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.