Paint it black

8 11 2015

Oh my Apollo, CSI: Cyber is so bad. So so so bad that I can’t even watch it.

I mean, I hated CSI: NY and I still watched it to its wretched, moralizing end, but Cyber‘s writing is so ridiculous that all I can think while watching it is why am I watching this?

So I stopped.

I do know exactly why I watch Code Black, however: because it’s good.

Again, a procedural, and, again, I started watching it because of Marcia Gay Harden and Luiz Guzmán—and they are terrific—but I keep watching it because I want to see what happens next.

Okay, so having Raza Jaffrey (a terrorist in Dirty Bomb, yet another sacrificial analyst in MI-5) doesn’t hurt,  and Kevin Dunn is amusing as the ER’s director—and Moesha‘s dad is there, too, with his son (on the show),  foxy character actor Cress Williams. And, slowly, I’m starting to warm to the various residents.

But I’m into procedurals because I like the cases, and Code Black does a great job with its cases. Okay, some aren’t great—the what-the-hell decision to unkink that woman’s ovary was a bit much—but they keep moving, moving, and in all of that movement you get to see the characters of the docs emerge.

It reminds me of early ER, where all of the action was focused on the work, and before it strayed from the fragile and weird in the ER and into the soapiness of life outside of it.

That the characters have lives outside is clear: Harden’s character, Lianne’s, family was wiped out by a drunk driver, the older resident’s son died of a glioblastoma, the asshole resident is a recovering addict, and you know there’s something going on with Jaffrey’s character to explain why he left surgery for emergency med.

Again, however, all of this is handled through the work, how their “outside” lives affect how they’re doctors. I like that.

But what I’m really impressed with is how they handle grief. It’s accepted that people will grieve in an ER, and the show let’s them do it. In one episode, a mother attacked her injured son for the drunk-driving accident which killed her other son. When one of the residents tried to intervene, Lianne said simply, This is what grief looks like.

Later in that same episode she tells the mother, who hasn’t left her dead son’s side, that she needed to be with her other son. He killed someone, Lianne said, and like any decent person who’s done that, he wants to kill himself. You need to help him want to live.

In another episode, a man comes into the ER to dry out, which he does, but by the end, he’s back, with Lianne stitching up his head. She’s gentle, matter-of-fact, when asked if she’s frustrated: No, a terrible thing happened; this is his grief ritual.

Sappy? I guess it could be, but I see it as a kind of rawness: a terrible thing has happened,  and sorrow follows.

And that’s it; the sorrow remains.

I hope the show, even amidst the predictabilities of the procedural, can keep that rawness, and that sorrow.

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Then we take Berlin

2 03 2015

Yet another procedural, but with a Euro-twist: Crossing Lines.

I know, pathetic. I did start watching Once, and liked the main character well enough and LOVED the bad gal, and maybe I’ll go back to it, but the whole kid-who’s-sussed-it-all-out trope is a bit much.

And I started Continuum, which is proceduralish, but I’m not crazy about the main character, and, having looked ahead in the plot synopses, I see they they fuck hard with the timeline—and that does not suit me.

I hate it, really. I mean, I liked the timeline-fucking episodes in Star Trek: Voyager and Stargate SG1 but those tended to be stand-alone things, not upend-everything-you-know-forever-with-nary-a-glance-backward (Fringe!). I was actually pissed when Eureka shifted timelines, but they handled it well enough, insofar as the five main characters had to come to terms with the shift, and do so repeatedly.

Why do I hate timelines-shifts? I (irrationally—do I need to put this in here?) take it personally, as if the producers are saying Oh, you got all invested in those characters and their relationships and that whole world? Psych! It also seems cheap, like We ran outta ideas, so. . . , but mostly I feel cheated.

Back to Crossing Lines. It’s got the same set-up as approximately 40.372 percent of all procedurals out there: one man brings together a disparate group of individuals, each with his or her own ISSUES!, and molds them into super-group of crime fighters. And the set-up itself is ludicrous on its face (which, oddly, makes it easier for me to ignore): the International Criminal Court authorizes this super-group to investigate cross-border crimes, apparently on the belief that Interpol and Europol are not up to the task.

Like I said, ridiculous, but the crimes are less pervy-gory (Criminal Minds) and more sober-serious (trafficking trafficking trafficking—except for that one episode about roadside forced-fight club), and the settings are awesome! The Hague! Paris! Prague! Rome! London! There was even an episode set in New York, which, while screamingly wrong*, was still enjoyable, largely because it featured Carrie Anne Moss.

(*As in, prominent shot of the Bergen Street 2-3 train in Manhattan—only there is no Bergen 2-3 stop in Manhattan, and the 3 was in a green rather than red circle. Green is for the deservedly-much-maligned G-line.)

And have I mentioned that Donald Sutherland lords over all of this, enjoyably pompous and given to uttering ridiculous lines with such grave sincerity that, once again, I find it easier to be charmed than put off?

There are only two seasons currently on Netflix, and I only have two episodes left. Who knows, maybe after these I’ll finally fire up Orange is the New Black—which is, it should be noted, not a procedural.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.