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CSI, Law and Order, Without a Trace, etc, etc, etc, etc...

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The other night, I sat feeling humiliated that I had been hooked by yet another episode of Law and Order: SVU.

It could have been CSI, Without a Trace, or any of the other cop procedurals.

If I didn't watch the first five minutes, I would have been fine and felt better about myself.

But those five minutes hooked me, and I couldn't muster the willpower to turn it off. Man, I could have been reading.

I've heard different ideas about why these shows are so prevalent and popular, but I'm still not sure I'm satisfied.

Is it that, in a chaotic day when we feel like things haven't gone our way, it just feels good to watch someone get justice?

Is it the same thing that draws people to watch Jerry Springer: the need to look at some kind of person who's more screwed up than us, so we can feel superior (even if we have to look at the lowest of lowlives in order to achieve that?)

Is it a fascination with the sordid and the grisly? Or the assurance that those who commit such crimes won't get away with them?

Or is it something more redeeming that draws viewers: strong performances from some of the best actors on television; smart scripts; stylish editing... ?

These shows take their good versus evil stories so seriously, and yet, when I walk away I feel like I've eaten a cheap hamburger... that there's nothing there of lasting significance. In the morning, I've forgotten all about it and a few nights later, I stumble into another one and can't break free.

Does anybody here have any thoughts about what's really appealing to people with these shows? What is it that we need that we think it will satisfy?

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Or is it something more redeeming that draws viewers: strong performances from some of the best actors on television; smart scripts; stylish editing... ?

That's #1.

#2: My brain wants to figure it out.

#3: My brain almost always figures it out--which is why I watch it, because it makes up for all the &^%$ second guessing I do while watching Lost.

Edited by Jason Bortz

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You actually try to figure out the guilty party? See, that

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That

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Law & Order: SVU & CSI: Vegas are really the only two I bother with when they

Edited by Jason Bortz

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I'm with Alan. Law & Order (I've only ever been into the original permutation) is so different from CSI. CSI is too much for me, and I have to leave the room when my hub wants to watch it. I can still watch and rewatch and rewatch again the Law & Order reruns on TNT - Bricoe & Green, Briscoe & Curtis, Bricoe & Logan...as long as Jerry Orbach is in it, I'm there. I love the detective footwork in the first half, but what always makes it morally interesting is watching how Sam Waterston's character (love Waterston...love him) loves the law so much that his quest to exact justice sometimes overrides what truly seems right and fair, and his female assistants are always there, providing a different voice, challenging him and questioning him in interesting ways.

Without a Trace is a good show, for me, in a different way. I like the idea of rescue, that this team of FBI people (no matter unrealistic it all may be) can rescue almost anyone from almost any situation. Meanwhile, several of the FBI characters are desperately in need of rescue themselves. (Same reason I love the show House...Dr. House can fix anything, anyone, except for himself. Between that and his other characteristics, he is pretty much the human condition, embodied).

Edited to add: With L&O, I also like the "ripped from the headlines" aspect. You can hear about something in the news, and shortly thereafter the event is interpreted on L&O in some interesting way.

Edited by Sara Zarr

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You're just saying that becuase you got a free t-shirt...

Which arrived today - thank you!

..

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I'm a Robbery Homicide investigator and my wife is a victim advocate at our DA's Office so I couldn't resist posting my 2 cents here. Most of these shows are absolutely ridiculous. I can't even watch CSI anymore. The last one I watched was the Tarantino directed season finale. The last straw for me was an episode about a year ago about a wife who was killed by a stray bullet. The estranged husband was abusive, had a domestic dispute with her, had a protective order against him, and had recently been practice firing with a handgun in the backyard. So you'd think he did it right? Well, no it was just the wind! They actually showed hurricaine force winds picking up the bullet from the backyard and launching the bullet through the window and into the victim, killing her. That was a one of the few times in my life I actually yelled and talked back to the TV. I could not believe this was being put out there. I know it's fiction and all but the problem is that people actually believe things like that are realistic. There will be a murder trial some day with a juror who saw that episode and won't want to believe in a solid case because the prosecution did not prove that the wind didn't fire the bullet instead of the defendant. My wife tells me the prosecutors actually have to ask the prospective jurors if they watch shows like CSI and whether they think they're realistic or not.

Anyway, now that I'm done ranting ... I loved Homicide: Life on the Streets. The writing was always interesting and Pembleton (Andre Brauer) was the man. How many other conflicted Jesuit detectives have there ever been? Other than his lack of empathy, he was the type of investigator I wanted to be. That was the first cop show I remember that did not solve every case in one episode. Some cases never got solved. Unfortunately, I've learned how realistic that actually is. The first few episodes of Cold Case were interesting. I'm a sucker for period music that continues to play over the scenes. The Law and Orders are starting to run together but so far Conviction has been interesting. Don't really care for the usual cliche', office sex story lines (Let's be honest, it's never really even about "romance" anymore.). Also, the goatee'd Red Bull drinking Backstreet Boy prosecutor really annoys me. Jason, your Criminal Intent riff was perfect by the way.

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Seems as good a place as any for this.

Stepping back in time a bit, we've just started watching the 1st season of Hill Street Blues, which I rank among the best tv shows ever. I didn't pick up watching it for a year or two, and my wife never got into it, but she's hooked now after 1 dvd. Maybe what I liked about it was that there is really so little police action involved. It's the personal story. It is certainly the direct opposite of the Jack Webb shows in which the cops had no life apart from being cops.

What gives CSI and the rest any real value isn't so much the science or investigation as much as the personal lives of the people. CSI is letting this slip away.

Law & Order, on the other hand I think is good because we don't really know about the cops, and just see them working to get what will be needed in court. They may well "solve" the crime early, but to get the DA to take it the rest of the way, there needs to be more.

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Anyone notice that there's been a spate of voodoo themed episodes on crime shows in the last week? I've seen three so far: Bones, A&O: Criminal Intent, and Crossing Jordan.

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Anyone notice that there's been a spate of voodoo themed episodes on crime shows in the last week? I've seen three so far: Bones, A&O: Criminal Intent, and Crossing Jordan.

Saw the teasers tonight during West Wing and made the same observation to my wife about the back to back shows, Criminal Intent and Crossing Jordan. We stood pat with the usual Sopranos and Big Love which, oddly, are becoming subtly similar in some ways.

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For those of you who love, love to hate, or hate to love CSI Miami - this is good fun:

(See David Caruso say about 100 lines the exact same way.)

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There will be a murder trial some day with a juror who saw that episode and won't want to believe in a solid case because the prosecution did not prove that the wind didn't fire the bullet instead of the defendant.

I was the foreman of a jury like that.

OK, it was an auto theft case: the charge was 2nd-degree possession of stolen property. The police had a dog track from the driver's seat straight to the dumpster where they found the perp hiding. That wasn't good enough for some of the jurors, who wondered why the fuzz didn't dust for fingerprints or gather hairs and sloughed-off epithelial cells for DNA analysis.

And Jeffrey: Have a kid. You'll realize that it's not responsible to expose your child to TV violence, so you'll stop watching CSI all the time. Worked for us.

Edited by mrmando

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I was the foreman of a jury like that.

OK, it was an auto theft case: the charge was 2nd-degree possession of stolen property. The police had a dog track from the driver's seat straight to the dumpster where they found the perp hiding. That wasn't good enough for some of the jurors, who wondered why the fuzz didn't dust for fingerprints or gather hairs and sloughed-off epithelial cells for DNA analysis.

Reminds me of some of the many juries I've sat on. How did it turn out?

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Eventually we voted to convict; there was one lady on the panel for whom the matter seemed to be a real crisis, but she finally acquiesced. I guess I was a little annoyed that the cops didn't collect any prints, but I thought the evidence met the reasonable-doubt standard anyway. We examined what doubts we could muster up and they didn't seem reasonable.

I think I heard the other day that you have to steal 7 cars in Washington before you get any jail time. It's not a crime that is given much priority.

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Did anyone see last week's episode of Law & Order, that created a fictional Christian pastor to create an equivalence between Muslim terrorists and Christian extremists? What an awful episode.

Here's a TownHall column about it. Sean Astin played the lunatic pastor. It was a travesty of a show.

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Oh, there have been some really awful religious characters on these shows of late. An episode of "Numb3rs" concerned a guy who was abducting people whose names matched Jesus' apostles and then killing them in the same manner the apostles were killed. A "CSI" episode featured a pastor performing exorcisms and videotaping them; the subject of one exorcism subsequently kills her parents; the pastor's solution is to find her and throw her off a balcony. And there's an infamous "Cold Case" episode about a high-school abstinence club who aren't as abstinent as they might appear ... and when their newest member discovers their secrets, they lure her out to the woods and stone her to death. Yech.

Almost as bad is these shows' treatment of foster parents -- invariably they're portrayed as abusive, inattentive moneygrubbers. There's a CSI subplot involving some foster parent whose kids all grow up to be serial killers or something. If you ever catch a positive portrayal of a foster parent on TV, let me know.

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I like CSI Las Vegas, it is so interesting who they slove the crimes.

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Did anyone see last week's episode of Law & Order, that created a fictional Christian pastor to create an equivalence between Muslim terrorists and Christian extremists? What an awful episode.

Yes, because there are no Christian terrorist organizations. Unless the show was arguing that the crazy pastor was interpreting the Bible correctly? It not really that big of a deal. Christian extremists can easily be just as dangerous as any other kind of extremist.

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And Brundle-fly joins Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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Did anyone see last week's episode of Law & Order, that created a fictional Christian pastor to create an equivalence between Muslim terrorists and Christian extremists? What an awful episode.

Here's a TownHall column about it. Sean Astin played the lunatic pastor. It was a travesty of a show.

Yeah, I saw that. Remember, like Patrick Buchanan said, "Christian-bashing is a popular indoor sport."

Deep in their hearts, these powers-that-be know that Christians won't threaten to decapitate/immolate them if their faith is threatened. If these producers truly had any intestinal fortitude, they should portray Islam in a completely negative light...the death threats from groups sympathetic to Al Qaeda and Hamas (etc.) would roll in.

Did anyone see last week's episode of Law & Order, that created a fictional Christian pastor to create an equivalence between Muslim terrorists and Christian extremists? What an awful episode.

Yes, because there are no Christian terrorist organizations. Unless the show was arguing that the crazy pastor was interpreting the Bible correctly? It not really that big of a deal. Christian extremists can easily be just as dangerous as any other kind of extremist.

This is a stretch, and a cheap shot by the Law & Order peeps IMO. It's PC to bash Christians, and not acceptable to bash (especially post 9/11) the more fundy wing of Islamic violence, whose deeds have been off the chart since then. :rolleyes:

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Deep in their hearts, these powers-that-be know that Christians won't threaten to decapitate/immolate them if their faith is threatened. If these producers truly had any intestinal fortitude, they should portray Islam in a completely negative light...the death threats from groups sympathetic to Al Qaeda and Hamas (etc.) would roll in.

If they had intestinal fortitude, they should strive for realistic, balanced portrayals of both Islam and Christianity. By and large, that doesn't seem to be happening yet.

NCIS has its share of head-scratching portrayals of Muslims. In one episode, a U.S.-based Pakistani nonprofit comes under suspicion for being a front for terrorists ... but it turns out the guy responsible is an old IRA terrorist disguised as a Pakistani. So we have to accept not only the idea that the "bad Muslim" is really an Irish Catholic, but also the idea that the Pakistani "good Muslims" working alongside him are too dumb to notice. How many Irishmen do you know whose Urdu is good enough to fool a native speaker?

Yet NCIS does have a couple of other episodes where the bad guys are indeed Muslim terrorists ... so there is at least something of a quest for balance.

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So, NCIS now has its first spinoff - NCIS Los Angeles. I watched this the other night, mainly because of the casting of Linda Hunt. When she entered her first scene, I could not help but think of a Pixar character. I guess I wasn't the only one.

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That's hilarious. Let's just hope the L.A. team doesn't acquire a Mossad liaison whose employment status becomes so convoluted that half the dialogue in every episode is devoted to it.

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