Monday, October 19, 2009

Cylon Cops

This was a fairly restorative weekend. Saturday, I celebrated the result of the Texas vs. Oklahoma game by going out for German food with friends (it wasn't a designated celebration, but the invitation came just at a moment when I was feeling celebratory). Then Sunday my choir sang for the early morning service, and while it was a pain having to get up so early, it was kind of nice to have been to church, run some errands, read the newspaper and had lunch before the time I usually get home from church. I'd had grand plans about using the particularly long afternoon to walk over to the river with a picnic lunch, but then I realized that I had no portable lunch-type food on hand and it was a pretty windy day and I already had some allergy issues (itchy eyes, sniffles), so I didn't think being outdoors for several hours was a great idea. Instead, I curled up on the sofa with a good book and some tea, and it was bliss. Now I think I'm even energized for the week (aside from the sniffles and itchy eyes).

I haven't done an HBO report for a while, in part because there hasn't been anything I really wanted to watch and in part because I haven't had the time or attention span for an entire movie. Instead, I seem to have developed a habit of watching crime shows OnDemand or in cable syndication. In spite of loving mystery novels, I've never been that big a fan of crime shows, aside from a junior high fondness for CHiPs (it was mostly about the attractive young men in uniforms with tight pants -- and now the sergeant is Jim's dad on The Office!). Otherwise, most of the law-enforcement type shows I've watched have been more along the lines of science fiction with law-enforcement characters, like The X-Files and Warehouse 13. But I've been developing a character who works in law enforcement, which has meant some research into the topic, which led to additional curiosity about the subject so that the TV shows became more appealing. Unfortunately, the reality and the TV world clash in ways that make my brain hurt.

Take the New York version of CSI, which is pretty much the "mama bear" just-right version for me -- original recipe is too icky with delving into "deviant" lifestyles, and Miami is too icky with the caliber of acting. I've only been able to tolerate either when there was a guest star I wanted to see (and what a waste of Adam Baldwin). The New York version isn't quite so icky (although the murder statistics seem to skew toward rich, white people, contrary to reality) and the acting is far better than Miami. However, I really don't get the concept of the series.

It seems like the people who work in the crime lab do all the work of the entire police department. They collect evidence and document the crime scene, which makes sense, and then they analyze the evidence, which I guess makes sense, though I wouldn't think that the people who collect the evidence would also be running all the tests. That seems to fall into the same fictional trope as the doctors on House who run all their own tests. And then the crime lab guys also go out and interview suspects, participate in interrogations and strap on the Kevlar and go out to take down suspects. The police memoirs I've read all gripe about how long they have to hang out waiting for the crime scene team to show up and how long it takes to get lab results, and I can see why if the crime lab guys are having to do absolutely everything on the case. They do acknowledge that some of the police work doesn't involve DNA tests and does involve legwork, and they have a designated character for that, good old Detective Drudge. A typical scene involves the crime lab guy reporting to his boss that the fibers on the victim's clothing turned out to come from a rare breed of gnu, which the local zoo happens to have, and Detective Drudge is following up on that. A few minutes later (maybe an hour in the world of the show), Detective Drudge will show up to report that the victim's brother-in-law is the gnu-keeper at the zoo, and the victim was at his house before he was killed, which could explain the fibers. There are witnesses who saw the gnu-keeper with the gnus at the time of the murder, so that rules him out. This seems to be the opposite of the way things work in the real world, where the detective manages the case, and when the crime lab sends him their results, he incorporates that into his investigation but he wouldn't have to report any of his findings to them unless it involved some new piece of evidence for them to analyze.

Meanwhile, poor Detective Drudge seems to be the only homicide detective in the entire city. He's at every single crime scene. The crime lab would presumably cover the whole city, since it's too expensive to have one in every precint, but they only seem to work with this one guy. And when he gets a little spare time, he does things like put together huge drug busts. At first I thought that maybe that was just editing, that we only see the cases they work with this one detective, but then those cases do cover the whole city and not any one particular precinct. So instead it's like the crime lab is really responsible for fighting all the crime in New York, and Detective Drudge is their pet detective who does all the legwork.

But then I realized I was looking at it the wrong way. This is actually a science fiction series set in a near-future alternative-reality New York, and Detective Drudge is, you guessed it, a Cylon (or Cylon-type robot). Due to budget cuts and advanced technology, all homicide detectives have been replaced with Detective Drudge units, so there's at least one in every precinct. They're all wirelessly linked, so they all dress the same on each day, and that means you never know which one you're dealing with. They also share info and help each other with research and legwork, which is how he's able to find needles in haystacks so quickly. Unfortunately, the info sharing also means that they all share memories of their personal problems and traumas, which maximizes the angst and suffering, but they haven't yet worked that bug out.

You know, that might make a fun science fiction story.

Anyway, thinking in those terms ups my science fiction quota (since it was starting to be heavily outnumbered by crime shows) and brings killer robots back to my television after the end of Battlestar Galactica and the cancellation of The Terminator series, so I'm happy with this concept. And hey, if you're going to make multiple copies of a guy, he's not a bad choice (dark hair, blue eyes, definitely my type, even if he is a child).

For future CSI shows, it might be fun to incorporate some reality and have them work with multiple detectives, depending on the precinct, so that the detective could be a celebrity cameo role. Who'll be there to introduce the case at the crime scene this week?

And I think I may be adding yet another crime-type show to my slate this week when White Collar starts on USA. I admit that my reasons for watching this are entirely shallow, mostly because when I see an ad for it out of the corner of my eye, my brain says, "Owen!" Which means I must watch it. Oddly, though, I never got the "Owen!" response when this actor was on Chuck, even though from the sounds of things, this character isn't much at all like Owen. I think it's the hair and wardrobe in the ads. Mind you, this is not to be taken as a fantasy casting endorsement, since I'm still trying to stay away from that and keep an open mind.

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