TV Review: Nightwatch

📌 Late December 2023
December 21, 2023

As a teenager I used to watch a lot of COPS, the TV show. Growing up in the quiet suburbs, I found it fascinating to see what more urban areas were like in terms of emergencies requiring police response. Later I realized just how distorted some of the views on that show were, but back then it gave me many hours of pleasure to watch it once a week on FOX.

Later in life I became a first responder and got to see some of those types of situations firsthand. I don’t work as a first responder anymore, but during the pandemic I discovered a TV show that conveys some of the excitement and challenges of that type of job: Nightwatch on A&E.

The basic premise of the show is simple: cameras follow the EMTs, firefighters, and police officers of New Orleans on the night shift from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. They capture the calls that the crews are dispatched to and give the viewer a sense of what it’s like to be a first responder.

Voiceovers from later interviews with the cast members (who are just people working their regular job) provide additional explanation and context to the events we see on-screen (and even to the relationships between the crew members). We learn about different facets of the city of New Orleans that affect emergency calls.

The camerawork for Nightwatch is excellent and the editing keeps things fast-paced, with lots of cuts from one exciting scene to the next. There’s not a lot of time wasted on the more boring parts of the job. Though there are scenes of meals and ping-pong games and other downtime activities, they are kept short and are quickly followed by more-exciting emergencies.

Through banter and interviews the characters of the first responders really come out, as well as some of the “characters” they meet out on the streets. The show does a good job of highlighting the uniqueness of New Orleans; this type of show could be filmed in any city, but it wouldn’t have the same feel as this one filmed in The Big Easy.

At times it can feel uncomfortable watching people going through difficult, sometimes personal, situations with cameras surrounding them. However, most (but not all) of the patients and subjects depicted have their faces shown, which means they agreed to have their identities shown on TV.

If you’re a fan of reality cop shows, true crime, or a fan of Fire or EMS, give Nightwatch a try.

As of the writing of this post, Nightwatch is available for streaming on A&E’s website.


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