Showing 1 - 2 of 2 posts found matching keyword: crime

Earlier this week, three years to the day since I ran a blog post substituting him as the comic book hero Sub-Mariner, Alex Trebek injured both of his legs -- including a torn Achilles tendon -- while running down a burgler. Coincidence? (It was also 5 days after his 71st birthday.)

There are two ways to approach this story. Either heroic Alex Trebek was foiled during his valiant attempt to apprehend a crafty purloiner, or septuagenarian Alex Trebek was injured during a bungled try at catching a petty crook. I'm pretty sure you know where I stand on this issue.

Trebek is Ukranian for 'One Who is Better Than You'

I pity the poor contestants in next year's Jeopardy! episodes. "Oh, you ran a marathon? Well, I was in a footrace last year to catch criminals." "Bone marrow transplant, you say? During the surgery to repair my torn ACL, I distracted myself from the pain by giving the surgeon French elocution lessons." "You solved the national debt crisis? When I was in court for burglery, not only was I the expert witness, I was also the arresting officer, bailiff, and court stenographer."

That burgler must not have know from whom she was stealing. Alex Trebek is a national treasure.

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I was complaining the other day about the preponderance of Crime Investigation shows on television. It seems that every other primetime TV show is about how to solve a crime or how to get into the mind of a killer. CSI (pick a city), Law and Order (pick a subject), Criminal Minds, Navy NCIS, Bones, Numb3rs, Without a Trace... Clearly, America really craves this sort of show.

Despite my irritation, the "police drama" is nothing new to television. Dragnet is the grandfather of the genre on TV and deserves its accolades. However, Jack Webb was obsessed with realism and truth at the expense of entertainment value. Webb's Dragnet has more in common with today's "reality television" Cops than with any of the shows that I listed above.

Today's police dramas are more T. J. Hooker than Joe Friday. They play fast and loose with technology and procedure in order to craft a more dramatic storyline. Computers can run DNA tests in just under an hour, digital images can be focused to provide a crystal clear magnification, and putting yourself in the figurative shoes of a deranged killer, while stressful, always achieves a tidy solution. (So, turning our police into a group of coordinated, sadistic serial killers is a good thing, then?)

Granted, television is now and always has been about formula. People watch TV to relax and be entertained. Television shows with successful formulas are always predictable and therefore lucrative. (In time, even the innovative, creative shows like Hill Street Blues or NYPD Blue, both very similar to begin with, probably because they had the same creators, develop predictable plot patterns.) And police cases are very formulaic by nature: a crime is committed, the police investigate, suspects are identified then culled, and the guilty party is finally determined based on evidence gathered. Anyone who can't turn that process into an hour long drama doesn't even need to be writing for USA Today.

My concern is not so much with the fact that modern TV has turned to so many make believe crime dramas. (TV has always been rife with fantasy police detectives on shows ranging from Burke's Law to Miami Vice.) What bothers me is that there are now so many of them on the air at once. Every night of the week there are hours of television devoted purely to police stories. In recent years, a police drama -- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation -- has ranked in Nielson as the #1 rated show of the year, something that a police drama has never done before in television history. Why does America suddenly want to see so much crime get solved? Is this another, prolonged reaction to 9/11? If we can't win the war in Iraq, at least we get to see some schlub go to jail on TV based on pubic hair evidence? >Ick.< Or is it something closer to home? As a generation grows up addicted to the internet and traditional socital mores are failing to take root in an impersonal environment, could our neighbors in fact be the very beasts that we see on the evening news raping our children and killing our grandparents? Quick, everyone, grab a pirchfork and bolt your doors! Save us, TV!

America, I propose a change. If it's escapism that you want, I say it is escapism that you should get. Let's abandon all of this pretend crime and turn back to the absurdist fiction of Fantasy Island of The Gong Show. Wait, I see that you're ahead of me. Thank you, television, for giving us Lost and American Idol (which actually suplanted CSI as the number one rated show last year). Now we can forget about all that crime and turn back to the things that are really important: celebrity couples.

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To be continued...

 

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