Sunday, September 13, 2009

Detective Stories

Detective shows have taken over my life. NCIS, Monk, Psych, Law & Order SVU, CSI: Miami, Cold Case, I even got drawn into an episode of Las Vegas. It's no mystery what draws people to these shows. Or should I say it is precisely that, mystery. We revel in suspense, in puzzles and the unraveling of said puzzles. Brain exercises. Cures for boredom.

Monk and Psych follow in the vein of light hearted detective shows of yesterday like Matlock and Murder She Wrote. That is to say the tension is often cut by comedic relief, what I like to call salty and sweet. Simply satisfying.

NCIS and the CSI shows take on the serial structure of mystery suspense stories (Sherlock Holmes, Hill Street Blues) and increase the depth of character sub-plots. Taking things to the gritty extreme both shows have had members of their main cast murdered.

The Law & Order shows are stark and hard-boiled, especially in the drawn out character sub-plots.

Cold Case is pretty formulaic from what I've seen of it, much like the Dead Zone tv series of a few years ago; it generally consists of soundtrack laden flashback opening sequence, interviews of persons of interest, for which current-day and flashback actors are intercut between q&a sessions, and finally closing sequence montage set to music.

What I enjoy about these shows, and what others might get from them are most likely as different as snowflakes. Still I wanted to write a little about how tv shows function in our lives as allegories.

The increasing importance of forensics in today's era of detective shows is obvious, but what impact has it had on the viewers? I'm sure there may be a sudden influx of college bound students interested in criminology as a result, but what about the average joe and joanne, or people already invested in careers. Imagine you come home from a hard days work and settle down with your favorite detectives for half an hour or so of suspense, character drama and sometimes comedic jibs. Certainly makes your night enjoybable--but could it make your life more enjoyable? Just think of taking the light hearted jibs to work with you and discovering a spirit of camraderie with heretofore despised cowrkers. Add a healthy dose of analytical thinking and a sense of urgency and suddenly you seem to be performing better at work. And let us not overlook the insidious presence of seasonal pacing, events and holidays coinciding with ones in the real world. Tv shows keep us current, don't they?

Sorry for the essay. See you next Sunday.

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