Arresting viewing … Territory Cops pulls no punches.Documenting cops on the beat is an idea as old as reality TV itself, but seldom has it unfolded on such a grand canvas as in Foxtel’s Territory Cops. Following the success of last year’s Kalgoorlie Cops, the executive producer, John McAvoy, was keen to shoot another series there but Foxtel wanted to up the ante and McAvoy could certainly see potential in the Top End.
”You’ve got Darwin, you’ve got Katherine, you’ve got Kakadu, you’ve got Alice Springs, you’ve got Ayers Rock,” he says. ”The scope was gigantic. And in terms of wildlife, you’ve got the crocodiles and all that brings with it and all the other animals. It ticked all the boxes.”
When Kalgoorlie Cops aired, Kalgoorlie’s mayor complained about how the town was portrayed, saying it perpetuated the ”Wild West tag” he was trying to shake. Those in the Top End, however, seem proud of the region’s reputation as the final frontier, and McAvoy says there were no issues with the authorities there.
”The Northern Territory police were always very receptive,” he says. ”The commissioner and deputy commissioner couldn’t have been more helpful and the officers themselves were terrific to work with. It wasn’t as though we were restricted. It was a pretty open dialogue – there wasn’t any of this, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that’.”
The show covers a vast area and a wide variety of cases, from drug dealing in remote communities to the weekend mayhem of Darwin’s tourist strip. Given the large indigenous population in the Top End, some of the stories inevitably involve indigenous crime but McAvoy says he didn’t feel this was a particularly sensitive issue or that they needed to be careful about perpetuating negative stereotypes.
”To be honest, whatever unfolded in front of us we covered – it wasn’t any more complicated than that,” he says. ”In terms of being sensitive, we tried to be sensitive and respectful to everybody. There are a number of stories that involve indigenous crime but it’s not as though there’s a heavy emphasis on it – we just took what came.”
Given the co-operation of the local police, it’s no surprise the stars of the show are the cops themselves. Certainly, the producers have done a great job finding articulate, telegenic officers who are comfortable in front of the camera.
”Obviously, that’s really important,” McAvoy says. ”That’s done ahead of time. You go up and you do a bit of a reccy and you get introduced around and the police have a certain idea of who they would like to feature in the show and have a discussion like that, and you settle on the people you want to follow.”
So what exactly do the producers look for?
”You’re looking for people you deem to be good characters, who you think people are going to invest their time in watching and who can communicate clearly what they’re doing,” McAvoy says. ”You’re wasting your time if you embark on a process like this with someone who can’t really communicate what they’re doing.”
Foxtel prides itself on providing an alternative to the commercial free-to-air networks and McAvoy agrees that’s an appealing brief when you’re shooting a true-crime documentary series.
”Foxtel said you can push the envelope a little bit, and it was nice to have that sort of flexibility,” he says. ”You can just be a little more risque, a little bit edgier.”
Thursday, CI, 7.30pm
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