Sitting on your sofa in front of the telly can be an exhausting experience in LA.
Despite having witnessed thousands of car chases in TV dramas over my twenty-odd years as a TV critic, I cannot believe the difference in emotions when you know that you are experiencing the real thing.
The last car chase (well, crawl, to be precise) I watched on TV was that involving OJ Simpson, whose white van was followed by cops, following the murder of his ex, Nicole Brown Simpson and her lover Ronald Goldman (a crime of which he was found not guilty – okay, so he just fancied a long drive that day).
But on Thursday afternoon this week, a man who had walked into the Southwest Los Angeles Police Department and threatened officers, took to the streets in what I can only describe as hara-kiri on wheels.
It was incredible. Breathtaking. I was shouting at the screen, as the man went the wrong way up and down streets, speeding at 70 mph as the cars around him trudged by at 30.
How did I know the speed? The Man in the Helicopter that was following the chase told me. I tell you: I learned more about the streets of Downtown LA during this half hour than a year of studying Google maps could have taught me.
Then the guy mounted the pavement – still speeding. Any human would have been mown down in his path, had they been in his way; a walking Chihuahua would have been mincemeat within seconds.
The cops almost caught him at one point, but their car bonnets ended up in a kind of romantic kiss as the man sped away once more. “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” I yelled, as the runaway car sped off yet again.
At one junction, he hit another vehicle; then he narrowly missed hitting three others. And then . . . Oh, yegods, this was far, far better than Hill Street Blues had ever been . . . One of the cop cars chasing him crashed into a palm tree.
The MIH (Man In Helicopter) now had so much more to talk about. Not only was he instructing me in the intricacies of Downtown LA sidewalks and streets, he now had the job of filling me in on the state of the officer’s health.
Was he injured? If so, how severely? Oh no: surely the poor man hadn’t died (okay, MIH didn’t say this, but I was fearing the worst). And there he was again, the cop in the palm tree! All because our escapee was now going around the block.
I was exhausted. And then, at about 2.15pm, it all ended at 37th Street and Normandie Avenue (I tell you: I could be a tour guide after this), when the man hit a car and the cop cars blocked him in.
But even then, the drama didn’t end. Despite the fact that about a dozen armed cops surrounded the vehicle, the man wouldn’t budge. One cop started to smash in the rear windscreen; people in surrounding vehicles didn’t know whether to stay put or run (according to MIH – God, this guy was good); and then, back in the studio, MIH was interrupted.
A warning: we don’t know what’s going to happen next, so if there are small children watching or you were of a delicate persuasion (words to that effect), turn away now.
Ohyegods triplefold! They were going to blow the guy’s brains out! Even better, they were going to beat him to a pulp before our very eyes. And all because he had walked into a station and been a bit abusive.
Blimey. They should be in central Cardiff after a rugby international, then they’d know the meaning of abuse.
And our criminal STILL wasn’t getting out of the vehicle. Momentarily stunned (according to MIH), they finally got him out, but, when he came to, he was still resisting arrest.
Geez! How many LA cops does it take to nuke a light-bulb?
What impressed me the most about the chase was how considerate the cops were about other cars, pedestrians, small dogs (okay, my added colour again) et al, as they followed the guy – certainly a darn sight more considerate than he was being.
Unlike the cop cars in Hill Street Blues, where mowing people down got you promotion, the cops following this guy slowed down where they thought there was danger to Beverly Hills/Downtown Chihuahuas and their owners; and yet, incredibly, they still managed to keep up with the maniac.
My admiration of the LAPD remains resolute; it may have taken a dozen of them to nuke the light-bulb, but they got there in the end.
So gripped was I by the spectacle, however, that I realised I had missed Judge Alex, who is my Monday to Friday TV fix. Still, I had endured more than enough law, order, and assassinated palm trees for one day. As, I suspect, had our MIH.
What, though, he added, must the person driving the silver car that our baddie crashed into have been thinking?
How much money can I make from this on Fox News would be my guess.