with Nik Wallenda” alongside co-host Sage Steele of ESPN, ABC announced. [...]

  • Randall Park Ed Helms

    Randall Park, Ed Helms to Host Hybrid Alternative-Scripted Series 'True Story' for NBC

    Ed Helms and Randall Park are attached to co-host a hybrid scripted-alternative series titled “True Story” at NBC. The hour-long show has received a six-episode order. It is based on the Australian series “True Story with Hamish & Andy.” In the series, everyday Americans sit down with Helms and Park to share their most extraordinary [...]

  • Annie MurphyGlamour Women of the Year

    'Schitt’s Creek' Star Annie Murphy Cast as Lead in AMC's ‘Kevin Can F— Himself’

    “Schitt’s Creek” star Annie Murphy has been cast as the lead in AMC’s upcoming series “Kevin Can F— Himself.” The dark comedy centers around Murphy’s Allison, Kevin’s wife, who escapes her confines and discovers her rage. “Kevin Can F– Himself” probes the secret life of a type of woman we all grew up believing we [...]

  • Vudu

    NBCUniversal in Talks to Buy Walmart's Vudu

    Comcast’s NBCUniversal is looking to add some Vudu into its streaming-video mix. The media conglomerate is in talks to buy Vudu, the Walmart-owned entertainment rental, download and free-streaming service, sources confirm to Variety. It’s unclear what the terms of the pact would be or the timing. News of NBCU’s interest in Vudu was first reported [...]

  • Friends reunion

    'Friends' Cast to Reunite for Exclusive HBO Max Special

    It’s happening: The “Friends” cast is reuniting for an exclusive untitled unscripted special on HBO Max. Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer will return to the original “Friends” soundstage, Stage 24, on the Warner Bros. Studio lot in Burbank to celebrate the long-running series, which ended its run [...]

  • Regina King Watchmen

    HBO Reclassifies 'Watchmen' as a Limited Series, Including 'Possible Future Installments'

    In the ongoing saga of whether HBO’s “Watchmen” will continue after its initial, acclaimed season late last year, the pay cable network announced on Friday that it is reclassifying the show from a drama series to a limited series, including for “any possible future installments.” The move aligns HBO’s awards season campaign for “Watchmen” with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content