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L.A. County Sheriffs Get Reality Shows

After watching its Los Angeles Police Department colleagues grab the spotlight, it’s now the county sheriff’s turn.

Last week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a measure permitting a pair of reality shows to proceed, ending a policy forbidding TV cameras from following deputies. That was different from the LAPD, whose badge has been immortalized on TV with shows dating back to the 1950s and Dragnet.

Sheriff Lee Baca sought approval after getting separate pitches for the recruit series The Academy from Scott Sternberg Prods. and for The Assignment, about sheriffs’ life at work, from 44 Blue Prods.Sternberg, a veteran producer whose credits range from AMC’s Sunday Morning Shootout to a 1998 remake of The Gong Show, was surprised to learn about the other program. He says, "It’s good. We can be supportive of one another, which will allow us to make the shows look better and tell the story."

The financially strapped sheriff’s department will collect 5% of the license fees and 10% of total profits from the series, which this week will be shopped to broadcast and cable networks.

The most successful series in the genre, Cops, is estimated to have grossed in the neighborhood of $500 million, including syndication and DVD revenue, over its 17-season run. Its network license fees are approaching $650,000 per episode.—Jim Benson