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The Machine in the Machine


Remember Lifetime? Sure you do, it’s right here. Would you believe that I don’t really consider this ‘intentionally crafted pander-shit’ to be a pressing television related issue? There’s something much worse out there… something that’s a subtle abuse of the intended audience rather than the ultimate placation. This thing is the near-total lack of new ideas. The former issue is a style choice, this one is just laziness. There are only so many formulas to go around, and creativity be damned, we shall not stray from the template. 

Today’s police/crime dramas are notoriously predictable, which is a problem when half the point is that element of surprise when the curtain is pulled back at the show’s end. We will begin watching something like The Mentalist or Castle, and 10 minutes in my dear, sweet wife will predict the last 10 minutes. More often than not she’s correct. Once all of the hour’s characters and settings have been presented, it’s apparently quite simple for the trained eye to determine who and what will happen where. 

Invented in 1439, Gutenberg’s printing press revolutionized the way people watch television.


Criminal Minds is an acceptable show. I’ve seen a few dozen of them, which is a high number for me, and I enjoy them. However, they start to bleed together after a while. Is this the one where the bad guy gets caught at the last possible moment before killing another hysterical kidnapped girl? Oh good, I like this one. Mix it up once in a while! The cheap fix is to put your main characters (or their poor innocent wife and child) in mortal peril, but this trick has become so overused that it’s more off putting than sticking to the standard formulas. 

Here’s my Criminal Minds pitch. I want total tragic failure. The show opens with some murderer doing what murderers do. Buying groceries and killing babies, I don’t know. Our genius hero team from the FBI is flown in to investigate. They immediately get on the trail, but make a simple yet crucial mistake early. Five minutes into the show and they have botched the case. It’s obvious to the audience that the investigation is already doomed, but the characters don’t know it. For the next hour, the FBI intently follows a chain of leads that take them in the wrong direction. The profile is way off the mark. They’re in the wrong state and suspecting the wrong people. Meanwhile, our murderer casually goes about his day of purchasing eggs, baking cakes, and kidnapping young asian boys to carve up in his basement. He never knows the FBI was called in. The authorities never come close to approaching him or his neighborhood. At the show’s end, the FBI’s trail finally dead ends. They can’t figure out why, and never uncover the original error. They fly home defeated and confused while the killer becomes bored of skinning people alive, gets an office job, marries a secretary, and settles into a normal family life. 

Some shows don’t even try. CSI NY featured one of the most horrible plot devices in the history of story telling. The forensics team has a glove in the lab. I don’t remember where it came from. Who cares? It’s a clue to the next scene of the show, that’s all. There are two distinct substances on this item of clothing. One substance seems like plaster. The other is a yellow stain. It is run through a magic stain analyzing machine which deduces that the mustard smelling splotch contains vinegar and mustard seed. “Those are the primary ingredients of yellow table mustard” an actress helpfully states. There is a dramatic pause while the next line is deeply pondered. An excitable individual responds, and I shit you not, “The old abandoned mustard warehouse!” Holy Christ! Deus ex mustard? Of course this is correct, since the only location in all of New York that could possibly contain both mustard and plaster is the old abandoned mustard warehouse. “The old abandoned mustard warehouse” is a punch line, CSI NY. You’re not allowed to be taken seriously anymore. 


I knew it!



Here’s how it should have happened:  Gary Sinise and the SWAT team return empty handed after a daylong operation to raid the old mustard warehouse comes up empty. Gary is suspended for two weeks without pay for wasting hundreds of man hours and tens of thousands of dollars on the absolute worst hunch ever. Closing credits. The end. Commercials. Next week on CSI NY, Gary Sinise browses through the classifieds and watches daytime television. Don’t miss it! 

Post Script courtesy of AmazingMattyP 

Have you ever watched an episode of CSI:  Miami?  Let’s suppose you can get past David Caruso’s choice to play lead character Horatio Cane as ‘creepy perverted uncle who won’t stop following you into empty rooms at the wedding to give you ‘advice’’.  Let’s also suppose you can ignore the decision to cast the support group with community-theater actors.  What you will never be able to get past is it’s editing, which, week-in and week-out, breaks down exactly to ‘1/3 typical cop show shots, 1/3 Duran Duran video from ’83, and 1/3 intentional seizure inducers’.  Not forgivable.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 2010/06/22 12:41 am

    Colonel Mustard, is no Private Ketchup.

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