Tuesday, 13 March 2012


The odds that the average policeman will encounter some serious action while accompanied by a documentary film crew are small. They're even smaller when that policeman is hunting a supernatural creature called the Howler.

That's one of the challenges facing the National Geographic Channel's new series "Navajo Cops." Like most cop documentaries, it is long on buildup but short on payoff. But when it ventures off into "Ghost Hunters" territory, it loses even the usual hyped-up suspense. The few insights into Navajo culture don't compensate for the general lethargy.

Premiering tonight at 10, the series follows cops as they patrol the huge Navajo reservation, which contains parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah and is the largest Indian reservation in the country. Most of the footage is shot at night, helping to heighten the moments of tension that occur just before the uneventful conclusions.

The premiere episode follows several plot lines. First, Officers Philbert Toddy and Genevieve Morgan pursue some suspects in what the narrator somewhat hyperbolically calls an attempted murder. In fact, it was a dispute among neighbors. The alleged target knew the man she thinks shot at her from a distance.

After Toddy tells one of the suspects to come out of his house, he waits, then tells the camera, "That's too much [bleep] time." He pushes in the door, only to find that his partner has come in through the back door and is cuffing the suspect.

As they approach another house, the narrator says ominously, "Inside, a potential shooter can see their every move. It's a perfect scenario for an ambush." That thought apparently didn't occur to the alleged perpetrator, who we see standing in the room with his hands up.

The other plotlines end similarly. The police pursue a fleeing suspect near the edge of a deep canyon, and then he surrenders uneventfully. When apprehended, the suspects tend to quickly give up the names and probable locations of their alleged accomplices.

One suspect that does elude arrest is the Howler, an unknown creature that has been emitting uncanny noises near the town of Crownpoint, N.M. The officers head out with night-vision goggles, which produce another false lead that is played up for all the suspense it will yield.

Trying to get a response from the Howler, an officer with the evocative name of Custer Bryant plays a recording of what is supposedly the cry of a bigfoot, but to no avail.

This segment is played completely straight. According to the cops, they take reports of supernatural activity seriously. One suspect claims that he broke his parole and carried knives because he was afraid of skinwalkers--the shape-shifting witches of Navajo legend.

A young officer named Christopher Holgate blesses himself with a bitter herb before going on patrol. He says it will protect him if someone tries to use witchcraft on him.

But we don't see any natural or supernatural menaces that actually pan out. That doesn't mean these officers aren't putting themselves in harm's way. It's just their good luck — and the producers' bad luck — that none of the investigations or arrests in the episode turn spectacularly violent.

The bitter herbs and skinwalkers add a little local color but can't enliven what is a depressingly mundane show. Viewers who are bored with "Cops" will be bored with "Navajo Cops."

Source: MediaLife 
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