USA does it. So does TNT. ESPN took a sportsman-like stab at it a couple of years ago, and HBO and Showtime do it with R-rated sex, violence and profanity.
The made-for-TV movie, once the sole artistic domain of the Big Three commercial television networks, is currently popping up all over the place: On cable, in syndication, even at your friendly neighborhood video store.This week the trend picks up a down-home country twang, when The Nashville Network presents its first attempt at the genre: Nashville Beat (Saturday at 7 p.m., TNN), the two-hour movie pilot for a possible TNN series set in - where else? - Nashville.
But "Nashville Beat" is interesting for more than just its standing as TNN's first foray into the TV-movie-making business. It serves as an on-screen reunion for Kent McCord and Martin Milner, those swashbuckling buddies in blue of "Adam 12" fame. Now they're on the beat in Nashville as former police partners reunited to fight the new wave of criminals setting up shop in Music City. Only this time McCord plays the more experienced cop and Milner plays the guy who needs some training.
"It was actually a lot of fun," Milner said of the role reversal from "Adam 12," where he played the experienced Officer Pete Malloy and McCord played the rookie Officer Jim Reed. "It worked out real well."
Other than that, however, "Nashville Beat" will have a familiar look and feel to "Adam 12" fans. Executive producer McCord promises to deliver a movie - and eventually a series - that is more "Dragnet" than "Miami Vice."
In other words, lots of realistic police work and not much violence.
"A lot of cop shows today are just too stylized and artificial," McCord said. "I find that a lot of people are imitating imitations of cop shows. If you go all the way back to `Dragnet' and follow it up to today, these shows are getting further and further away from what cops really do - almost to the point where it's unrecognizable.
"What we have now are cop shows that are more and more like soap operas - they're more about the personal hangups and problems the policemen have than they are about police work," he said. "That's fine for those shows, but it's just not what I want to do.
"Entertainment for entertainment's sake is fine, but I think you can hold a mirror up to reality and give the audience entertainment that has value."
And if they can do that - provide "entertainment that has value" - TNN's entry into the world of made-for-TV movies will be a most welcome one, indeed.