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

I think Jack Webb would have made a good Batman. While he may not have Bruce Wayne's playboy good looks, he certainly describes the Dark Knight's lust for Justice. The two famous crime fighters have more in common than may at first be assumed. The facts:

 Joe FridayvsBatman

 

"The story you are about to see is true."

True

 

False

 

"Names have been changed to protect the innocent."

Victims of crime

 

Bruce who?

 

"This is the city."

LA

 

Gotham

 

"I have a badge."

Sergeant 714

 

Honorary Deputy

 

"My partner is..."

Gannon
et al

 

Robin
I - IV

Notably, Friday's solid detective work solved hundreds of crimes, all without portable crime labs, super-computers, or ninja training. And Joe Friday was as hard as stone. He wouldn't hesitate for a second before disarming perps of live hand grenades, scaling buildings to save suicidal jumpers, or launching into a gravel-voiced lecture to anyone (store owner, senile senior citizen, drug-addled child, disillusioned police officer) about their misunderstanding of the LAW.

The only thing missing from Dragnet? Giant props.

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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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