What if Fox’s ‘Cops’ showcased not just shirtless thugs but Mexican drug runners making lives miserable for folks who live along the U.S.-Mexican border?
‘Bordertown: Laredo,’ a 10-episode series, debuting at 10 p.m. EST Oct. 13 on A&E, does exactly that. But the show isn’t as explosive, or topical, as one might expect. It really is another variation on ‘Cops,’ one with a politically correct cast and a dearth of badly needed context.
The reality series follows five Mexican-Americans working for the Laredo P.D. Narcotics Unit. They know they’re outgunned and outmanned, and even on days when they capture a tractor trailer full of dope there’s always another convoy a few miles behind it.
The show’s premiere night features back-to-back episodes, but neither delivers the kind of gut-wrenching content guaranteed to instill viewer loyalty.
We’re told that Laredo, the largest inland port on the U.S.-Mexican border, is a ground zero for the country’s War on Drugs. The camera lingers on a massive warehouse filled with confiscated drugs and weaponry. But the show’s first bust involves a stoner growing pot in plain sight. It’s pretty tame stuff, but the arrest gives officers enough information to track down a larger target.
That’s often how the bigger busts happen – a minor tip or arrest leads to a major score.
‘Bordertown: Laredo’ gives some insight into how the drug cartels operate. And those tense home invasions are levied by scenes in which the officers manually haul bag after bag of marijuana off a massive trailer. But given the explosive subject matter, and the current headlines over the blossoming “Fast and Furious” scandal, the latest reality series plays it shockingly safe.
What could have elevated ‘Bordertown: Lardedo’ above its cop show trappings is context. Just what kind of impact are these drug runners having on the fine folk of Laredo, Texas? Rather than showing us regular Joes and Janes grappling with the drug running fallout, we spend nearly all our time with the well-intentioned – but rather drab – officers.
They all appear brave and dedicated to their mission – putting a dent in the wave of narcotics flooding into the U.S. It’s refreshing to see the officers refusing to play to the cameras, but stoicism doesn’t make for arresting television. We do see a few court-certified break-ins, but nothing happens beyond a few scared souls giving up the goods or spinning some ludicrous explanation for their handiwork.
‘Bordertown:Laredo’ hits small screens at a time when the nation’s attention is turning toward the border. But the series doesn’t take advantage of the incendiary material or an audience eager for answers.