Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Viewing

As predicted, the festive period has not produced a great deal of detectiving. I didn't get the Morse boxset, but I did get the first series of Remington Steele, which I've just taken a break from watching to write this post.

So what else did I watch?

The Fall Guy - an episode featuring Richard Kiel, best known as Jaws in a couple of James Bond movies. Colt and Howie go undercover in prison where they need to gain the confidence of Animal (Kiel). Unfortunately, the only person in authority who knows they are undercover, the prison warden falls into a coma while they are in there, cue an elaborate escape plan. It was pretty good actually and I remembered why I liked it so much as a child.

Rosemary and Thyme - ahh yes the gardening detectives! An episode about a restaurant critic murdered in a hotel he is about to give a 5 star review to, and a weed attacking a grape crop. It also had a slight Christmas theme in that Thyme's children were both spending Christmas out of the country.

Hetty Wainthropp Investigates - I can't believed I stooped so low as to watch this. Possibly the least convincing detective ever, that old woman from 'Keeping Up Appearances' aided by the hobbit who want onto Lost. The crime - an Ecstasy tablet was planted on Hetty's nephew, so she investigated and uncovered a case of bullying and drug dealing. This involved going undercover as a dinner lady and then asking her nephew what happened - not exactly requiring the most detectiving skills ever.

Not really detectiving, but I did also received from my beloved a book by Richard Belzer about the conspiracy theories surrounding JFK, UFOs and aliens.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Insomniac's Complaint

For some unknown reason, I always suffer from insomnia when I stay at my mother's house and this Christmas was no exception. So to try to lull myself back off to sleep in the small hours, I would watch a bit of television. But these days it seems nearly every station just has a phone in quiz once it gets past midnight. Not just cheap television, but presumably a money-spinner too.

So what is a detective loving non-sleeper suppose to do? Well one night I was fortunate enough to come across 'Karen Sisco'. I'd not seen or heard of this show before but it turns out it is based on the character created by Elmore Leonard and portrayed by Jennnifer Lopez in 'Out of Sight' a film I did rather enjoy. This series however doesn't feature J-Lo presumably had better things to do, although judging by the reviews her later films received, I wonder if she may have been better off in this.

So I saw about half an episode, which involved a transexual and dentistry. It seemed pretty good but I'm back at home now where I sleep plenty.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

TV Star Bites Homeless Man

So read the newspaper billboards across London yesterday.

One of the few detective shows that I've never seen a single episode of is Jonathan Creek, the BBC show about a crime-solving magician. Judging by that headline, I'm relieved I didn't watch it because the TV Star was none other than Jonathan Creek star, Alan Davies.

And what provoked him into this assault? The man called him Jonathan Creek. And Alan did not like it.

(Presumably the man hadn't been homeless for that long, otherwise he probably wouldn't be so familiar with stars of Saturday night television).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

All I Want for Christmas is SVU

I look forward to time off work at Christmas but am always disappointed when regular daytime television (i.e. crime shows aplenty) are forced off the schedule in favour of family films and Christmas specials. So it makes it an ideal time to watch some DVDs instead.

Here’s a list of what I’d like from Father Christmas (or anyone else this year)

1. Remington Steele Season 1
I loved Pierce Brosnan in this when I watched it one summer holiday about 12 years ago. I haven’t seen it since though, so I’m hoping I still like its corniness. I know I’m getting this off one of my sisters but I only asked for the first series in case I don’t like it.

2.. The Complete Morse
We saw this once a few years ago in special edition where it came in a wooden box. It cost £200, which is a lot of money. I did suspect that the OH may have bought me this for Christmas this year, perhaps not in the wooden book edition, but I’ve seen the small gift box he claims contains my presents, so I’m beginning to think it might not be this.

3 Homicide Life on the Street Season 4 onwards
Seasons 2 and 3 were released in quick succession but no sign of Season 4 getting a release in the UK yet. I want to see it and I want to see it now (or sometime after 25th December anyway).

4. Law & Order Special Victims Unit Season 5 onwards
As above – release them on Region 2 DVD pronto.

5. A New Year Schedule of Intelligent Crime Dramas
I would like the BBC and HBO to make something new, exciting and challenging. I can’t survive on Law & Order alone.

6. Sam Waterstone to leave Law & Order
He is dull and rubbish and has been there forever. I demand a new District Attorney.

Ok so the last two aren't strictly speaking DVDs, but I'd still like them. Please.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Surprise Sleuth

Yesterday I watched an episode of Monk and Law & Order SVU, but on top of that, we watched an episode of Fraiser that turned out to involve a bit of sleuthing. Not what you'd normally expect. The episode involved Frasier's father going over an old unsolved case. Frasier takes a look at the evidence too and comes to the conclusion that the monkey did it. Confident that he has solved the riddle, he decided that he should encourage his father's line of thinking in the same direction. As you would expect with Frasier, it doesn't work out exactly as planned and suffice to say, Frasier is not going to become a detective anytime soon.

(although to be honest, his theory made sense to me!)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Inappropriate Timing

I watched a few episodes of the final series of The Sopranos yesterday and then went to bed to watch Law & Order SVU. An episode involving a child possibly being killed during an exorcism and abuse that include running a cheese grater down a child's face. Horrifying stuff. The episode ended somberly, 'Dick Wolf' appeared silently to start the credits before the theme music started. So far so serious as befits the subject matter. But then the Channel 5 announcer cuts through the music with the chirpy announcement that 'Mrs Soandso from Margate has won this week's CSI £5,000 prize draw'. This quite broke the mood and seemed wholly inappropriate - could it not have waited until the titles were up and we'd mulled over the episode's issues? It seems that the television programmes are becoming secondary to the viewers phone-ins and I don't like it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A little Law & Order

Not been watching much recently, I’m afraid as I’ve been very busy with other things and watching the nonsense that is ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ which I seem to have been sucked into for yet another year, despite vowing each time to never watch it again.

I did catch an episode of Law & Order last night that I hadn’t seen before – from the Benjamin Bratt era. It was a disturbing tale (when isn’t it?) of the 13 year old son of a crack addict, who kills an old lady. From initially being a mouthy wannabe gangster, gradually you saw him as a child born into horrible circumstances with no way out. It was rather moving and even Sam Waterston turned in a good performance.

I've got a big decorating project to see to this weekend, plus some family issues, so I'm not sure how much viewing I'll be doing over the next few days, although I do find these shows oddly soothing so perhaps I'll be watching alot.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Enough with the nostalgia

I'm sick of it. All of this looking backwards. Yes, I love the 1960s, a decade before I was even born. I love its music, its fashion, I even write for a website about it. But in the last month I've been overwhelmed the amount of harking back to the past, mainly on account of Facebook. Old friends are popping up all over the place and whilst I'm pleased to receive a quick email saying they are still alive and doing well, that is probably enough. But no, reunions are happening all over the place, where you sit and talk about who kissed who when you were fifteen. Its fine for about ten minutes but then I'm bored. I want to talk about present, the future, the abstract. The past is a finite resource. Move on.

What has this to do with detective programmes, you may well wonder. Not that much really, except last night we watched an episode of T J Hooker on the Screen Gems channel.

The OH is a big fan of the opening titles of T J Hooker, the music and Heather Locklear, so we only intended to take a quick trip down memory lane but there was nothing else on so I thought we may as well watch the whole episode.

It involved some dispute in the trucking industry, with some gangster sabotaging the cargos of an old man and his daughter. The daughter had a pet orang-utan called Venus, who appeared in several scenes in various outfits before anyone even remarked on its presence, as if every trucker had a simian companion.

T J Hooker is very much a product of the 1980s. It was produced by Aaron Spelling, the police cadets wear shockingly short shorts and a big name star (Shatner), attractive blonde (Locklear) and some action scenes were obviously enough in those days to pass as entertainment. There was no mystery to be solved, no psychological element, just a straightforward cop gets bad guy, all done and dusted in 45 minutes.

The OH loved it, harking as it did back to a simpler time. I hated it which is strange considering I love Charlie’s Angels, Remington Steele and a host of other shows that have similar faults. I think it might be down to William Shatner, who is such a ham.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Bill: Moving Target

Having read about this a few months back, I spotted that this week was the start of The Bill’s groundbreaking interactive storyline. As mentioned before, I’ve not seen The Bill in years. The only characters I recognised were Carver and Smithy, although there were a few more familiar faces with a few refugees from EastEnders and Millie from This Life.

But it wasn’t all the new cops that was different – the dialogue seemed very stilted. I couldn’t decided whether;
a) it had always been like this but my standards are now higher after watching so many great American shows,
b) each clue was being picked over deliberately to draw our attention to them because of the interactive element
c) the actors weren’t very good

I think it may have been a combination of all three.

The story involved the whipping of a young Asian man, a Rock Against Racism concert and a politician very much in the George Galloway mould. It wasn’t really that interesting until the end of the episode when a shooter gunned down the politician and a community leader type. Personally, I’d have rather they’d have gunned down the band that was on the stage before them, who were very much in the Keane mould.

The interactive element is that you could go online after the show finished and browse the case notes and the incident board. I’ve had a quick look at this but can’t see that it is adding anything much to the episode unless you’ve got the memory of a goldfish and need any possible theories spelt out for you. I had thought that the interactivity would have involved audience votes on who to arrest, where to look for clues etc so this seems a little disappointing.

But it is early days with there being another two episodes to go so I’ll probably give it another go next week and have another explore round the website in case there is anything I’ve missed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Song of the Week: Jane's Addiction "Been Caught Stealing"

Another song about theft! In fact a veritable 'How To' guide to stealing if you what you want to steal is a razor. It doesn't really cover grand larceny.

Completely unrelated to detectives, but the pub I used to frequent in my youth, someone had written 'Perry Farrell is lush' on the door of the ladies' toilet. Was he lush? I'm not sure, but this is a great song nonetheless. Actually if I'd been a better detective, I'd have found out who wrote it but I never did.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Aerial Antics

I've been away for the weekend to my mother's. Despite her weekend viewing habits consisting of alternating between the Hallmark Channel and ITV3, I didn't really watch anything properly as we were chatting, the Morse was one we'd seen, PD James was later installments of a story and the Columbo was yet again one starring Patrick McGoohan.

On Saturday night on returning from the pub, I was determined to watch Law & Order SVU. Unfortunately, the television in the guest bedroom (ok, the spare room - guest bedroom being a tad too grand for a room in a terrace) doesn't have an outside aerial so the reception is sporadic with Channel 5 being the worst. But I was determined (perhaps on account of the lagers) and set about trying to get a picture and sound by moving, twisting, turning, contorting the aerial every which way. After 10 minutes of this exertion, I admitted defeat and threw down the aerial onto the bed. Which produced the best reception!

So I got into bed with the aerial and started to watch the show. Only to fall asleep about 10 minutes later.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Song of the Week: Johnny Cash "Folsom Prison Blues"

The anti-hero narrator of Johnny Cash's song wishes he wasn't in prison, but unlike Michael Schofield (Prison Break), he hasn't come up with a madcap scheme involving tattoos and cyptic clues. Instead he's singing about the state he's in, which is a pretty miserable one, but a marvellous song.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Familiar Faces

Detective programmes are always rich hunting ground for spotting actors known for other things, either before they were famous or after their star has faded. Columbo is the possible exception as in the seventies episodes, they may have got some people while they were in their prime.

One of the Monk double-bill yesterday starred Andrew McCarthy. Sweetly handsome, object of teenage desire, Andrew Carthy here has a cold-hearted philanderer and killer. I would have been shocked had I not already seen this particular episode and already witnessed how age had hardened him. If she could have seen how he'd turned out, Molly Ringwald would surely have stuck with Duckie.

But the big spot of the day came in Law & Order SVU. The Law & Orders are always good for the spotting game - most of the cast of the Sopranos have popped up in it somewhere along the line and a few of The Wire too. But last night's guest was wholly unexpected. The episode, 'Surveillance' involved an attack and stalking of a musician. The first suspect was the conductor, a good-looking man in his fifties with a distinctive drawling voice, who was strangely familiar. The OH didn't recognise him at all. Then inspiration struck - it was Dex Dexter!

Who? You may well ask. Dex Dexter, one-time screen husband of Joan Collins/Alexis Colby in Dynasty, that's who. As a youngest watching Dynasty, I though he was quite dashing although my father assured me he was a dreadful actor, perhaps not in the league of Ken Kercheval, Dallas' Cliff Barnes who was agreed in our household to be the worst actor ever.
Anyway, I was certain it was him which was surprising as I hadn't seen him since the late 80s. On looking him up on IMDB I was proved right. It was Michael Nader. He doesn't seem to have done much since Dynasty besides a stint in All My Children which doesn't get imported to the UK and an episode of Perry Mason that I've yet to see.
Unfortunately, his character wasn't guilty in this case so he disappeared from the screen mid-episode. But it was good to see him again.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Song of the Week: The Kills "Murdermile"

I will confess I was purposefully looking through our CD collection for possible Songs of the Week. At first when I spotted The Kills' CD, I thought I could just use 'Love is a Deserter' the one song of theirs I really know, but really love, because you know the band name has the word Kill in it. But on closer inspection, I found this song Murdermile and luckily enough someone had made a little video to go with it on YouTube. And its pretty damn good - I must give their CD another listen.

Living in London, the Murdermile to me is somewhere in Hackney. Not sure if it is this one to which the song refers (Jamie Hince is London-based and currently 'stepping out with' Kate Moss) or if it is just an allergorical murdermile.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Three Times a Lady (Detective): Mataharis

The OH was going to an NFL game (yes, bizarrely, in London) so I thought I might do something cultural with the afternoon myself. I looked at the website for the London Film Festival, expecting it to all be sold out but was surprised to find a screening this afternoon with tickets available. And the film sounded right up my street. A Spanish film called 'Mataharis' about three female detectives. I could believe my luck so bought a ticket on Friday. Unfortunately, today comes along with a stinking cold and going out in the rain is the last thing I want to do, but I've got the ticket already so off I go.

The introduction prior to the film given by someone from the British Film Institute talked about the film's look at society and some other such things that made it sound terribly worthy and dull. I wasn't in the mood for unflinching protraits of women's role in society - I had come for detectives! But the film rose above my misgivings.

Set in present day Madrid, it followed the lives of three detectives who work for the same agency run by an uncompassionate male boss. Eva is a mother of two young children, who has recently returned to work. Her story is mainly about the off-duty detecting she does when she suspects her own husband of having an affair. Carmen has been following the business partner of a man who suspects they are doing extra work behind his back, only to discover that the business partner is actually having an affair with the client's wife. Away from work, she is struggling in a love-less marriage. Ines goes undercover in a major corporation, where she is expected to report on the union activity but inadvertantly falls in love with one of the main subjects.

All in all, not much detective work was actually done. It was more about relationships with each woman representing a different stage in a love affair. But it was a beautiful film, it has a wonderful lyrical quality to it that Spanish films often do. I was glad I had ventured out into the rain to see it.

District Double

I had always considered The District to be a lighthearted show and yet yesterday's double-bill had me close to tears.

The first episode involved Jack's relationship with his son. The son has got himself involved with a woman and drugs. The plot was a bit meladramatic and improbable. I couldn't understand why he would take ecstasy during the day to visit a police station - not the most sensible move. No wonder his father was disappointed in him. But it wasn't this main storyline that moved me - it was the subplot of a woman being kidnapped in the boot of a car and the team tracking her down. I shared their relief when they found her alive and thought I might cry with happiness!

The second episode was more openly tearjerking. A black cop goes undercover and is shot by an off-duty white cop. It had been has last undercover assignment which as soon as this was mentioned, I knew it wasn't going to end well. The white cop wasn't a bad guy either though and was stricken over what he'd done but others were trying to stir things up for political ends, making it into a race issue. The black cop died which I was rather shocked by, having previously assumed things always ended well in The District. It was a good episode but not much fun.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Canine Crime Fighters

If there is one thing I love more than detectives, its dogs.

Watching an episode of The District on Saturday, I saw Jack Mannion’s dog for the first time. It wasn’t on screen long enough for me to work out what breed it was but it was an adorable bundle of fluff. And it got me thinking about dogs in detective shows.

The Red Hand Gang had a dog, Boomer and Columbo sometimes hooks up with a Basset Hound in some episodes, but I’ve also been noticing a few other canines recently.

In an episode of Law & Order Special Victims Unit we watched recently, a woman is murdered in Central Park while walking her dog. Munch picks up the dog and takes it back to the station until they can identify the woman. I was rather disappointed when the dog was returned to its master quickly as I had hoped for a whole episode of Munch carrying a dog about – two of my absolute favourite things together!

Then in Homicide Life on the Street (we are working our way through Season 3) there was an episode featuring an illegal immigrant family who had eight children and four dogs and were all leaving in one motel room. Then last night, I was watched the episode Justice Pt 1 and again the murder victim was accompanied by his dog. I feel asleep before the second part, so I don’t know what happened yet but I’m convinced the dog knew something...

But the undisputed king of the dog detectives has to be Freeway from Hart to Hart, an unclipped Lowchen. For all Jonathan Hart might be a self-made millionaire and part-time sleuth, Freeway is probably brighter and cuter too. On Sunday, I watched an episode on the Screen Gems on demand channel where Freeway took centre stage – ‘Which Way, Freeway?’. In this episode, Freeway pairs up with Susie (possibly a Setter), solves a murder and foils a diamond heist. Not bad going for a small fluffy thing.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Song of the Week: The Smiths "Shoplifters of the World Unite"

Very low level crime here. Shoplifting isn't the plot of many crime shows - at least not these days. It may have been the crime every week in Dixon of Dock Green (a show that ran for a generation but way before my time and not, to my knowledge, repeated recently).

According to IMDB, shoplifting features in the plot of a couple of episodes of Heartbeat - the Sunday night police comedy/drama set in the 1960s. Again, this isn't a show I've watched properly - I've had it on in the background a few times as they do play good music in it. It also features in an episode of Juliet Bravo and Rumpole of the Bailey.

I doubt Morrissey had any of these shows in mind when he penned this and actually the lyrics do hint at a list of crimes - littering and jay walking perhaps?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Talking to Cabbies

A double-bill of The District this afternoon. In the first episode, the Chief is concerned with crimes against cab drivers so some detectives go undercover to catch the criminals who target them. The trap works and one of the detectives finds himself being threatened by a criminal with a syringe of blood, the attacker claiming to be HIV+. Its a nasty, malicious crime (although it turns out to not be true) but what struck me most about this episode was the conversation the assailant had with the pretend cabbie beforehand. He asked the cab driver who long he'd been working and if he'd had a busy night. I thought this just happened in England, but apparently not - it would seem that world-over it is expected that you will make this same inane conversation with the cab driver, even if you intend to assault him!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Where Did It All Go Wrong: Hart to Hart

I found it quite hard to watch Hart to Hart yesterday. Not because of the corny plot, the hammy acting, Max's suits, the Hart's inappropriate innuendos in the face of murdered prostitutes. No, I found it hard because Jennifer Hart is living the life I thought I'd lead.

As a child, I love Jonathan Hart and I always imagined I'd marry someone like him - a self-made millionaire with a love of sleuthing. What more could a girl ask for? But my life hasn't worked out that way. Jennifer Hart has it all - the dashing husband, the part-time journalism job, the gnarled man servant and the fluffy dog. And I have none of those things.

Sick as a Detective

I was off work sick yesterday which in itself was a bad thing but it did mean I got to watch a lot of television. A huge amount in fact including lots of things I normally wouldn’t watch.

Cagney & Lacey
The plot involved an informant going undercover in a school to find out who was selling drugs to the pupils. The drug was PCP, not something you hear much about these days but obviously a big worry in Eighties New York. There was also a subplot involving Harvey Jr’s school project.

Starsky & Hutch
An improbable story of an old people who fill a car with dynamite in a plan to blow up their residential home, but the car is then stolen. I must admit I dozed off during this but it will seemed to work out fine in the end with the old folks being promised better food in their home.

A beauty queen is murdered and suspicion falls on her uncooperative parents, but then similarities are noticed with other murders. It was pretty dark, taking in possible incest, voyeurism and piano tuning! The on-going storyline of Jack stalking the profiler reared its head at the end of the episode too.

The Rockford Files
An airhostess friend of Rockford (Sharon Gless of Cagney & Lacey in her younger days) gets into an argument with a passenger, a Coin Collector when she comments on his frequent flying. He later attempts to kill her. Rockford gets involved with some strange plan to get the Coin Collector arrested which seemed rather foolish and pointless. But it was an engaging episode and I’ll make a point of watching it again next time I’m ill.

Hart to Hart
Redhead prostitutes are being murdered and the police aren’t that interested in solving the crime. So Jonathan and Jennifer get involved, much to the police’s disdain, another girl is murdered, they solve the crime.

Charlie’s Angels
The Angels are sent to Mexico to trap a drug baron. They each adopt a persona that suits their varied talents – Sabrina pretends to be an air hostess because she speaks Spanish, Kelly attracts the drug baron by wearing a daring bikini and Jill becomes a swimming coach for his daughter – the latter two roles obviously based more on getting the girls in swimwear than furthering the plot. There was a plot twist at the end that I saw coming a mile off.

Plus a couple of episodes of Homicide Life on the Street to round the day off nicely.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Style File: Baltimore Homicide Police

A new detective, Kellerman, joins the Homicide division from the Arson unit at the start of Homicide Life on the Street. He seems a natural for the job, but Giardello reprimands him for wearing jeans. ‘Homicide police do not wear jeans. We were slacks, chinos, not jeans’ he chided.

I was pleased Giardello pulled him up on this, because earlier in the episode I had commented to the OH that the new guy was dressed in a way I hate – smart jacket, shirt, tie and jeans. I suppose it is a very literal interpretation of ‘smart casual’ but I hate it. If you’ve gone to the effort of putting on a tie, is it really too much to put on proper trousers?

I hadn’t really paid much attention to the detective’s dress sense up until this episode and with over 200 murders a year, I doubt its high on their list of priorities, but it did remind me of one of my favourite lines from The Wire which also involved the homicide division of Baltimore’s finest. Beatrice Russell has joined the unit for one case which means she doesn’t have to wear uniform and the slug-like Sgt Jay Landsman offers the following sartorial advice and critique of the other officers clothing.

“For you I would suggest some pantsuits, perhaps muted in color, something to offset Detective Moreland's pinstripe lawyerly affectations and the brash tweedy impertinence of Detective Freamon.”

Detective Bunk Moreland’s besuited lawyer look is a good one – miles preferable to his off-duty outfit that involved a Lacrosse top.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Song of the Week: Public Enemy "911's Joke in Your Town'

I've really no business liking Public Enemy. What do they really have to say about my life - a white middle-class woman from northern England? Not alot. But still I love a few of their songs, including this one. The less said about the Duran Duran cover version the better - although I suspect a group of middle-aged millionaire ex-New Romantics from the Midlands know as little as I do about the problems of getting the cops to answer your calls in the ghetto.

The reason I love this song is undoubtedly for the beats behind the lyrics, but its being featured here for its lyrics - in particular it makes me think American shows like The Shield and The Wire where often the police have lost control or are out of control.

We have Homicide!

During my lunchbreak today I purchased Homicide Life on the Street Season 3.

It was rather expensive (£40) but I couldn’t be bothered to wait to have it delivered from somewhere cheaper. I need my John Munch/Richard Belzer fix. I wonder if he’ll actually solve any crimes this series or just be there for the wit & wisdom?

What's Wrong with Wong

The last week or so, I’ve mainly been watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 4 on DVD. Whilst the subject matter is nearly always pretty hard going and disturbing, I find watching SVU bizarrely comforting. I think it might be no matter how stressful my life is, the things happening in the show are a zillion times worse.

Also I feel I know the team well – unlike say CSI where I struggle to distinguish individuals, the SVU team feel like family that I feel comfortable around. There is however one exception – B.D. Wong’s character Dr George Huang, the FBI psychiatrist.

He is so annoying. Always there ready with a handy syndrome to explain a crime. Whilst I recognise the importance of psychology/psychiatry (I confess I don't know the difference) in police work and ordinarily find this aspect fascinating, it is his absolute certainty that annoys me. He never has any doubts, there is never any grey areas with him. This doesn’t seem right as I don’t consider psychology to be a science of absolutes. Dr Grace Foley in Waking the Dead has doubts, Cracker is all too fallible, but Wong is never wrong.

I much prefer the episodes without him. He's taking up valuable screentime that could be given to Munch instead.

And his real name is Bradley Darryl which isn't quite so professional sounding.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Song of the Week: Nancy Sinatra "Bang Bang"

I've been working at a film festival for the last couple of weeks, so it seems fitting that this week's choice is best known these days for its use in a film, namely as the theme tune to Quentin Tarantino's 'Kill Bill'.

I love Nancy Sinatra, controversially probably liking her more than I do her father. 'Some Velvet Morning' her duet with Lee Hazlewood is one of my all time favourite songs, but this is pretty good too. I'm featuring this song here because of all its talk of shooting people down, although I'm pretty sure its not a meditation on gun crime! Its still pretty eery though.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Old Friends in New Places

Yesterday’s viewing was full of familiar faces popping up in new places and I’m not just talking about Tom Bosley/Mr Cunningham from Happy Days in Murder She Wrote!

I finally got the OH to see the resemblance between the character Lechero in Prison Break with The Wire’s Bunny Colvin. And it turns out, its little surprise there was a resemblance as both are played by Robert Wisdom.

Next up as Law & Order: Criminal Intent. One of the suspects is played by Brad Renfro who we last saw in Larry Clark’s film Bully. But the more familiar faces were those of the new pair of detectives. Detective Carolyn Barek is none other than Annabella Sciorra who I recognised immediately as Gloria Trillo, Tony’s obsessive girlfriend in The Sopranos. The OH was sceptical at first, before concurring. He then expressed the sentiment that her voice was too seductive to be a cop, only to contradict himself minutes later by saying she made a good cop. Not sure what she did in the between times to change his mind.

But the big return was that of Chris Noth, back playing Detective Mike Logan who he played for several years in the original Law & Order. Of course, most women the world over know him as Mr Big from Sex & the City but I must be the only woman alive who didn’t like that show much and barely noticed him in it. To me he will always be Mike Logan, although he still has some way to go before he equals Richard Belzer’s record for the number of series he’s played John Munch.

So at first I was pleased to see him back fighting crime on the streets of New York but as the show progressed I became disappointed. First of all, what has happened to his voice? The pitch of it was so low, I could barely make out what he was saying most of the time. The other thing is that he seems to have had a makeover. We regularly used to mock his tartan ties when he was in L&O – he had quite a collection, all of them horrid. But they have gone, replaced with an almost stylish dark grey number last night. Its just not the same.

I’m also not convinced by his new found role as one of the elite detectives. I don’t see how he can match Goran’s vast knowledge and I don’t recall intuition being his strong point. Also I thought he left under a cloud having punch a city official or something similar so not sure how he’s ended up in this position.

Day Off = Multiple Murders

I had a day off yesterday so managed to watch a few more shows than the average Monday.

Columbo in the afternoon - in episode about a politician.
Jane Doe - started to watch this but then suspected I'd already seen it so gave up
Diagnosis Murder - an episode about mercy killings which I'd already seen so switched over
Murder She Wrote - the murder of a famous artist in Cabot Cove
Profiler - saw this was on but went back to Murder She Wrote
Prison Break - watched two episodes - its still exciting and silly in equal measures
Law & Order: Criminal Intent - first time I've seen the new series with Chris Noth (more on this later)
Law & Order: SVU - a couple of episodes from Season 4 on DVD.

Today, I'm back at work so won't see anything.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A day of new discoveries

Today, I watched two shows I'd never seen before - Janek and The District.

Janek: A Silent Betrayal I suppose technically might be classed as a tv movie rather than a normal series, but still he was a detective I'd not come across before. The plot involved a producer of broadway musicals, played by a very hammy William Shatner - I couldn't quite decide whether he was hammy because the man was in the theatre business or just because Shatner isn't a great actor. Liev Schrieber was also in it, who I'd last seen in the remake of the Manchurian Candidate - I spent a lot of time during Janek trying to remember his name. There was a high body count (six I think) but the plot wasn't particularly gripping.

Next I watch an episode of The District. This seems to be on the Hallmark Channel pretty frequently but I've always assumed it be rubbish, basing this solely on a trailer I saw where the commissioner was demanding to find who had stolen his chocolate bar. Whilst there were moments of humour, it turned out to be more meaty than I'd given it credit for and I actually quite enjoyed it. There was a good balance between the crime and ongoing personal stories. I'll definitely be watching it again.

So now I'm off to bed to attempt an episode of Criminal Minds

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Song of the Week: The Auteurs "Housebreaker"

Hmmm, I’m struggling a little of the Song of Week. I’ve thought of several songs but none of them have been on YouTube because they either weren’t singles and/or they weren’t that popular. So this week’s Song of the Week will not be using a video, instead I will just direct you towards a site where you can listen to the track – not ideal, but the best I can do.

So this week’s selection is ‘Housebreaker’ by The Auteurs, which is from their debut album New Wave. The Auteurs are the band of singer/songwriter Luke Haines, a man who seems to have been universally hated by the music press. I love this album - it was around the same time I was listening to a lot of Suede and lyrically they cover similar ground of seedy underground life and doomed relationships. At the time, I thought there was a glamour in squalor.

They did a later album called ‘After Murder Park’ which contains a track by the same name and one called ‘Unsolved Child Murder’ but I don’t know that album at all and though a song about breaking and entering might make a nice change.

So here are the lyrics to Housebreaker and if it sounds like you sort of tune, I suggest you can probably here it at Last FM here.

When I first met you
You were not house trained
A backwoods trier
world's your oyster
Your time is mine
What's yours is mine all
There's no honour
Amongst thieves
So we worked together
varied richand famous crime
You had your motivesI had mine
For a soul to
Little piece rub off on mine
Trinkets, memorabilia
for the taking
One mans treasurenever meant a thing
When I was
Took a buckshot landing
From my most famous
Must have lost it in the fall
Came away empty handed
I first met youI was not housetrained

Crime Hotspots: Cabot Cove

Oxford is a city, Midsomer is a county but this crime hotspot is just a village. However Cabot Cove’s murder rate is probably higher than those other places as it is often the setting for television’s longest running detective show, Murder, She Wrote.

But this should perhaps not come as any great surprise because Cabot Cove is in Maine (or it would be if it wasn’t fictional!) and Maine is often the setting for Stephen King’s stories, making it probably the deadliest of US states.

On the surface, it is a picturesque fishing village that has lately become a popular tourist destination, which bolsters its killable population. It has a Sheriff although I don’t know why they bother with him because its most famous resident, Jessica Fletcher solves all of the crimes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Post Modern Detection: Broken Flowers

No detective shows for me again last night, but instead we watched 'Broken Flowers'. Its directed by Jim Jarmusch and I loved 'Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai' and bits of 'Coffee and Cigarettes'. This film got mixed reviews when it came out but I liked it. We saw it at a preview screening at the NFT but I bumped into an old university friend in the foyer which shook me up a bit and overshadowed the film somewhat. So I was glad to rewatch it last night without that distraction.

Broken Flowers is a detective film, but a very post modern detective film in that the mystery is never solved. Solving the mystery is, along with a linear narrative structure, a masculine construct and unnecessary in these post-colonnial, post-feminsist times or something like that - from what I can remember of my degree studies which was over a decade ago.

There isn't a crime in Broken Flowers, Bill Murray's character is searching for his son rather than a killer, but he is looking for clues, encouraged by his neighbour, Winston (a scene stealing Jeffrey Wright) who is more obsessed with detectives than I am! When we first meet Winston he is having computer troubles, while looking at a website that helps you to write your own detective novel and solve any crime! You can imagine that my ears pricked up at the sound of that.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Style File: Charlie's Angels

Like many programmes from the past, Charlie’s Angels is probably best left to nostalgia as re-watching tends to lead to disappointment. The plots are paper thin. Characterisation is weak. And don’t get me started on the sexism

But the one thing that it is worth watching Charlie’s Angels for is the fashion. The Angels remain undeniably stylish and for this very reason I’ll be watching more on the video on demand channel.

I have a weakness for retro clothing so I would probably always love the Angel’s style, but such is the cyclical nature of fashion, they actually look very ‘now’ anyway. The episode I watched yesterday featured high-waisted flared jeans with tight t-shirts (always a favourite look round my house). In particular, Jaclyn Smith was wearing a very cool white Monaco Grand Prix t-shirt with her flares. Their wardrobes also contain wide collared shirts, pussy bow blouses and cute knits. The cinema remake Angels were no where near this stylish.

Strangely though, Farah Fawcett (Majors) was the main idol at the time, but I actually find her the least attractive of the three (I still wouldn’t say no to looking like her and she married the Fall Guy!). I think it might be because her clothes are the most obvious, whereas I prefer the understated style of the other pair. The men’s fashion however has not faired so well – yesterday’s villain was wearing an mechanics overalls most of the time, but this being the 70’s they were unbuttoned to the waist to show his chest – not a good look, but then he was a baddie.

Song of the Week: Thompson Twins "We are Detective"

It had to happen. The other obvious detective song. The Thompson Twins. Again, I couldn't find the original video for it but this is a video somebody made in school and posted to YouTube. Its really rather good and goes with the music well I think.

This is doubly appropriate - not only does the song have the word detective in the title, but the Thompson Twins took their name from a pair of the fictional detectives - the Thompson Twins (obviously!) in the TinTin books. The original Thompson Twins weren't really twins despite looking near enough identical -they were unrelated and one was Thomson without the p and the other Thompson with the p. The musical Thompson Twins weren't twins either and there were three of them!

Last Week's Viewing

I had a very busy week last week, which included going to a fashion show, going away for work and on Saturday actually socialising with my friends all day. So this didn't leave much time for watching television and I didn't really watch anything until Sunday, when I tried to make up for lost time.

Saturday: I got home at 11 so watched the last bit of SVU then the start of Criminal Minds, where predictably I fell asleep, woke up 15 minutes before the end, dozed off again and woke up five minutes after it had finished.

Sunday: A bumper viewing day, but it didn't start until later. I had wanted to watch the episode of Columbo which involved a production of Macbeth, but the OH was watching sport so I had to wait until later.

I watched a quick episode of Charlie's Angels wihch involved female racing drivers, then a Perry Mason: The Case of the Poisoned Pen. This episode involved the death of a murder mystery writer and the other suspects were all other murder mystery writers. How postmodern! It was fairly predictable and the formulaic structure annoyed me a bit.

Then the OH and I watched two episodes of SVU that we'd recorded the other week. The first episode was very good - Olivia had found her half brother, fathered by the man who raped her mother. But then he was a suspect in a stalking case, raising the question of whether he has inherited this from their father. Meanwhile the captain questions whether Olivia and Elliot should remain partners. Honestly, I wish they'd just have sex with each other to get it over with!

The second episode wasn’t so interesting and annoyingly we’d missed one in between so have no idea if the brother situation was explored further or if that was it. Olivia and Elliot were still partners though although showing no signs of having consummated the relationship. This episode involved underage drinking, something that in the UK would more likely be a case for social services rather than the police. All of the teenagers involved were irritating and I’m glad I didn’t go to an American High School as its nothing like Sweet Valley High these days.

Next up was an episode of Criminal Intent, apparently the sixth ever episode, which seemed a strange landmark to announce. You could tell it was an early episode though as everyone is wary of Goran’s bizarre behaviour rather than accepting his genius. It involved priests, foster care and homeless shelters, and was suitably bleak.

Then I rounded the day off with Medium. The OH watched it with me for the first time, but seemed to struggle with the conventions of showing flashbacks and visions. He found the family life subplot boring and suggested the programme should be renamed ‘Tedium’. I enjoyed the episode despite his distractions although next week I think I’ll watch it on my own.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Interative with The Bill

I used to love The Bill. About six years ago, I followed it closely. It was back in the glorious days of Don Beech, a bent cop who then went very very bad. It got very exciting when he went very bad. He got his own brief spin-off. But then The Bill became dull and I lost interest. I haven’t seen it for years now but by bits of things I read about it, it seems to have gone further down the soap opera route, which I’m not that keen on.

But yesterday I read something in the paper that piqued my interest and I may be returning to The Bill fold soon. They are going to do some sort of interactive episodes where viewers can solve the crime, using clues posted on YouTube. I’ve not been able to find anything more out about this yet, but I’m intrigued.

More on this at a later date…

Monday, September 17, 2007

Light-Hearted Murder: Medium

Last night I watched Medium for the second time. As I said to my OH 'I like it. Its a light-hearted murder programme'. He laughed rather a lot at this but then he had just returned from several hours in the pub.

But it is light-hearted. It is perfect Sunday evening viewing when you don't want anything too depressing or gritty - its bad enough that Monday morning is only hours away. The premise of the show is that a mother who works for the DA have psychic powers and can see dead people. The random dead people wandering around aren't really scary, they are sort of reassuring.

But what I really like about it is the sub-plots involving her family, her three blonde haired poppet children and especially her husband (played by Jake Weber). He has lovely floppy hair, looks after the children and goes to bed in a grey t-shirt which seems rather quaint, but lovely. I'm rather envious of her homelife, even if she can't get a decent night's sleep for visions and message from the other side.

Song of the Week: Elvis Costello "Watching the Detectives"

Its a surprise I didn't do this one sooner really. I couldn't find the actual Elvis Costello video, just several live performances of it and then I came across this which is an ad for TCM that uses the song. It is a pretty good pastiche of a film noir, so probably more appropriate here than just watching Mr Costello. Its a pretty good song anyway.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Grisly Undertakings: Columbo

Today's Columbo was one of the newer episodes, made in 1998, and noticeably darker, but more tongue-in-cheek at the same time than the original stories. It was unusual in that it was set in a funeral home. Its surprising really how little you see of funeral homes in murder programmes. You may see the occasion funeral, but in a way death is almost glossed over by these shows, with it just being a means to an end, with the end being the process of detection.

The murderer was a funeral director. Not just any funeral director, but funeral director to the stars! He was played by Patrick McGoohan who also wrote and directed the episode. When I saw his name come up at the beginning, I was slightly confused as I was certain he had been in the episode last week, which I didn't watch. But it turns out that he has starred in no less than four episodes of Columbo. That's dedication!

The episode also featured a gorgeous bloodhound and a puppy (I love dogs even more than I love detective shows), a barbershop quartet singing about 'amusing' funerals, and a tapdancer at a funeral (bringing a new meaning of the phrase 'dancing on their grave' I suppose).

An ex-lover and television reporter (Blanche from the Golden Girls, typecast as a saucy Southern Belle with few scruples) threatens to expose the funeral director for stealing valuable from the stars he has cremated. He kills her and cremates her, putting her body into the incinerator instead of the body of a war hero Hollywood legend. He later cremates the Hollywood legend with some leisurewear retailer and makes some quip about double occupancy.
Columbo knows he did it (doesn't he always?) but is stuck with the problem of proving it without a body, as the ashes have been scattered over the Hollywood hills. But then it turns out the Hollywood legend has shrapnel in his leg from the war, which doesn't burn, and that is still in the urn of the leisurewear retailers. Case solved. Although I'm not convinced that this would be enough to convict, but as this isn't Law & Order, we don't have to worry about the judicial system.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Elite Police

The premise of Law & Order: Crimincal Intent has confused me somewhat. I didn't quite understand what the Major Cases Unit was for. I had a vague idea that it was to deal with high profile cases, often involving the rich & famous but this seemed an odd idea - almost as if the wealthy had their own better murder squad. So I thought that couldn't be right and perhaps I was missing something else. But I looked it up on Wikipedia and it turns out that is exactly what it is. So not only can money get you better education and healthcare, it gets you are better level of policing!

The Wikipedia entry also points out a structural difference in the episodes that distinguish it from the original L&O - in particular that the opening scene shows the victim and contains clues to help you solve the crime. Unfortunately, the last episode of it I saw, I turned on a couple of minutes late so I probably missed a few vital clues there, but nonetheless I watched it, followed the plot and figured it out before it was properly spelt out for me.

The episode involved the murder of a woman whose son had recently been released from prison who had raped and strangled a woman, but didn't get life for some reason. Now this crime didn't fit the rich model but it was a high profile case as the son was a known criminal so I guess that makes him 'infamous'. So in comes Goran and Eames. Of course, the son didn't do it - that much was clear if only because it would have been a very short episode if he did. Instead it was a great episode that took in women who write to prisoners and women turned on by murderers, police interrogation techniques, wrongful imprisonment and the world of publishing fact checkers!

Goran's encyclopaedic knowledge of everything every manifested itself this episode in his quick deduction that the victim was stocking up on dimes to copy library records.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

This Weekend's (Thwarted) Viewing

I attempted to watch Criminal Minds last night for the first time. Unfortunately it was on a bit late and I annoyingly fell asleep before it concluded. What I did see wasn't too bad - three bombs had gone off and the team were trying to find a link between the victims and looking at the explosive devices to find the culprit. The section with the bomb expert looking at how the devices were made was particularly interesting, as he explained how each bomb maker has a signature and what you can deduce about their character. Fascinating stuff, but the plot device used to allow him to explain this to the audience (because in real life he'd probably do this in silence) he was explaining his ideas to what appeared to be an intern! An intern in the FBI! Does that happen? It seemed rather a clunky way of doing it and as it is the first time I've seen this show, I don't know if they always have a dumb person to explain stuff to.

Law & Order SVU was also on two channels pretty much simultaneously last night and I'd already seen both episodes. What are the chances of that? Actually probably quite high, especially since Five are saving their new series for weekdays only. I had also already seen today's Perry Mason case.

Even more annoying was that a cable channel we don't get (Living TV) had a Detective special weekend - a friend sent me a Facebook message to alert me to this. I was gutted. Apparently one show posed the question of 'If you were murdered who would you want on the case?' This is a question I will no doubt return to here later.

On a positive note, we now seem to be receive a batch of new channels including one On Demand Channel that has a whole series of Charlies Angels, which I'm hoping my partner will watch with me if only so he can decide if he prefers Jaclyn Smith or Kate Jackson (he's already ruled out Farah).

Song of the Week: Velvet Underground "The Murder Mystery"

This isn't the full nine minute version as featured on the eponymously titled album, but an extract from it used to accompany a short film I found on You Tube. The images perfectly fit with the haunting music and lyrics. The song involves voices coming from the left (Lou Reed & Doug Yule) and from the right (Mo Tucker & Sterling Morrison). The effect is sinister and confusing, not helped by the cut-up quality of the lyrics, which are more baffling than more murder mysteries I've come across.

Lyrics include:

put down that rag simpering, callow and morose who let you in? if I knew, then I
could get out the murder you see is a mystery to me

and the queasy-making

off with his head, take his head from his neck off, requiring memories both
lovely and guiltfree, put out his eyes, then cut his nose off, sanctimonious
sycophants stir in the bushes, scoop out his brain, put a string where his ears
were, all the king's horses and all the king's men, swing the whole mess at the
end of the wire, scratch out his eyes with the tip of a razor, let the wire
extend from the tip of a rose, Caroline, Caroline, Caroline, Oh! but retains the
remnants of what once was a nose, pass me my robe, fill my bath up with water

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Song of the Week: South "Motiveless Crime"

Its probably quite rare in detective programmes and fiction for the crimes to be motiveless, and I prefer the ones where the motive is paramount, the human angle. But in real-life not all crimes have a neat little motive.

Of course, this song isn't about crime shows at all - its more likely to be about the end of a relationship. But South are another favourite of mine, hugely under-rated and criminally ignored. I've seen them live several times and they've always been excellent. I really don't understand why they aren't hugely popular.

Joel Cadbury has a lovely voice, like chocolate if you'll excuse the lame pun. And he's a lovely bloke - at a very small/exclusvie gig that we won tickets to through a radio station, he said hello and thanked us for coming - we were stood next to a group of people who he'd gone to school with, so probably assumed he knew us too and was too polite to admit he couldn't remember us!

Monday, August 27, 2007

A New One on Me

Today, I caught a bit of a feature length show on Hallmark called Mystery Woman. Apparently it was part of an irregular series but it was the first time I'd seen it. Not only that but it was the first time I had come across this type of sleuth.

The hero of the show is a woman, Samantha, who runs a mystery book store. Not a crime story writer like Jessica Fletcher, but someone who sells books about murders. It became obvious from the reaction of the policeman in the show that it wasn't the first time this bookshop owner had gotten caught up in a crime. But in this episode, it was a crime writer who was the murder victim. How incredible is that?

Unfortunately, I had other more pressing things to attend to so couldn't watch it all - perhaps if it had been better, I would have made time. I wonder if my addiction is waning?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Discovering Dexter

Yesterday I started to watch Dexter on FX's on Demand channel. I've only watched an episode and a half of it and I'm not sure I like it. The premise is that Dexter is a forensics expert, who specialises in blood splatter patterns, but he is also a serial killer. He appears to be a nice guy - he buys doughnuts for the office, his girlfriend's kids love him, he's good at his job. But behind this facade lurks his impulse to kill. A series of flashbacks show that he first killed a dog as a child because its barking was keeping his sick mother awake and his foster father (a cop) talking to him about if he can't control the urge to kill, he should use it for good. So he kills other killers.

For Dexter to work, I think the audience needs to somehow identify with him over those people he kills. But so far (and I have just watched an hour and a half of it so I reserve the right to change my mind), I just don't feel anything for him. The Sopranos manages to make you feel for Tony Soprano, even though he is undoubtedly still a monster, but you do root for him, and that moral ambiguity makes the show particularly interesting. But Dexter hasn't managed to pull off that same feat - perhaps because Dexter isn't portrayed as human. The things offered to use that are supposed to make him the hero just seem to be that he is good looking and goes through the motions of being a good person. Its going to take more than that for me to be on his side. And of course, they've gone down the predictable route of having animals, particularly dogs, seeing through him (conversely, one of Tony Sopranos endearing traits is that he likes animals) - personally I'm with the dogs on this one.

The other thing with Dexter is the tone. It isn't a serious show - its one of those 'ironic' semi-comic dramas like Desparate Housewives. Its tongue is firmly in its cheek as they say, but that makes it harder to really care about anyone in it. Of course, it looks great (another thing television owes to the Sopranos) but sometimes I want more than style over substance.

But for want of anything much else to watch, I'll watch a bit more of it to see if it can hook me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Song of the Week: Death in Vegas "Aisha"

I'm normally a bit of an indie-fan, but I do like my dance crossovers and Death in Vegas are one of the best. I love the album The Contino Sessions, and it features some great guest vocalists. Not least, the legendary Iggy Pop on this week's selection 'Aisha'.

Sung by anyone else the words 'Aisha I'm vibrating' would be comical but not when its Iggy - it is the sound of psychosis. Terrifying.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

We finished watching Homicide last night and I must admit I was slightly disappointed with the last episode of the series.

Last week, I was moved to tears by the episode 'The City that Bleeds' where three of the cops were shot. The portrayal of the cameraderie between colleagues and how they each dealt with it was superb and so moving (you just don't get that sort of thing in my industry!).

Then there were a few more decent episodes. Then the final episode, which I would describe as a concept episode, being shown mainly from the perspective of the criminal. Bruno Kirby playing a recently released felon looking for revenge on Pembleton, who put him away. He was looking for 'an angle' for his revenge, which presented itself when he found the severed head and murder weapon of the murder Pembleton was investigating. He then embarked a preposterous scheme of sending photographs of the weapon, then the head to the press, to taunt and humiliate Pembleton.

It was ridiculous - not helped by him being accompanied by a 70s disco obsessed friend and that the murder victim had been a psychi (cue several jokes about how she should have seen it coming). It did culminate in him threatening Pembleton with a knife, but the episode had been so silly until then that I don't think it managed to shift into menace. It may have been aiming for 'King of Comedy' style psychosis, but failed.

So that is Season 2 over with, and we have to wait until September for the third series. What will we watch now?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Career Choices

So I don’t want to join the police and I can’t become a private investigator, what other avenues are open to me, if I still want to solve crimes? Plenty, if you believe the television.

Criminal Psychologist – often working a police department but not actually a police, Fitz in Cracker is instrumental in solving many crimes, as is Dr Grace Foley in Waking the Dead. So far, so plausible. But then there is Profiler, where the Sam Walker is portrayed as being psychic which she uses to put together a profile of the criminals. This seems less likely but now we've got someone in Medium doing the same. Highly suspect. I'd say stick to the formal qualification in psychology, rather than having visions.

Lawyer – not such a stretch to believe that if you are a lawyer, like Perry Mason or Kavanagh) that you might have to do a bit of detection to ensure the right man is convicted. However, you have to be a criminal lawyer – it is less plausible if you specialise in property/contract/commercial law.

Medic – Quincy was a medical examiner and in the process of investigating how someone physically died, he often got caught up in the motive and moral side of the case too. Still not that unlikely as death is his line of business. Dr Mark Sloane on the other hand is a physician and really should be concentrating on practicing medicine rather than sleuthing. Although, his son is a cop, that is really no excuse – his son doesn’t perform operations so he shouldn’t be solving crimes, Nor should he tap-dance or roller-skate around hospital wards.

Crime Writer - Jessica Fletcher is always caught up in some murder. Does she recycle these real-life crimes in her own book? Its never quite made clear, but she must do because otherwise how would she find the time? I can't think of any other crime writers who do a bit of solving on the side - Ian Rankin sticks with the writing as far as I'm aware and gets help with police procedure details from real police - it isn't the other way around.

Gardener - that pair of green-fingered ladies, Rosemary and Thyme are always digging up corpses along with the weeds. Unearthing a body may happen once but every time you do a bit of weeding? Very unlucky or highly suspicious. If it happened to Monty Don repeatedly, I think he'd look for alternative employment. Gardening in my new home I did wonder when I found a few small bones in the peebles out the front - for a moment, I wondered if they were fingers, but then I remembered the previous owner had a small dog. So again, I don't really think gardening goes hand in hand with crime-solving.

I think I'll have to stick with my current job for now...

Song of the Week: "Down in the Hole" (theme from The Wire)

You can tell alot about a show from its theme music. The Sopranos has a great theme song, The Shield has some awful noise. The Wire has brilliant opening credits, the visuals and the music, in all its versions.

There is some debate on various sites about which version of the song "Down in the Hole" is superior, and I'm not sure I've mind up my mind yet. Purists often hate cover versions, so would prefer the Tom Waits' version (used in Season 2) as it is his song. The Waits version is the one I've got on my ipod but just because it was the only one in itunes.

But I actually don't mind a good cover version, as long as it brings something new to song (see a list of my favourites here). Some people (commenting on YouTube) favour the version used in the fourth series as it involves young people from Baltimore and sounds more like the sort of music listened to on the streets, but I don't hold much sway with this argument as that is taking the show is just being about the dealers (a gross simplification).

In the end, I've picked the Blind Boys of Alabama version because it was used in the first series, so is the original theme from The Wire, if not the original version of the song.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Unknown Stuntman

No detectives for me at all last night as I went to a pub quiz instead. There were no questions about detectives or crime shows for me to answer unfortunately - once there was a question about Columbo - it was a True or False question about whether Spielberg had directed an episode.

But there was a question about 'The Fall Guy'. Not really a detective show, but bounty-hunting does come under the wider category of law enforcement.

"What was the name of Lee Majors' character in The Fall Guy?"

Easy. It was even in a round where all of the answers involved animals.

Colt Seavers, if you didn't know.

I loved The Fall Guy as a child and I still have a soft spot for the theme song. I've been singing it to myself since last night which isn't good.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My Ideal Boss: Lt Al Giardello

Watching Homicide: Life on the Street again last night, aside from my on-going adoration of Munch, I decided that I want Lt Al Giardello as my boss.

Normally senior police, the shift commanders and chief superintendents etc, aren’t portrayed that sympathetically. They are often careerist, obsessed with targets and budgets, and out of touch with the ordinary detectives.

Chief Superintendent Strange isn’t wholly unsympathetic to Morse, especially towards the end when they are aligned as part of the old order, which is rapidly being replaced with a new generation.

The high ranking officers in The Wire are a mixed bunch – Daniels and Colvin are good men with good intentions, but the others are a nightmare mixture of vanity, petty rivalry and incompetence – you wouldn’t want to work for Burrell, Rawls or Valchek.

Waking The Dead’s Boyd is forever shouting at his team but then he is conflict of those higher up, with the unit constantly under threat of being shut down. A similar cloud hangs over the department in its light-hearted counterpart, New Tricks with Pullman and her team of oldies under pressure from the big bosses.

Captain Aceveda in The Shield is a mess - ambitious but a mess. Not much better than his renegade strike team. His replacement, Glenn Close as Captian Rawling isn’t an inspiring leader either.

Nope, Giardello is the only one I’d like to work for. He’s far superior to my actual real-life boss in so many ways. He's charming but efficient. He's a family man. He's firm but fair. He's part Italian so cooks good pasta. And he can hussle at the card game hearts (far preferably to my own bosses miserable attempts at betting on the horses!).

Alas, I fear my chances of working for a fictional Baltimore police department are slim.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Crime Hotspot: Midsomer

I'm glad the English county of Midsomer is fictional because it has a bloody high body count. The bodies are stacked up in every episode of Midsomer Murders. And Midsomer is not a sprawling metropolis - its is a picturesque rurul county in middle England.

I haven't watched that many episodes of this as its unbelievability gets a bit much for me, and my cousin mercilessly scoffed at my auntie for watching it. But according to the legions of fans the series seems to have, it is tongue-in-cheek and the high death toll has even been commented on in the series.

The multiple murders take place in quaint villages with names like 'Midsomer Mallow' 'Badgers Drift', strange ethereal places, but that have an underlying menace - a bit like Summer Isle in The Wicker Man. Strangely enough, several real English counties are very keen to claim their connection with Midsomer, as if being a hotbed of homicide is some sort of tourist attraction. Personally, I've never noticed the beauty of the landscape when DCI Barnaby has found another corpse in a copse. But if you do feel inspired to visit Midsomer, Buckinghamshire seems to have laid the biggest claim to it.

I've never been a big fan of the countryside (I like to be near some good shops, cinema and theatres) so this series does prove to me that I was right all along to distrust the country.

Song of the Week: Nick Cave "Where the Wild Roses Grow"

From Nick Cave's album 'Murder Ballads' where all of the songs are about murder, except for his cover of Dylan's 'Death is Not the End', which is included apparently because Cave claimed to have murdered it!

I suppose I could have picked any song of there but I've picked this one because frankly its the only one I really like. I'm not a big fan of Nick Cave - he scares me a bit, but my OH likes him and this is a good song. Its very much in the style of old English folk ballads.

This song is a duet with Kyle Minogue. I'm not normally a fan of the 'Pop Princess' - perhaps I like this because she's murdered in it? The song she did with the Manic Street Preachers was good too though.

So here for this week's Song of the Week is a song by two people I don't normally like but brought together on a murder duet, its pretty good. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Reading the Detectives

I was looking for other blogs on a similar theme to this one, and pretty much all I could find were blogs on crime fiction. There are tons of them out there.

I'm not actually a big reader of crime fiction. I'm not sure why - perhaps I just need a break from it after watching it on television so much. Or it might be that my degree in English Literature makes me a bit of reading snob. But that's not to say I haven't read any crime fiction. I have.

Some of the first adult books I read were crime fiction - Agatha Christie novels, read on holidays in Spain and the Algarve, that had been left behind in the clubhouses by previous holidaymakers. Normally read after I'd exhausted my own supply of books (usually the Sweet Valley High series!).

Later, around the age of 16, I was reading the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy books, which led onto the Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently novels. Not really ordinary detective fiction - Dirk ran a holistic detective agency. I remember a particularly great description of a character as 'looking like lots of David Bowies joined together'.

Then at University, I read a few bits and pieces in the genre - some Sherlock Holmes stories definitely - but I never managed to take the course entitled 'Signs and Clues: Detective Fiction'. I did however do a course in Post War American Fiction, taught by the unfortunately named Sally Munt, a leading light in Lesbian fiction. The course syllabus was changed from the advertised books, to include a few lesbian detective novels. I can't remember the name of the author - all I do remember is that no crimes were ever solved as that was a masculine narrative tradition which she was rejecting. We also read American Psycho, The Crying of Lot 49 and Paul Auster's New York Trilogy, which I suppose were all crime/mystery fiction but not as dear old Agatha would have recognised.

1996 and the 'Trainspotting' effect can be fully seen in publishing. I'm 21 and lap up books about clubbing, which includes a couple by Manchester writer Nicholas Blincoe, who seemed to be found in the Crime section because his books featured gangsters. The then-boyfriend bought me a Janet Evanovich book - Two for the Dough I think - he bought it because it had a bright cover and I then did read another couple of hers before losing interest. I also read 'White Merc with Fins' which was set where I was living - it was good but his next book 'Rancid Aluminium' was rubbish and tainted the memory of his previous work.

Then I read Christopher Brookmyre's 'Quite Ugly One Morning' and loved his mix of mystery and politics. I read everything he wrote after that and quite fell in love with his investigative reporter, Jack Parlabane. But then the relationship soured - 'The Sacred Art of Stealing' was too much of a rip-off of 'Out of Sight' and the next one I never really grasped. I haven't read his most recent effort.

Because of the comparisons made between Brookmyre and Carl Hiaasen, I decided to see what the fuss was about there. I read a couple of his books, borrowed from the local library. I enjoyed them but the mistake I made was that I couldn't later remember ones I'd read already because I no longer had the books to check and reading the covers, they all sounded kind of the same. So I've not read anymore Carl.

Then came Alexander McCall Smith' 'No 1 Ladies Detective Agency'. An easy read on holiday (as with Agatha Christie) but after reading about five, I found them rather repetitive - I don't just mean in plot structure, I'm pretty sure whole chunks of description about the main characters were lifted wholesale from one book and plonked down in the next.

I'd seen Ian Rankin on the Late Show and News Night Review alot and liked him but hadn't read any of his books. I took the plunge about two years ago, buying one in a train station shop for my journey home. I enjoyed it - like Hiaasen and Brookmyre, he was politicised. I started to work my way through the series when I had a long train journey ahead of me, finding the books easy to get into, but not too low-brow. I decided I preferred the later books. On my last trip to visit my mother, I bought 'The Falls' and 'Resurrection Men'. The former I read greedily on the outward journey and finished half way through the return, then I started the next one. Three months later, I have just managed to finish it - I don't know why but I lost interest in it. I'm out of love with Rebus and can't see me picking up a crime novel for a while.

Unless of course, someone wants to recommend something from the millions being written.

Sheltering from the sun with Kavanagh QC

The British summertime has belatedly arrived and my fair English skin had had as much sun as it could take for one day, so I turned to television. Not in the mood for the Law & Order on Hallmark, I opted for Kavanagh QC on ITV3.

I like Kavanagh - I'm a big fan for John Thaw - he reminds me a bit of my father - they both had that air of melancholy about them in later life. But I don't think I'd actually seen any Kavanagh since it was first on the television, and even then I didn't see much of it.

Now Kavanagh isn't a detective -he is a lawyer and the programme is pretty much a courtroom drama. He doesn't really go out investigating to the extent that Perry Mason does. But ordinarily, he is a criminal lawyer so its good enough for me. This episode however he took on a personal injury case, rather reluctantly because, like me, crime is his thing.

I have some vague memory of watching Kavanagh in the past and it being rather upsetting, not in a gory way, but tugging at the old heart strings. This episode was the same - a bright young student was injured at the shipping company he was working at during his holiday, it left him in a wheelchair with memory loss. The relationship between the lad and his parents was very moving and well-written - far superior to anything ITV has put on in recent years.

The programme time-slot was sponsored by AXA - a finance company who amongst other things specialise in insurance - which seemed ironic when the episode was about a family taking on a insurance company for compensation.

I noticed a couple of other things during the episode. Kavanagh's kitchen cupboard contained three jars of Marmite - I know you either love it or hate it, but that seems excessive. Poor set dressing really. The other was the witness who was shown to be living in a depressing flat tending to a sick wife, had the same vegetable rack we had in our old flat - it was pretty grim.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mr Belzer

Today is Richard Belzer's birthday. He is 63.

Is that too old for me? Because I think I love him. Or at least the character John Munch, but I'm convinced he's just the same in real life and writes his own part. He's like a prophet in Homicide Life on the Street - he's already predicted the rise of the internet (this was made before it really took off) and the dangers of driving 4x4.

Alright, so I know he isn't good looking but he's got character. And he's been on Seasame Street.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why I Love Homicide Life on the Street

The boxset of the second series has arrived. Just watched a few episodes and it really is fantastic. Here's a few reasons why:

  • Richard Belzer as John Munch - he's funny, cynical and I just can't get enough of hi
  • Ned Beatty as Bolander - he reminds me of a bear
  • Frank Pembeton's enormous ego
  • In fact, that each detective has such a distinctive personality
  • That each crime isn't neatly wrapped up in one episode but may take several to solve
  • The theme music - like a menacing version of Pan Pipe moods
  • Family Guy did a spoof bit of it called "Homicide Life on Seasame Street" which I found very amusing

Why I Don't Love CSI

I've tried, I really have, but I just don't love CSI and I don't understand why it is the most popular franchise of programmes in the world.

  • I find it far too formulaic - I know that's a bit rich coming from a Columbo fan, but really does every episode have to have two separate investigations running through it?
  • If I miss the first few minutes of it, I find it hard to keep up with which investigation is which - probably because of the next point
  • I have trouble distinguishing between the investigators and don't have any real sense of their characters, except in the case of..
  • Horatio in CSI Miami - he stands out because I can't stand him - posing with his sunglasses on, looking wistfully (I imagine as I can't actually see his eyes) out to sea
  • Motivation isn't so important as method of killing. A reason will be given why someone has committed the crime but it isn' t anything in-depth - everyone is 2 dimensional
  • Because the method is the most important thing, these are ridiculous - rarely is anyone just shot or stabbed
  • They don't seem to liaise with any other specialists - no criminal psychologists etc - just forensics
  • Back in the real world, it is apparently getting harder to convict without lots of impressive CSI type evidence as this is what juries now expect having seen it on television
  • We had a break-in at work a while back and a forensics expert came to look at the scene - she was no where near as glamorous as the CSI teams - she was quite dull in fact.

I will admit I haven't seen that many full episodes as I tend to watch this in bed and fall asleep and I prefer the original series, then New York and absolutely loathe Miami.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Rooting for the Bad Guy

When looking for the Talking Heads clip, I came across this quote from David Byrne about his inspiration for the song, Psycho Killer:

"Both the Joker and Hannibal Lecter were much more fascinating than the good guys. Everybody sort of roots for the bad guys in movies"

I understand why many actors prefer playing the bad guy, as it is more of a challenge than playing a bland goodie and I've also worried about what it says of me that I enjoy crimes so much - but actually rooting for the bad guy takes this further. So I started to wonder, do I ever root for the bad guy?

Unfortunately I think the answer is 'Yes, sometimes'.

Moral ambiguity is integral to both The Wire and The Sopranos, and are designed to make you identify with what would traditionally be a baddie. There would be no point in watching the Sopranos if you didn't like Tony at all and the same is true of the drug dealers in The Wire. So I don't think these count.

But I have sometimes rooted for the bad guy when they are definitely the all round baddie.

The most recent case was watching 'Dial M for Murder' the other week. Ray Milland was just so charismatic that I really wanted him to get away with it. Grace Kelly, I didn't care about one way or another. Or was that Hitchcock's intention with his love of making his blondes suffer?

Whilst I do love Columbo, it does sometimes get on my nerves that he solves the case so easily, that he immediately instictively knows who the culprit is. So sometimes while he plays his cat-and-mouse games with the murderer, I do want them to get away with it. Just for once. Especially if its an episode I've seen before, I hope that somehow it may have an alternative ending.

Watching Profiler, the main character did get annoy me and I was bored with watching the show and wanted it over with, so often found myself hoping that Jack of All Trades would hurry up and do her in. I kind of got into it towards the end, but then the first series finished, and I was still none the wiser about his identity and haven't seen any more of it. So I still wish he'd have finished the job off.

But then there are some shows where I always want the good guys to win - Morse, Monk and the Law & Order lot, so perhaps there is hope for me yet.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Song of the Week: Talking Heads "Psycho Killer"

The first in a possible series.

It really doesn't get much better than this - a song which combines a few of my favourite things; New Wave, New York (David Byrne is so New York despite not actually being born there) and fictional serial killers.

Hearing this after a drink or two, I am liable to do a side-to-side swaying New Wave guitar playing dance & mouthing along to the 'fa fa fa fa fa' bit. Embarrassing I know.

A Quick SVU

My mother came stay at the weekend and the sun was shining for a change, so my viewing over the past few days has been minimal. I did however sneak in a quick episode of SVU in bed on Saturday night after mother was tucked in for the night. I missed the first ten minutes of it so didn’t quite understand how the disappearance of a pregnant woman fell under the remit of this department. It was nonetheless a decent enough episode with a few twists and turns, and ventures down blind alleys before the woman was found (but alas, not saved) and the culprit apprehended.

The OH continues apace with his rewatching of the Sopranos, but I keep falling asleep, so not much more to report there at the moment, but I've not much planned for this week, so think I'll be catching up on some viewing.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Growing old with the Sopranos

Not technically a detective show, The Sopranos does feature an awful lot of crime and is one of the best programmes ever made, so I'm including it here (its my blog, I make the rules).

Last night, we started to rewatch the first season of The Sopranos. The OH has a bold plan for us to rewatch the whole lot in order over the coming weeks. (I think it is going to be broken up by the arrival of the next set of 'Homicide Life on the Streets' but we'll see).

Re-watching the first two episodes last night, I was struck at how young the cast look. Obviously it is most pronounced with AJ as he was a little dumpling of a child when it began and is a man by its end. But its true of the rest of the cast too, just in a more subtle way - they all look a bit smoother, a little less gnarled back in the early days.

The show started back in 1999 but we came to it late - obviously in the UK we always get shows later, but we also didn't get into it much later on, once the first three series were available on DVD. I struggled to stay awake to watch much of it when it was on television so found having it on DVD was a much better way to watch - plus you don't have the frustrating week-long wait between episodes.
So it was probably 2003 before I really began watching it in earnest, which means that the cast have aged 7 or 8 years to my four. Even so, it got me wondering about how much things in my life have changed during the course of this series.
Like Tony Soprano, during this time I've lost a parent. He lost his mother, I lost my father - neither of whom were particularly sane. Like Carm, I've stuck with my man during this time, deciding its easier to turn a blind eye to his faults (whilst Tony's major failing is being a murdering mob boss, my OH has committed the lesser sins of sports obsession and a fondness for cheese). I would have like to have blossomed into a beautiful woman like Meadow did during this time, but alas I haven't - I've just got a few more prematurely grey hairs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fascinated & Flummoxed

My taste in cinema is normally wildly different from my taste in television. It has often been said of me that I’m “only interested in black & white films from the Ukraine’, which, whilst a gross exaggeration, does point to the truth that I’m not one for the Hollywood Blockbuster. And as for the multiplex, it ranks just after Victoria Beckham and seafood in my list of dislikes.

I am willing to watch a thriller in the comfort of my own home but have become rather tired of spate of ‘plot twists’ where the menace was a figment of the imagination or a split personality. It was interesting Fight Club, but dull in the Machinist, annoying in Identity and downright ridiculous in Secret Window (I make no apology for spoiling the endings of those films – I’ve saved you half a days viewing there).

So it is rare that my cinema trips would be relevant to this site, but on Saturday, we went to see Zodiac. It was showing at a nearby arts cinema so we were spared the popcorn chomping masses. All of the reviews I’d read felt compelled to mention how the long the film was, so I’m not going to break with that tradition – it was a long film. But it held my attention, even though I knew the case wasn’t going to be solved (which again isn’t a spoiler – it’s based on a true story). Robert Downey Jnr was as good as ever and the boy Gyllenhaal wasn’t bad, but I came away rather taken with Mark Ruffalo or rather his character, Inspector David Toschi.

More than that though, I’ve found myself still thinking about the film and the case long after we left the cinema, which was befitting really as the film was about obsession as much as it was about a killer. This lead to much internet-searching on Monday. After reading the ever-useful Wikipedia and entering the crazy world of the IMDB messageboards, I discovered a whole site dedicated to the case, and a web of intrigue, theories and conspiracies which would give JFK’s assassination a run for its money.

Plenty of professional police and amateur sleuths have tried to unmask the Zodiac Killer but to date no one has been charged and the facts of the case are still somewhat foggy. And it is clearly going to take a better detective than me to solve this one, but I’ll definitely be watching the film again.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Shouting at the Dead

The 20 most used words in the English language are as follows:

the, of, to, and, a, in, is, it, you, that, he, was, for, on, are, with, as, I, his, they

But if you are Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd of 'Waking the Dead', you could probably add 'Spence' to that list.

He's hardly on screen a minute without hollering the name of his long-suffering colleague, Spencer Jordan. Boyd is one angry man - I'm unsure of whether it is the character or if that is Trevor Eve's only style of acting - whatever it is, poor Spence seems to bare the brunt of it. The others in the team are snapped at certainly, but the most shouted name by a mile is Spence.

We've been re-watching selected episodes of the third series this week and I wish I'd been keeping a tally of how many times he's shouted 'Spence'. And if I'd had a pound for every time, I'd easily have enough to buy the boxset of the fourth series.

Crime Hotspots: Oxford

Given the fierce rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge universities, everyone connected with the latter must have rubbed their hands with glee when Morse was on the television.

The Oxford of Morse is still a romanticised place, life centres around the University colleges and quaint little pubs serving real ale, and the town is awash with opera fanatics. But lurking amongst its dreaming spires are murderers aplenty.

Episode after episode is described as the death of an academic of some sort, usually of the more civilised subjects Classics, History, Literature etc (little if any reference is made to those involved in its Engineering department). Coming to Oxford as a student, don, professor, or visiting lecturer was portrayed as an undertaking thwart the danger. Much safer to go to Cambridge which, to my knowledge, hasn’t been the setting of any major crime show (spies, rather than murderers are Cambridge’s thing).

I wonder what effect the depiction of Oxford as a hot bed of murder and deceit had on the number of applications to its prestigious seat of learning? Probably very little as studying to enter Oxford probably doesn’t leave much time for crime drama – a lesson that would have served me well in my youth when my stunning academic career was sidetracked somewhat by Remington Steele, Moonlighting and Charlie’s Angels.