Saturday, November 24, 2007


Law & Repetitive Disorder

Josh Marshall takes note of the continued dropping murder rate in New York City. It is on track to be fewer than 500 for the entire year -- and a small fraction of those are random, "stranger"-connected incidents.

Josh, however, points out how different the reality of New York City is from its televised counterparts:

As an aside, I think this gives more credence to a suspicion I've had since the late '90s: that the current low murder rates in this country -- particularly in New York City -- probably make the whole concept of the TV police procedural unrealistic. Can the two detectives at Law & Order really have one murder case to solve once a week? And all three series? Or what about the old NYPD Blue? The structure of the show was based on murders right and left for just the single precinct.
Josh could actually replace NYPD Blue with CSI:NY as the latest in the "NYC-murder-a-minute" category.

It's not just "unrealistic" -- it's increasingly unoriginal. Should anyone care if the Hollywood writers return to any television shows? Creativity has hardly been their strong suit on the small screen this year: An interesting un-interesting pattern has developed. Let's just say that there seems a certain level of redundancy in plot lines. Or one could say that there is a lack of originality in crime drama. Or that the shows are repeating themselves.

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, CSI:NY and Numbers (an FBI procedural set in Los Angeles) have all had episodes this year set in cyberspace where one of the characaters adopts an avatar to track down a murderer.

Shark (unprincipled L.A. prosecutor), SVU and Without A Trace (FBI missing persons unit in New York) have all had episodes set in the world of ultimate fighting.

CSI:Miami and CSI:NY both had Halloween episodes centered around the plot of "weird occurrences hamper investigators as they track a serial killer/mass murderer." (Perhaps the shared DNA of these two shows is causing them to become virtual clones: In another recent week, each show's episode centered on the death of a model in the middle of a shoot/promotion.)

Time Warner cable's TV guide preview also tells us that this coming week's "Miami" and "SVU" center around the death of a wealthy family's nanny.

This trend extends beyond the procedurals. Witness the "nerd-fest" that exploded this year.

Chuck -- affable geek working in an ersatz Best Buy ends up becoming reluctant undercover agent foiling bad guys for the NSA vs. Reaper -- affable geek working in an ersatz Home Depot ends up becoming reluctant underworld agent tracking runaway demons for the devil (the devil, the U.S. government -- same diff, right?) Both shows have the hormone-overwhelmed sidekicks who manage to accidentally mess up the hero's mission -- while the good guy's heart gets broken because of the pressures of the job.

Sad as it may be to consider, is it actually possible that the reality shows might be showing a bit more creativity in TV land? Again, if the writers never came back, would they really be missed?

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