The premise for a new docusoap featuring Vancouver cops, The Beat, came to OLN, Citytv and Galafilm Productions from a strange avenue: a production company launched by seven Vancouver police officers.
Odd Squad Productions is a non-profit production company which inserts cameras into policing efforts in order to strengthen accountability, address social issues in the community and to make videos for outreach in schools. The prodco – which includes Sgt. Toby Hinton, part of the squad documented in the program – approached Montreal-based Galafilm with the idea of producing a show following Vancouver’s Beat Enforcement Team, a group that patrols the city’s dangerous downtown East Side. Galafilm brought the idea to OLN and it struck a chord.
‘We were trying to bring a few more docusoaps to OLN at that time and we wanted something that was a little more urban than the stuff we’d done in the past,’ says Patrice Baillargeon, director, development & production for Rogers Media Television. ‘We wanted something gritty and raw and that also had an important social message.’
For Citytv, the series worked because of the strong social and community connection audiences could potentially make with the show, says Alain Strati, VP, specialty TV & development for Rogers Media Television.
While on paper the idea of a show following a group of police can sound quite similar to Cops, the fly-on-the-wall approach to the program makes this a very different series. As opposed to focusing on arrests made, The Beat looks at the lives of police who work a high stress job and the perceived impossibility of cleaning up the drug and crime-filled neighborhood they patrol.
Despite all the frustration and sadness that comes along with policing a poverty and addiction-stricken community, the series also documents glimmers of hope. In one episode, the team seeks out a prostitute, not to arrest her but to get her into a social program that may help get her off the street. ‘It’s about policing, social issues, crime, despair and difficulty but it’s also about redemption,’ says Strati.
The Beat debuted July 11 on Citytv and will premiere July 17 on OLN.