Tuesday 11 August 2009

There must be a bigger story, always.

Recently, in the drought that is summer for TV shows, I have caught up with some shows I missed out on when they were actually running. There is this idea of having a police procudural but adding a little big of greater mystery to prevent it from becoming a born CSI-knock-off. There are two basic ingredients: having quirky characters and giving them some kind of back-story that makes them, somehow, interesting and involved in a story that goes beyond the every-day police job (in addition, the cases themselves are never simple, but somehow odd and interesting). There is the case of the recently cancelled (after only 10 episodes) "The Unusuals", which featured an upper class New York city cop (Amber Tamblyn) who was "Untouchable" because of her family wealth, and interesting because she chose that career path despite all the money and elitist education. In "Life", the main character (Damian Lewis) has gotten a settlement after serving years in prison for murders he has not committed: a millionaire that despite his wealth, has decided to continue the work he had before. In "Castle", a new ABC-show that just got renewed for a second season, a wealthy and successful writer (Nathan Fillion) becomes the partner of a female cop with a complicated back story.
It's important for all these shows to have two people who have completely different takes on things working together. They have conflicts. The three examples above differ from "X-Files" (as the basic blueprint of all these scenarios) insofar as they pass on the easy opportunity to let the conflict lead to a romantic relationship.
The thing is: it seems like the realistic portrayal of any kind of job is out-of-date. In "Grey's Anatomy", most cases are about some medical obscurity (or miracles happen to people who have an almost-zero chance of survival). In "CSI", the forensics department doesn't just analylize scenes of crimes, but also hunts down suspects. Usually, when people turn on TVs to see anything but reality, it means that their reality is pretty boring or too exhausting. On the other hand, reality tv now is not about portrayal of how "the other half lives", but turning shows into deus ex machinas for desperate people that somehow provide the hopes for a new start, a clean slate (by providing an education, or a new home, or finally the ability to cook well).
I wonder what that says about the current state of things.

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