Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Plodding Along

The past couple of evenings I found myself watching Lynda La Plante’s two-part serial killer drama Under Suspicion. Why, I’m not actually too sure? Maybe because it was just too damn freaking cold to go out and kick a pensioner down the street or snap a puppy in half.

I suppose it made a change from her two regular lumpy turds, The Commander and Trial & Retribution, splashing into the ITV schedule with the kind of regularity embraced only by the La Plante retirement fund. But if Under Suspicion was meant to be something different, it stumbled badly right off the bat. I don’t know if Kelly Reilly was cast in a lead role because she had played the younger version of Helen Mirren’s character in 2001’s Last Orders, but her presence only reinforced that the drama as a whole came across as a really vapid version of Prime Suspect, only with the kind of swearing that would have been untenable when Mirren first appeared as the ballsy DCI Jane Tennison.

Maybe it’s just that I’m getting tired of the kind of cop dramas with remarkably straightforward stories. Once everyone relies heavily on forensic scientists poking around a bloated corpse and comes up with the DNA match the party is pretty much over. It reminds me of the story written by Danny De Vito’s character in Throw Momma from the Train, which, if I remember rightly, has two guys in a room and one of them is a corpse. What happened to a whole raft of characters that were all under suspicion? It doesn’t mean it has to take place in a country house with the killer unmasked by someone twirling a little black moustache. But I don’t want to waste time knowing who has blood on their hands from pretty much the outset.

Much later in the schedule, ITV broadcast the first episode of Wanted, a TNT series from 2005 in which Gary Cole leads a Fugitive Task Force charged with tracking down LA’s 100 Most Wanted criminals. I’m sure it was a perfectly decent drama, although the fact that it only lasted all of thirteen episodes might say something, but once suited up in flak jackets and ear-pieces, closing in on a suspect’s house with their semi-automatics held in the ready position, I found myself yawning. Not because of the hour but because I’ve seen this kind of scene so many times before, played out by different actors under different titles.

My feeling is, I’m not just getting tired of these scenes but these kinds of cop shows in general. There has always been a remarkable heritage of police dramas such as Hill Street Blues, Homicide: Life on the Street, NYPD Blue, The Shield, Waking the Dead and The Wire that brought something special to the screen. When they were on there were also a lot of other, very different shows mixed into the schedules, shaking it up and making things a lot more livelier. Except now all we’ve got is one generic cops show after another playing two or three variations on the same theme, while anything really different has either packed up and gone home, or is readying to take their last bow, or took the wrong path and are in the process of flaming out.

Maybe this is just a bad stumble at the beginning of the year and things will improve and things will be different. But since nearly every new US drama coming our way from the last Fall Season was some investigative drama it’s going to be a while. I guess I’ll have to go back to the DVDs for proper nourishment. In the meantime the boiler was finally fixed. With the TV here dark, I’m off for the mother of all hot baths.


At 12:10 am, Blogger Clair said...

What's the point in a crime thriller when the perp is obvious from halfway through part one? That's two hours I won't get back. Should we have a two-year moratorium on any cop shows?

Glad the boiler's fixed; I bet it's been all hats and gloves round your way lately.

At 12:56 am, Blogger Good Dog said...


well, it's sure as hell put me off watching this sort of nonsense for a long time. After the original Prime Suspect, the only other La Plante drama I liked was Framed with Timothy Dalton and David Morrissey, which must have been early 1990s.

The last couple days here have been pretty darn cold. Having a hot bath and hot radiators again was just marvellous. Trying to type wearing gloves has... not been good.

At 6:07 pm, Blogger Jon Peacey said...

I think the two year cop moratorium sounds good... I got bored with them a couple of years ago. (Also too many medical progs and things that rely on terrible CGI!)

My favourite use of forensic evidence still has to be in Ole Bornedal's film Nightwatch.


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