John Langley, the creator of the documentary reality series Cops, has passed away. Per Variety, Langley's reps say he died on Saturday of an apparent heart attack in Baja, Mexico, where he was competing in the Coast to Coast Ensenada-San Felipe 250 off-road race. TMZ also reports that Langley was on the track at the time with his son Zak. He was 78 years old.
A director, writer, and producer, John Langley is best known as the creator and executive producer of the long-running TV series Cops. Premiering on Fox in 1989, the show followed actual police officers working the beat in their local jurisdictions in pursuit of criminals of all varieties. By last year, it had moved to Paramount Network after 32 seasons on the air. It was canceled in June 2020 in response to nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Sometimes credited as the "Godfather of Reality Television," Langley also produced two-hour event specials that set the mold for modern reality television during the 1980s. This includes the show American Vice: The Doping of a Nation, which documented three live drug arrests on primetime television for the first time. The success of the special along with the producer's other work on crime-based television would later lead to the creation of Cops.
"That's what astonishes me to this day," Langley said of the enduring popularity of the show in a 2014 interview with Parade. "I only knew that it was a good idea for a show. I really believe in the show, obviously, and I kept turning down anybody's modifications of it. They wanted me to put in music. I'd said no. They wanted me to add a narrator. I said no. They wanted me to do recreations. I'd said no. I just stuck to my guns. I thought it was a pretty simple idea that was straightforward and doable, but no one quite saw it. Now everybody sees it, of course."
Other work from Langley over the years includes Who Murdered JFK, which questioned the details of the John F. Kennedy assassination, as well as the special Terrorism: Target U.S.A., chronicling the potential threat of terrorism in the country. He also produced the series American Jail for TruTV and along with son Morgan produced Las Vegas Jailhouse. His other screen credits include Street Patrol, Vegas Strip, and Undercover Stings. Because of his television accomplishments, Langley was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011.
Outside of his television work, Langley loved off-road racing. He had started his own off-road race team called the Cops racing team, and he was active in Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts and SCORE International. In 2017, he won the Baja 1000, where he passed away this weekend, in the Spec Trophy Truck class.
Langley's survivors include his wife Maggie; son Morgan, who oversees Langley Productions and serves as an executive producer of Cops; son Zak; daughters Sarah Langley Dews and Jennifer Blair; and seven grandchildren. Our thoughts are with the family at this time. Rest in peace, John Langley. This news comes to us from TMZ.