Mall Cops: Mall of America, the Learning Channel’s reality television show spotlighting the Mall of America’s security department, was such a surprise hit that more episodes are being filmed during the upcoming holiday season.
Mall Cops first aired in October and quickly drew a following. “The ratings came in and the show had 1.3 million viewers,” says Daniel Jasper, director of public relations for the Mall of America. “That was a pilot episode. We just signed a contract for 12 episodes and will be filming next Monday until the first week of January.”
16 million shoppers are expected to visit the Mall of America from Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, until the week of New Year’s. It will keep camera crews busy, Jasper says. “Viewers will see our security department in a favorable light,” he says.
Show producer Eric Streit, of September Films, has enjoyed his involvement with Mall Cops. “It’s been a great experience so far,” he says. “I love it that these guys and gals are so professional. A lot of them have a military background. Our series can bring a different side to see of the officers here, and the Mall, that people don’t expect to see.”
Streit, who also produced TLC’s hit series Little People, Big World, says he is looking forward to filming the security department during the holidays. “It’s the best time to shoot at the Mall because it is the busiest time of the season in the retail world. It will have the best variety and we will be looking at the Mall of America as a whole through the eyes of the security officers. I think viewers will be surprised and very pleased.”
An added feature to the Mall Cops series will be an inside look at an innovative officer training session called “Lockdown,” according to Mark Stehlik, public information officer for the Bloomington Police Department. “The Mall of America and the stores are going to start lockdown drills, similar to what has been done with schools,” he says. “There is no other shopping center that does this. This will be a big media buzz thing.”
Stehlik says the lockdown drills are to prepare the Mall of America and stores for emergency situations. “We are breaking new ground here and I am almost certain it will spill over to the Mall Cops show and that will be interesting.”
Stehlik plans to watch the series. “I hope it portrays these guys in a good light,” he says. “We work with them and I am pretty impressed with what the Mall officers do. It’s professionally run and I hope the show portrays that.”
The pilot show highlighted Mall of America security officers over a three-week period serving and protecting visitors to the nation’s largest indoor shopping center. Scenes brought to life the officer’s rigorous training, daily calls, and a chaotic visit by singer Demi Lovato. “We had hundreds of hours of tape for the 44 minutes that aired,” Jasper says.
The pilot program didn’t exactly depict the true nature of being a Mall of America security officer, according to Jasper. “There were a couple of scenes that were trivial to viewers. The lost baby sock episode acted as if that’s a call they go on, so viewers didn’t connect with that.”
Jasper says the upcoming series will keep some of those light-hearted moments but also focus on officer training and more real-life situations such as shoplifting, fights, or inebriated people. “We are giving them all access,” he says. “But the Mall of America team will be with the camera crew.”
The Learning Channel contracts with September Films to produce Mall Cops: Mall of America and no employee receives any compensation for doing the show, Jasper said. “Other cable networks wanted a mall cop show, but TLC was a right fit.”
September Films is a British independent television, film, and production company with offices in London and Los Angeles. Mall of America Senior Media Strategist Julie Hansen pitched the Mall Cops concept to the firm Realscreen at their annual conference for producers of non-fiction television and Sheldon Lazarus from September Films answered the call. “It just felt right,” says Jasper.
While the popular movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop may have helped boost the television show, Jasper says, “the real security department is not like Blart. The series would have happened with or without Blart. We had proposals prior to the movie.”
Streit and his crew will get to know Mall security officers and pick six to eight main characters for the 12 episodes that viewers will develop relationships with. Not all officers feel comfortable acting in front of a camera and that is fine, Jasper says. “They might be filmed in the background.”
The Mall of America hopes Mall Cops will bring more sightseers to the state. “It’s great for the Mall of America, Bloomington, and Minnesota,” he says. “It’s a great way to promote tourism.”
Jasper said he sees the Mall of America becoming a location for other movie and television productions.