Posts Tagged With: cop shows

Intelligence – Is Lacking (a review with spoilers… PLEASE READ THE SPOILERS SO YOU DON’T FEEL OBLIGATED TO WATCH IT!)


Well that was an easy title wasn’t it? Pretty much says it all right there. Peace out Blog readers! *drops mic*

But seriously. I watched this epic piece of garbage last night in my ongoing quest to watch crap TV shows so you don’t have to and let me tell you… it’s a doozy. Let’s start with the basics, shall we? Bear with me. This might take a while…

Intelligence is about a guy who ends up being a high value intelligence operative because someone put a computer chip in his head that allows him to access all sorts of top-secret classified stuff. Sound familiar? Yeah… it did to me too…



But where Chuck set up its characters right off the bat and had their flaws built-in from the get go Intelligence shows the lie to its name by dropping cookie cutter perfection into the plot. Josh Holloway’s Gabriel doesn’t JUST have a computer in his head. He is a Tier One Former Delta Force operator. And he looks like he just stepped out of an underwear ad. Oh and he’s snarky. What’s his starting character flaw? Something happened to his WIFE! GASP! zzzzzzzzz…. but otherwise the only thing missing about this guy is an animated sparkle to his teeth.

Then we have Megan Ory as Riley Neal. Easy on the eyes. WAY TOO EASY ON THE EYES. Yvonne Strahovsky in Chuck provided the cute… nay beautiful… fantasy to the charming fable whereas Megan is apparently here to be the butt of Gabriel’s dismally ineffective wit. And what sort of a name is Riley Neal anyway? Which committee of power suits concocted that? Where is the percentile table they rolled it up on? I mean COME ON. Who would come up with something like that? It’s tailor built for Megan’s tough, pretty demeanor. It’s like they had the name and poured Megan Ory into it and golly gee willickers, focus group, she fits! Ostensibly her ‘role’ in this travesty of drama is to protect Gabriel because she is a Secret Service agent Specially Trained For Protecting People and SHE has been selected because of her capacity of dealing with ‘difficult’ people. Oh and she’s amazing at her job too… so amazing that she was stabbed four times while protecting the president’s kids and STILL got them to ballet practice on time (an actual line – i’m not kidding). Because apparently she had to do it entirely herself as the Secret Service couldn’t afford back-up that day. Budget cuts you know. Damn that sequester.

In spite of that Ory is the most watchable part of the show. The kid’s got something. I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is something about her that’s waiting in this character. It’s like she believes that this dog of a plot could get better if they threw out the idiot bums who were bong hitting while writing it and is just waiting for that to happen. On the down side though, in terms of last nights ‘plot’ they completely blew it in spectacularly stupid fashion. Not only does she fail to protect her target but ends up being ‘saved’ by him not once, not twice, but THREE FREAKING TIMES during the course of one hour long episode. Way to go Secret Service! Way to go writing team for not just dipping your toe in the waters of feminine stereotypes but jumping in with both feet, wallowing, swimming in it and then drinking the whole pool of it like it was an oasis in the desert.

Finally there is Marg Helgenberger as Lillian Strand. Lillian is essentially the same character Marg played on CSI so… yeah. Just go watch that show. It’s better than this one and she’s better in it. Which should tell you all you need to know if you’ve read my thoughts on the cretinously godawful CSI.

Next let’s go to the plot… Lets not. Someone kidnaps someone…. there are bad guys… they want the chip… you’ve seen it done better on Chuck. Let’s just skip to the end in which the bad guys are predictably vanquished. (with the help of a Chinese Intelligence asset standing in for the Deus Ex Machina in the episode)

So the bad guys are vanquished. Riley Neal karate chops the traitor in their midst in the throat and he goes unconscious. They capture the renegade Chinese agent that kidnapped the scientist. They are all in the same building at this time. They exchange bad Chinese renegade guy to swap for information on Gabriel’s wife (gasp! Snooze) and then we see the evil traitor guy shifting on the couch as the Chinese gal they implanted with a NEW chip wakes up… They are apparently NOT captured…. even though they were in the same building at the time and the last scene we saw them in they were both unconscious. Seriously writers? I mean come on. Honestly… My cats can write better than that. Did you not have this read by your friends? Did you fire your continuity editor due to budget cuts? (damned sequester) or did you rush this crap project to the green light so that you didn’t miss out on the big pile of cash you had coming? No one i know would have made this kind of mistake. NO ONE! People i know who don’t even WRITE wouldn’t make this kind of mistake. People i know who don’t even READ wouldn’t make this mistake.

All in all Intelligence is one of the most hackneyed, simplistic, idiotic, stumbling, shitty endeavors produced for the small screen since last years Golden Boy (you can read my review of that hunk of frozen dog shit here) Don’t bother. Tell your friends not to bother. Write to the studios to tell them to send the writers back to grade school so they can learn the basic fundamentals of plot continuity. Tell them it is not okay to hire twelve year olds to write produced scripts. Tell them it isn’t okay to rush something into production so they don’t miss out on the stack of cash. Tell them… just tell them… in a universe in which they are competing with Game of Thrones, Justified and any number of professionally written shows this just smacks of disgusting laziness.

Here’s the Executive Producer: Michael Seitzman

And the show is on CBS on mondays if you really want to torture your eyeballs and your writing soul. I don’t recommend it. In fact…. kill it with fire. Purge it from the memory. Or read a book.




Categories: Mystery, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Longmire – The Cold Dish

ar124708363646529I know. I’ve already talked about this on an earlier Blog. But I’m getting close to finishing it and I honestly can’t wait to download or even buy the next one. First, let me let you in on a little secret: I’m not a downloadable books fan. Don’t all gasp at once. I know I publish on digital and all that but really, my big signal of ultimate triumph will be when I stop into the local bookstore (if there are such things in the future) and am able to pick up a copy of my own book. I’ve resigned myself to downloading because my bookshelves just can’t take anymore. I don’t have many bookshelves to begin with, and the ones I do have hate me. Thus, every once in a while I download a book rather than buying it.

That is, unless it’s something I really like.

The Cold Dish is one of those I wish I’d bought from the book store.

You might have seen the show. It’s a terrific show, really. The plot and the stories are something, the scenery is amazing, but the acting is terrific. You might have read the blog post I put up a while ago that had something to do with acting. I don’t want to rehash it. But basically you know when an actor has really slipped into the skin of someone else. You can see it. They know how to blink in character. Longmire is one of those shows where you really feel like they know their business and I’m hooked.

But that doesn’t tell you much about the book. The book is a different critter altogether. It’s the rare gift of a mystery/thriller that is as pretty to read as it is compelling. It’s exactly the sort of thing I’ve been searching for with the sort of scintillating paragraphs and sentences that make you believe that Genre can be art. Too often we resign ourselves to the mediocre and fun. Don’t get me wrong. It is fun. But it’s also very well written and delivered with the sort of attention to detail that makes me sing with envy. Craig Johnson knows his subject and just the right (write?) english to put on it to make it sound practically perfect:

He had opened the passenger-side door, and i was looking through the holes in the floorboards at the melting snow. Part of the dashboard was turquoise, part of it was white, and the large mic of an antiquated citizens’ band radio was bolted to the front edge over the shift lever. There was a shifter; a transfer-case lever; a worn, white steering wheel; and an unending number of chrome handles and knobs guaranteed to dislocate, jab, or stove anything that might come in contact. Most of the windows were cracked, and there were no seat belts. At the top of the antenna, even though there was no radio, perched a little, dirty-white Styrofoam ball that read CAPTAIN AMERICA. “It’s gonna break down.”

“It is not going to break down. Get in, I am getting cold.”

His breath was clouding inside of the glass, and i looked down at the heater box, which was taped together with duct tape. “As i recall, the heater in this thing, among other things, doesn’t work.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever read a more gorgeous description of a truck on its last legs in my life. It’s the sort of thing that I take as a personal challenge and I love it. From a strictly writing perspective, it’s like slipping on an old, well-oiled, baseball glove and finding it still fits at the exact moment someone drops a battered baseball into it. See? It’s intoxicating. It makes you want to write, and write better. And that’s nothing compared to the description of the Cheyenne Haunted Death Gun: A Sharps rifle from a hundred years ago that is haunted and reappears a number of times throughout the book in just beautiful ways.


You can sit there on the sofa and watch Longmire – and I recommend you do – or you can read the poetry of it. For me, the words are every bit as beautiful as the mythical landscape they inhabit; particularly considering the show is actually filmed in New Mexico and not Wyoming.

Johnson’s characters are vivid and expertly wrought. Again, I just stagger at the skill in creating these beasts, men, indians, italian smart mouthed Philadelphia cops. I curse him for writing them so well. I study the pages. I soak it in like good poetry or the crisp warm air of the Montana fly stream I once fished on. Yeah. That’s right, Johnson. I curse you. I shake my fist. You bastard. You’ve got me hooked.

The literary Longmire is a much more wry, self-deprecating character than the tough old sod you see on the show and it’s better for it. Robert Taylor does a terrific job on the show – it’s in the eyes; the way they aren’t always certain, the way they try – and sometimes fail – at looking like the strong hardened law man. It’s his way at reaching through the script to the soft, somewhat floundering Longmire of the novel and I appreciate it. But I have to admit I love the interior thoughts of the literary character, dubious, skeptical, funny, and capable in spite of himself. He’s a modern western law man and Craig Johnson doesn’t skimp on the thing that I find irresistible in a Mystery: humor. If you’ve read any of the Meg stories you know I can’t really live without it and find it sorely lacking in way too much of it.

Katee Sackhoff (who I confess I loved as Starbuck in BSG) is a true gem here. I’ve got to say, in spite of the radical change in hair color – she nails Vic Moretti. Somehow, though, because her character is a little more in the background of this novel she makes even more of an impact. I could go on and on. I should stop somewhere. I don’t want to. I want to buy a copy of this book for every brave soul who’s weathered the storms of the blogosphere and made it this far. But I can’t. Cuz I’m poor. Buy more copies of my Meg series and maybe I’ll give out a free copy of Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish.

That’s it in a nutshell. Go read this book. Do what I did – pour yourself through the entire first season on Netflix and then read this book. Read it. Now. And then – when you’re all done – drive out west to the Beartooth mountains to a little place named Cameron, Montana. There you will find a bar. Leave five dollars on the bar and tell them i owe them. Head one more mile west, hang a Left and take the road till you get to the Lee Metcalf wilderness area. Head up the creek and don’t get eaten by a bear. Read the next book in the series there.

Categories: Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Strange Case of the Author on the TV. – Baldacci and Johnson go to the small screen.

Hey, all. Sorry I biffed last thursday. You know how it is. Or maybe you don’t. I think I got home from work, parked my butt on the couch in front of the thursday crime shows – whatever they were – and shoved down that weird sensation that there was something else I was supposed to be doing. It wasn’t until friday that I figured it out. See? That’s what happens when you get out of practice. You get slow and stupid.

Before we get to the writing portion of things let’s do the usual roundup. Two little things: I just checked out King and Maxwell on TNT. Little did I know when I started it that it was from the mind of David Baldacci. I’ve read very little of Baldacci. Two books, I think, though I couldn’t tell you what they are. I’m pretty sure I used to heap scorn on them but I’ve had it on very reliable authority that they are a lot of fun. I have to admit I saw some promise for King and Maxwell so long as the viewer is keen on throwing the reality out with the bathwater, kicking back and enjoying a little intrigue and thriller with their standard crime tropes. The characters could use a little development, in my opinion. So far they’re a little underwelming. Maxwell takes a boat to work. King is a bit of a slob. That’s about as much as you get of them, which says to me that the actors and possibly the writers haven’t really committed to the idea of this whole thing working at all.

Honestly I think that is – or was – my critique of Baldacci too. They might be fun but they are a little thin. But then again, there’s that reliable authority too that’s picking at me to give it another chance and I think I may just do it. We’ll see how well it shakes out. I’m good with fun, until some genius decides they can take it a level further and try to make something respectable out of it which usually doesn’t work so well. But hey. I’ll cut them some slack because the show JUST started.

That said, Longmire on A&E based on the books of Craig Johnson. Now that one you should be checking out. I just started reading the first of the Longmire novels after soaking myself neck-deep in the first season (yeah – it was my first binge watch! Yay me!) So far the book is VERY different from the series but i have to admit I like them both a lot. Johnson has a style all his own with brilliant paragraphs, terrifically descriptive sentences that sing and fully realized characters that jump off the page. (I think I’m on Chapter 2) These are the sort of mysteries that are a true pleasure to read. It engages the language. That’s one of the things I LOVE about the mystery genre: finding authors who have a unique voice that don’t skimp on the details in favor of the zippy blood and guts whodunit.

I don’t want to gush too much because i just started but I’m going to jump forward and give the recommendation now. It’s good.

The TV series, like I said, is different but it has its own language too and very well-developed characters with a cast well suited to them. Not to mention it’s awful pretty to look at. Walt Longmire’s battle worn hat and coat, Ferg’s irrepressible earnestness, Henry’s sardonic wisdom – it’s all present and well wrought though not even close to being a reproduction of the stories.

The episodes ain’t bad either. They cram a lot of pretty fine sleuthing into an hour with a fairly well trodden plot arc covering it all that still somehow seems fresh. Even though it isn’t.

In the meantime, I’m still busy working too hard on my own little mysteries – Meg Brown #6 (obviously not the final title) is… well… growing. I’m still typing in the second draft. No idea really on when it will be ready. I’m shooting for release later this year yet, but hopefully not too much later. You can, of course, find the others on Amazon. Here.

I’ve also been a little obsessed with my new (but still old) procedural experiment. So I’ve been plinking away at that one too. Giving it a day a week while I’m still cranking out the Meg pages.

Here’s the thing, though: I need a writers conference. If anyone out there is actually checking in with this regularly and you have some suggestions on writing conferences – particularly ones dealing with mystery writing – I’d be happy to hear about it. Please let me know.

And while we’re at it and asking questions and such: what sort of thing would you like this blog to focus on? I’m really open to suggestions. Anything you can think of from a mystery writing perspective, Crime TV Criticism, writing in general, whatever. Let me know. Usually I get to thursday and I’m scratching my head at what I’m going to write about. I’d much rather start planning next weeks excursion as soon as this weeks is done. Just let me know.

Anyway. If you are into writing mysteries yourself and have been here once or twice you know I’m a huge fan of Derek Pacifico’s Writer’s Homicide School that I attended in LA last year so I have a few plugs to mention on that. It seems he just wrapped up another one in LA (I was not in attendance unfortunately) but there’s another one in Seattle August 17-18, Vegas in September 21-22, and Atlanta in October 19-20. If you’re interested in getting the real goods from a real cop, you need to attend and you should go straight to the website and take advantage of the early registration. Pacifico is a terrific instructor and it really is a terrific course that can help the sleuthing writer write better or at least avoid a few of the major mistakes we all find so damned annoying when we see them on TV for the billionth time.

Well that’s all I’ve got today. I know it’s not really earth-shattering. I swear I will have something actually PLANNED for next time. Seriously. Especially if y’all help out and add your two cents.

Categories: Mystery, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Umm… Yeah. I got nothin.

So i was trying to come up with an amazingly clever title for tonight’s blog post and that’s what I came up with. Brilliant, don’t you think? Me neither. Titling things has never been my strong suit. In fact, as far as suits go, more than a few moths have nibbled the hell out of it.

So how am I doing? Oh wonderful. Just peachy. Discovered what may be a gluten intolerance. Yay me. Which means I’m exceptionally paranoid about everything I eat now. That’s always lovely. But I can work it into the writing of course. Now I know what those old Kings must have felt like when they stared out at their amazing banquet and thought “Oh dear god, it’s all POISON!!!” So many things can come out of that sort of thing: I can be the crazy middle-aged man squinting at the labels and reading everything. I can be the cat lady rifling through the produce section, carefully prodding each and every fresh vegetable like it’s a suspect in her kidney disease. Oh so many things. If only I could get over the anxiety of something dramatically WRONG going on in my body.

But that’s not why you’re here are you? You’re waiting for the few pearls of wisdom. Heh. Like I said. I got nothin. I haven’t even been working on my own stuff as much as I’d like because the gluten thing apparently messes with your head. Bet you didn’t know that did you? Oh yeah. You get all foggy headed like you’re hungover or still drunk – but not in a good way. So you look at a draft and have to read it three or four times. And then when you try to type something it all comes out terrible.

So in lieu of my usual writerly advice I have a few of my other things:

Killing Floor by Lee Child. The first of the Jack Reacher series. I saw the movie recently and though it wasn’t STRICTLY mystery it did have that nice aspect to it. They don’t generally make Mystery movies much any more. But this really had the whodunit vibe to it which I liked. So I gave the book a shot. There’s something I like about Child’s writing. I can’t quite put my finger on it. He’s a professional. Economy of line, terse but vivid descriptions, it all works very well in the sort of gruff, fast and loose mystery/thriller style he works in. That said, Reacher isn’t exactly the savviest or most observant detective I’ve ever read. I don’t want to get into it too much for those who are going to read it but lets just say he misses a few very big things that I don’t think he should have missed.

As far as characters go, Reacher is a lot of fun – if not entirely unique. I really enjoyed it and was reading it at a breakneck pace for me, but Reacher was a little vanilla. Blues aficionado, womanizing, meh. Been there, read that. And yet it’s STILL a lot of fun. I highly recommend it. If you like a nice tight, action packed mystery thriller I don’t think you could do much better. But be aware that it does have a few glaring flaws: the sort of thing that will have you yelling at the book much like I tend to yell at my television screen.

On to the next thing: Motive – What is it about other countries that can do cop shows better than we can? I call it the Beatles effect. America synthesizes country and rockabilly and blues and jazz and makes rock and roll. Rock and roll flies across the pond where the Beatles and the Stones throw a few more interesting ingredients in and then ship it back over as something brand new and totally irresistible. The Beatles Effect. Which is why we have the Stieg Larssons, the Tana French’s, etc. What does this have to do with the new show Motive? Well… The characters aren’t the dour type for starters. They appear to actually investigate rather than blunder their way into a conviction. You can actually WATCH them make conclusions based on evidence and it didn’t come from a fancy computer. Is it perfect? Heh. Not by a long shot. But it’s better than we’ve been getting lately.

Truth be told I was flipping channels at the time so I didn’t get to watch the whole thing but I was impressed. Not over the moon, but impressed. Sometimes I think we cling to the tried and true a little bit too much around here. Sure there are different things happening – that’s pretty much why I got into this mystery stuff to begin with – but most of the time we plot out similar mysteries with similar characters doing similar things and solving similar crimes in similar ways. Reacher is a good case in point as much as I enjoyed it. I need my characters to be alive. They must have their quirks. No one, except REALLY boring people are so by the numbers. Figure out what color socks these characters are wearing. Anything. Everybody has something. Celebrate the difference.

That’s why I ended up liking Motive even though I didn’t expect much from it. The characters have something. I know it sounds weird but the lead male character has strange hair and a beard! Weird right? And the female character doesn’t always look like you just shot her dog! And has a sense of humor! And they actually detect! With their eyes! Good lord I don’t even remember the last time I watched an American based crime show where the clue didn’t come from a computer. Okay. I will admit there was that part in the very beginning of tonights show where the lead detective ‘discovered’ the wallet and lifted it off the body. But I’m going to let it slide. Everybody does that. Someday I’m going to write a mystery where the detective is standing around the body waiting for the ME to show up and they’re stuck in traffic for hours. Wouldn’t that be fun? “No. We can’t ‘roll’ the body. No we can’t fish the wallet out of their pocket for an ID. For all we know right now we have a perfectly live person with several dozen holes in them, completely unable to move for some reason.” In the mean time I’ll suffer through one little evil for something different.

Well. That’s all I’ve got. Like I said it wasn’t much. If there is a pearl of wisdom in here somewhere it’s ‘figure out what color socks your character is wearing.’ It’s important. I’ve said it before but you have to know those things. If you ever get stuck with a character, or ‘blocked’ as you call it, watch them brush their teeth. Go into their medicine cabinet. But please don’t skimp on the details. I don’t even care if you don’t eve write those details. Just make sure you know them. Hemingway said something like that once. I think.

Categories: Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Few Little Things

So i started a new job job to replace the craptacular old job which sucked my life away and made me hate. It’s been almost a full week at this new job and i haven’t thrown up my hands in total disgust so we’re off to a good start. Unfortunately, this means I haven’t been writing as much as I would like. I’ve dropped from five hand written pages a day to barely two. Which sucks to say the least. Someday I will be out of this mess and making money from the writing and the writing alone, but for the time being I’m just a slob like you – trying to get a few pen strokes and homicides in when the sun goes down.

That said I’ve got a few quick little things that have nothing to do with my new job, about which you care not at all. Firstly, after Derek Pacifico’s terrific comment on a previous blog (Golden Blah) I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that are wrong with tv cop shows. I probably don’t get as irritated as a former homicide detective with them, but if you read last weeks post I’m sure not happy with them either. If you haven’t read his comment and it didn’t get you thinking, take a hike. There’s a terrific grain of awesome there. Why hasn’t a cop show been done like the West Wing? I mean, if we’re being honest: it’s a great format for it. I was just watching The First 48 – which I try to grab as much as I can of (mostly for the things I don’t know I’m noticing) and I had to wonder – aloud – why they try to cram two cases into one episode? Even before that I was wondering why things couldn’t be a little more free-form in homicide shows? Why do we need two (or even three) action packed, thrilling mysteries per episode? What was it about The West Wing – and the incredible Lincoln – that kept us sitting in our seats? Legislation is not generally fun and yet we got used to – and enjoyed – watching people think on-screen. You don’t think of munching down popcorn while watching Congress deliberate. Unless you’re thinking of using it as ammunition, of course. But somehow, just for a little while, it became amazing – something different.

Then, of course, there is the issue of all the victims being pretty, middle-aged, rich people. And then there is the amazing jump cut moments where the detective marches in and says ‘the lab reports came back and…’ in record time. Yep. Something about this paradigm really has to change or we’re going to still be sitting here – 30 years from now – realizing we’ve actually been watching the exact same show for 60 years or more.

And then there’s the issue of Boston’s Finest. I don’t know if you’ve watched it yet or not. You probably should (for the things you don’t know you’re noticing.) I think TNT made a huge mistake putting it next to Southland. I was pretty happy with Southland for a long time. It wasn’t bad. It dealt with cops living lives outside of being cops – which they don’t do much of anywhere else. Putting it next to actual cops in a well narrated show just shows the Southland guys for the actors they are and it doesn’t stack up well.

The most memorable moment from last night’s Boston Finest wasn’t the riveting chase scenes or the ‘go-gettum-ness’. It was the warrant being served and the woman who it was being served on refusing to come to the door. If you watched you probably know what I’m talking about. A 48-year-old convicted criminal without her dentures in, standing behind the door trying to convince the cops that she is, in fact, ‘under 18’ and her mother isn’t home. Now I’d like to think I’m a pretty good writer. I can make shit up and try my damnedest to convince you that that shit doesn’t stink. But I can honestly admit that I never would have come up with something like that. Of course I don’t find that a hindrance. As Eastwood once said somewhere “a man’s got to know his limitations.” I think that may have been one of the Dirty Harry movies. I’m trying to treat it as a knock on the door of the imagination and an invitation for it to come out.

So that’s what I’ve got burbling around my brain right now. How do you put all that in a stew and get a good cop show? How do you make all that into a good book? I don’t know. I’m working on it. I’d like to see what you do with it. All I really know for sure is that its a big big genre. Much larger than folks give it credit for and it would permit something like a West Wing. It doesn’t have to cram one homicide, a chase scene and a gun battle into a single episode. It could hinge it’s drama entirely on a blink, a single spatter of blood, it could help you notice the things you didn’t know you’re noticing. It could be interesting, informative, dramatic, and even have that ‘truth’ that genre writers are predisposed to avoid but literary writers are supposed to drive at with all their superfluous artistry.

Categories: Mystery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Golden Blah – What Fresh Hell Is This?

You know me. Since starting the mystery/writing blog thingy I feel obligated to test the wheels on every new crime show drama thing out there. This is probably a big mistake on my part but someone has to do it. I’m a pretty critical guy and I hate talking about things I don’t like – even though I seem to be doing a lot of that lately. But here’s another one. Golden Boy on CBS Created by Nicholas Wooten who apparently has a long and distinguished career in writing crime dramas; which is why it’s so irritating that in all that time he has yet to do a good one. (By the way, Nicholas Wooten – I loved Chuck. More like that please!)

I’m going to be up front with y’all. I only managed to get through 15-20 minutes of this which is pretty bad when it’s only an hour-long show. Something about the main character just made me want to punch him in the face. From what I gathered of those 15-20 minutes the show is about a junior detective on a homicide squad in some city. I don’t know which city. Maybe they explained that at some other point after I’d stopped watching but who cares? He’s 20 something: boyish good looks, the personality of a clean diaper with ambitions of becoming a filthy dirty stinky diaper. We’re informed that he’s ‘the youngest homicide officer in history’ or something and is destined (through flash forwards) to become the youngest police commissioner seven years down the line. Gee, that’s original. Which means that even in the flash forwards where the same boyish clean diaper is allegedly older he’s STILL only been a cop for a grand total of ten years. And yet somehow he looks like a poorly aged, dippier version of the same kid. Only with a limp and played with an absurd amount of affected gravitas that we’re assuming is his acquired ‘wisdom’.

uh huh.

He’s partnered with the seriously underused Chi McBride who is STILL waiting patiently for a decent cop show to sink his teeth into. Someone give this guy a job. Please. Something with legs. That isn’t hobbled by lumbering plot. Something. Anything. FOR GOD’S SAKE USE THIS ACTOR!!!! I want to see Chi smile again! Remember Andre Braugher as Pembleton? That smile? How you just knew that whoever he was talking to was in trouble? Ahh… those were the days. Before they did the shark thing. Anyway – I digress. Chi was born to play a cop. He did a terrific job as a teacher in the briefly amazing Boston Public and you knew, even back then, that it was just a matter of time till someone pinned a TV Badge on the guy. You just hoped that when they did it would be something worth watching.

It isn’t.

So what was so wrong with the 20 minutes that I watched? Well… I’m not an expert. I’ve never been a cop but it seems to me a bad idea to leave your partner at a diner to dash off to tackle a potential thief without so much as a radio call, or a “hey! That guy might be a thief!” Nope. You see someone climbing out a window carrying a backpack and wearing a hoodie and it’s off to the races. Naturally the 20 something detective with the dreamy eyes, wavy hair and that cute dimpled chin has no trouble chasing down the 15-year-old ‘cute but tough and street-smart’ thief. When he does they discover she has information! A Body!

You don’t say.

They go find the body that the girl found. It’s a girl! Have you ever noticed that crime drama’s really only have two victims? The average age of the drama victim is between 15 and 22 if it’s female and 28  to 45 if it’s a male. And aren’t they just always attractive? Do they have different cop shows that track down the suspects in ugly people’s homicides? They must. It must be on one of those cable channels I don’t get.

Naturally the girl is wrapped in a cloth. Cut to commercial. When we get back to commercial I really started to lose it. We have no idea how much time has passed between the scene in which the body is discovered and that one but it can’t be much as Chi and the Golden Boy are filling someone in on the details of what they found. The body hasn’t been moved yet. It’s about five feet away on a storage rack. And pretty much the whole world is standing there doing stuff. There has to be a word for this scene set up in TV Cop-land. I think I’ll call it the collective circle jerk: where idiots stand around telling people stuff. You see an uniformed cop standing next to the body talking to someone – who knows who? The whoever-she-is is taking notes about something. There are several other folks wandering around looking like they’re trying to find a purpose. There is Chi, the Golden Boy and some superior cop figure in front telling each other things that we already know from watching the stuff we’ve already seen. The only thing missing from this crime scene is a juggling clown. Oh yeah and evidence techs, or investigators or anyone doing anything constructive.

Something else happens. They go back to the squad room where one detective doesn’t like Chi and the Golden Boy and they have words. This guy is a jerk. He’s a hot head. We know because he looks like a cop hot head which we’ve seen a thousand times or more. He thinks he finds out something about the girl who found the body! Oh, she’s holding something back! I won’t tell my fellow investigators about this – I’ll interview her myself!

You can guess what happens next. Because he’s a hot head. He kicks the chair out. He slaps her in the face. We’re shocked. This is SO edgy! He’s out of control! He sure is. He just lost the case, the witness and one viewer who is now blogging about how stupid it is.

Yeah. I know. You have to crunch edgy drama into an hour. Interviews are hours long affairs. I get it. You’re trying to speed things along. But this is writing folks. It’s editing. Use your damned brains. If you’ve ever pulled your hair out over a script or a story – even if you’re a total noob about it – you know that things have to get cut, prodded, folded, molded, punched, beaten, sliced and diced. I admit I’m terrible at it myself. I hate doing it because i always find MORE to the story rather than less. But you have to do it. Particularly in script writing when one line of dialog must stand in for three different plot points. Unfortunately in crime shows you have people who use the interview and interrogation as a beat in an action sequence. They have no concept of how to write something engaging without the violence. And yet they’ve HAD examples of it! I refer you back to the Pembleton smile, how he watched his interviewees. He didn’t smack the crap out of them. He just smiled. And wasn’t that better? WAY more satisfying?

Golden Boy is dumb. That much shouldn’t be surprising. As much as I dislike the ‘consultant’ breed of detective shows I often find them entertaining because it’s about more than the investigation (sometimes TOO much more but that’s a different topic). The consultant shows, insulting as they are, can often lend insight into things: the way Castle just riffs off silly ideas, the way Patrick Jane reads people, the way Whatsisname from Psych or Monk observes things. They can be fun. They can add good stuff to your writing and let you think about things in a different way. But a procedural that is garbage is worse. It gives rise to the consultant shows because who wouldn’t need a consultant if your homicide squad was as hapless as these guys? I mean I presume you will be using that witness in prosecuting a suspect when you get one right? What do you think will happen in discovery when opposing counsel gets a hold of the taped interview? Why didn’t you frigging think about that before you wrote the damned scene?

I get it. Believe me. I’m still learning as much as I can about this whenever I can. It’s not easy. It’s complicated. It’s intimidating – especially if you aren’t now nor have you ever been a detective. It involves all sort of fact based stuff. Sometimes it doesn’t seem terribly dramatic and you really have to fight the old Raymond Chandler urge to bring in the guy with the gun. But go back and look at the scene. Find the drama. There’s a reason you wrote it to begin with. A reason you chose to include it. Maybe that reason doesn’t stand anymore and you can cut it or maybe there is something there that you can punch up but please try to keep it simple and focused. Look hard at the fact based stuff. You’ll find it can be fun and rewarding. Chains of evidence? How do I use that to make things go crappy. Juries? What the hell happened in the brain of Juror number 5 that made this whole thing go pear-shaped?

One way or another these shows all follow a similar pattern: they take something that is inherently dramatic already and then add drama to it. In my opinion, it’s one of the biggest sins you can make  as a writer. It’s like Titanic or Pearl Harbor which I’ve written about before. You don’t need anything else. Tell the story well, tell it right and the drama should be right there – without heaping reality show antics on top of things. I’m not even saying i’m any good at this myself. But you really have to try it to get better or hang up the pen.

Categories: Movies, Mystery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Blog at