Don’t raise your eye

12 01 2013

Oh my Hera, how bad is it going to get?

I just watched—ye gads, I can barely believe it—yet another episode of CSI: New York, and Athena have mercy on my soul.

Yes, I dig police procedurals and yes, I dig New York, but CSI:NY is so terrible it could make someone less steadfast than me hate both procedurals and New York. This last episode? The one where the off-duty got shot shortly after getting off the phone with his cop son of whom he is proud and loves and is shot during a mugging by three black men who turned out to be two white guys and one Latino guy in black masks, one of whom was a career criminal who was picked up and held in interrogation and never even thought to ASK FOR A FUCKING LAWYER and who was totally and completely lied to by the cops (who are shocked(!) that the other career criminal demands a lawyer)—which we’re supposed to applaud because, y’know, they catch the bad guy? That episode?

I can’t even talk about it.

(And if you think I spoiled it for you, well here’s a tip: IT WAS ALREADY SPOILED.)

In some ways, CSI:NY is even worse than CSI:Miami, and CSI:Miami was a truly terrible show. I liked the first season well enough, and watched even after they killed off my favorite character, Speedle, but at some point the posturing Horatio Caine and the stupid my-brother-his-wife-my-employee-his-sister, topped off by the sideways putting on/taking off sunglasses became laughable—and not in a good way. I stopped watching.

But even though I hit the ugh point with CSI:NY years ago, I can’t manage to stop watching. It’s gone beyond hate-watching into a kind of contempt-watch, where I feel like my world gets worse because I can’t turn away from this horror.

I admit that I’ll watch shows long past their prime; see, for example, Bones. I still watch the original CSI, even though it really lost its mojo when Gil Grissom left for the jungle, and I miss weird-Greg. Still, while it’s burnt out it’s not actively offensive, and while the most I get out of the show is a not-unpleasant passage of time, sometimes on a Friday night (I watch on my computer) that’s all I really want.

Law & Order also went on too long, but their ripped-from-the-headlines approach at least gave them something new to film. I didn’t watch the last few seasons, after  Ed (Jesse Martin) left, but I always did like Anita Van Buren. I go back and forth on L&O:Criminal Intent: Bobby bugged the shit out of me, but he was a great character, a bent, psychological version of Gil Grissom; plus, y’know, Kathryn Erbe.

L&O:SVU is the more interesting case. I missed a few years when I didn’t have a t.v. and before the episodes streamed, but I have watched a fair number of post-Elliot episodes. I think I might finally be done, however, because the show has gone beyond burnt out into the nihilistic. No, it’s nothing like MI5—it doesn’t insist on killing off all of its characters—but it’s gotten to the point where I think Why bother watching? It’s all going to shit, anyway. There are occasional ‘happy’ endings, i.e., ones in which the bad guy is caught, the victim, vindicated, but for the most part these are amorality tales in hell.

And that, in a sense, is what makes it the more interesting case: There is no redemption, everything is awful, and you know that if the younger detectives don’t get out soon, they’ll be trapped in the same Sisyphean agony as Liv, Munch, and Finn. It has gone beyond procedural into existential despair, No Exit for the criminally-minded.

It is this numbness, this darkness which might make it worth airing, even if I may not be able to bring myself to watch it anymore. L&O:SVU has gone beyond good and evil and into a kind of overwhelming corruption of everything and everyone, a corruption noteworthy precisely because it is assumed, rather than remarked upon. It is a strung-out losing game, in which everyone, regardless, keeps going ’round. That, in and of itself, makes me wonder how far it could go.

Unlike, say, the simplistic moralizing of CSI:NY and. . . ugh, I can’t even. . . .





Dese bones gonna rise again

31 05 2011

This was not the best season of Bones.

Which is to say: this was the worst season of Bones. Not a single episode was as good as previous episodes, and while there were no truly terrible episodes, the best it got was only “all right”.

Alyssa Rosenberg argued on Matt Yglesias’s blog (now her own, at ThinkProgress) that the problem was with the overarching theme (the sniper), namely, that is was weak and centered on a boring character. I think she has a point: Although the first season didn’t have an overarching theme, two were set up for the following seasons, one regarding Brennan’s family and another with the serial killer Howard Epps.

Now, I kinda think the whole sexual-sadist-serial killer is played out (yeah, I’m looking at you, CSI, with the truly boring Nate Haskell), but they undercut the superman-superevil bad guy schtick deliberately: Howard Epps thought he was a genius but, as Zack pointed out, he really wasn’t as smart as he claimed to be.

Season two was backboned by Brennan’s backstory, with her plastic-surgeried criminal father dipping into and out of a number of episodes. (“Judas on a Pole”, which introduces him, also includes a great cover of Kate Bush’s “Running up that hill”.) It also introduced the Gravedigger, a nasty piece of work who appeared again in single episodes in seasons 3, 4, 5, and 6.

The Gormogon thing (season 3) was weird, and the Zack angle on that was weird, but it was also satisfying: so over-the-tops nuts (ritualistic cannibalism of secret society members) that there was a certain brio to the writing. Everybody seemed to be having a good time—well, you know what I mean.

Season 4 didn’t have any major arcs, save, perhaps, the Angela-Hodgins fallout, as well as an somewhat underdeveloped bit about Booth’s brain. (It didn’t really cohere, but that it didn’t really cohere didn’t really matter.) Oh, and the introduction to a rotating cast of interns/assistants. Anyway, it had a fine, fine, season ender.

Too much about the Booth/Brennan relationship interfered with season 5, but there were still some very good stand-alone episodes, as there were in each of the preceding seasons. I’m one of those who did NOT want Booth and Brennan to get together—yes, adults who have chemistry may nonetheless desist from dating—but I was even more annoyed at how forced those episodes were. Stephen Fry, who brought back his utterly charming character Gordon Wyatt, then ruined the moment by pushing (against character) for a romantic relationship. Brennan’s father talked about it, Angela talked about it, Booth and Brennan separately brooded about it—blech, it was all too much.

Yeah, we get it: they have chemistry, but enough already! Anyway, the Angela-Hodgins arc was more interesting.

Still, there was an energy and wit running through these seasons, a humor and affection comingled with the murder and mayhem, such that even amidst the utter unreality of the television crime procedural, you got the sense that these were real people doing real work.

The people mattered, the work mattered: a fine balance.

This year, however, that was thrown off. Again, I think Rosenberg may be onto something about the boring sniper arc, but I think the greater problem was that the balance got thrown off. The crimes were almost beside the point, or existed only to drive the personal plot-lines; thus the play of earlier seasons was missing, as the writers sought to reduce the looseness and otherwise force into a pre-exising cutout every damned storyline. This not only took away much of the wit of the dialogue, it also signaled a certain impatience with the characters.

So, for example, Sweets entertains doubts about his expertise and has those doubts resolved all in a single episode; both the doubts and the resolution were, erm, doubtful. (And Miss Julian opened up to Sweets, which, frankly, was not believable.) Brennan’s father was brought in for a couple of completely superfluous scenes, and there were bits about Cam and about Angela’s pregnancy (guess, no, really, just guess how the season ended), but it was all rather listless.

And having a number of the interns each undergo a character change? Please. Give me back my uptight Clark. (f only they could give back my favorite intern, whose death scene was devastating.)

It was never truly awful and, really, only a few episodes were bad, but it was such a letdown. I’ll watch again next year (even though I was not particularly happy with the last episode set-up for the new season), but I hope this season was a lapse rather than a harbinger.

I did, however, watch a truly awful show this year, even after swearing off it. Yes, I moaned my way through yet another season of CSI-New York. Ye gads. They brought in Sela Ward to replace Melina Kanakaredes, and I thought, Oh, well, I like Sela Ward.

I might still like Sela Ward, but her character, Jo? Do. Not. Like.

This show just got sappier and more moralistic as it went along. God, I can’t even be bothered to go through everything that was wrong with this show because everything was wrong.

The only good thing: it may finally have gotten so bad that even I will look away.