Wednesday, January 30, 2008

CSI Miami - Why So Popular?

I'm back on that question again. Why is CSI Miami the most watched programme in the whole world? What is it that people love so much about this show. I know what I don't like about it (I've mentioned it before). Last night I tried to watch it again in the hope of answering this question.

Is it the location? Miami does look pretty good in it, I'll concede that much. Is it the good-looking glamorous people in it? Do viewers enjoy seeing bad things happen to beautiful people in beautiful locations? Is it just a case of schadenfreude?

If CSI Miami was a colour, it would be blue. I was struck last night by how much blue there was on the screen. Not the blue of a flashing police siren or uniform, but the bright blue of the bright blue sky and the bright blue sea, and probably Horatio's eyes too. Surely a crime programme should be the colour red (for blood) or grey or black for the darkness of man's soul? Not bright blue. Waking the Dead wouldn't be blue (its probably a dark red). Cracker wouldn't be blue (definitely black). Dexter would definitely be bright red. Even Monk wouldn't be blue - I think it would be beige. But CSI Miami is definitely blue and blue is not the colour of suspense.

Anyway, even the bright blue was not enough to attract me - I fell asleep at the half way mark again.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Not Psyched by Psych

I watch my first episode of Psych yesterday and I’m still not sure what to make of it. Billed as being from the team behind Monk, I thought it would be worth a watch, but on first impressions it wasn’t in Monk’s league.

It had the same comedic style that Monk has, but was lacking Monk’s heart. The premise is that this young guy, Shawn, is pretending to be a psychic as a way to get involved in helping the police solve their crimes. He isn’t actually psychic, just very observant. It is mildly amusing, but I didn’t really care about him enough.

Whereas with Monk, you want him to succeed because a) he’s a great detective and b) he’s lost his beloved wife, I don’t really know why we should want this impostor to triumph. He has a rival in a real policeman but this rival isn’t dislikeable enough for me to really root for Shawn at his expense.

So I won’t be rushing out to buy the box set or re-arranging my life to watch it again, but I suppose if its on, I’ll give it another chance.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Psychedelic Sleuth

As well as detectives and dogs, my other passion is the past. I love all things retro, mainly from the 1960s. So I was delighted when yesterday's episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) delivered on all three.

Obviously it is always about detectives, and it is set at the end of 1960s, but yesterday's episode was particularly psychedelic and featured a very cute dog. Jeff (Randall) investigated Marty's (Hopkirk) claim of witnessing his grave being robbed and ends up in the middle of a plot to kidnap a wealthy heir.

The heir was an agrophobic hippy artist, who was reluctant to go into his father's business - he bore a slight rememblance to Sid Barrett at his most wild-eyed. It turned out he was complicit in the plan, to con his father out of £5,000, but bizarrely the father wouldn't then pay the ransom, settled instead on marrying his housekeeper to give him other heirs instead. The son ended up being a circus attraction with his attempt to stay underground for five years. And it seemed like a happy enough ending for all concerned, but was so far removed from the conventional resolution to a detective programme and had more in common with the psychedelic cinema of the time.

Far out, man (or something).

Friday, January 25, 2008

He's Not the Messiah, He's a Very Naughty Boy

I’d not seen Messiah before although my mother was a big fan of Ken Stott who used to be its star.

I can’t stand its new star, Marc Warren. I have been known to call him the world’s worst actor (his competition in this category being Jason Statham). I’m not sure why I decided to watch it – I think it was desperation as there really was no other crime shows on. So I wasn’t expecting much. In fact I was expecting to have to turn it off after ten minutes in annoyance at Warren’s bad acting.

But I was pleasantly surprised. As pleasantly surprised as you can be with gruesome killing spree of about 15 people! Although it was essentially another Se7en alike it kept me interested and.I didn’t guess who the murderer was which is quite a rarity.

Warren’s acting was still pretty bad, but he was playing a moody troubled character so that reigned in the worst of his manic over-acting. I did snigger at his wooden insistence that his colleague investigated the sand left at the scene.

I also struggled to take him seriously as a heart-throb. He looks like an Estate Agent. Or a goblin. A Goblin Estate Agent. Its not a look that I’d go for, but somebody out there must like him because he gets more than enough acting jobs.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Be Careful with that Sub-Plot, Hooker

Our cable service was playing up again the other night so the only channels that were working were the 'on demand' channels, so we really had no choice but to watch another episode of T J Hooker.

(I realise we could have done something else but we'd already played three rounds of Barry Norman's film quiz and it was raining outside)

We selected an episode based on the ridiculous title 'Sweet Sixteen....and Dead' as that promised the camp melodrama the show excels at. The story involved two teen runaways who had become 'working girls' and witnessed a city official being bribed by a pimp. The pimp then set his henchman (a wonderfully Afro-ed thug) after the girls to eliminate them. Pretty serious stuff.

Ignoring Shatner's poor acting (a difficult task - he was hard to distinguish from a line of trees at one point, such is his wooden style), the gravity of the main plot was undermined by the frivolity of the subplot. Light-hearted subplots occur in several shows, for example Monk usually involves a sideline about the Captain, Randy or Monk's assistant.

The sub-plot involved girl scount cookies, namely Romano being tricked into selling them for Hooker's daughter. It was too much of a contrast with the main plot, given almost as much screentime and frankly, it took the biscuit!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jumping the Shark

After listing the shows that have made me cry, I settled down to watch another episode of Monk. His assistant, Natalie, bumps into Monk’s dead wife Trudie, who claims she faked her own death to protect Monk. Another episode where the loss of his wife is central should have had me reaching for the hankies, but instead I think it is safe to say that this one could be described as ‘jumping the shark’.

Now if you aren’t familiar with that term, I’ll explain. It means when a show has ran out of ideas so does something unbelievable and over-the-top. It originates from an episode of Happy Days, where the Fonz jumps over shark-infested waters on his motorbike.

Were we really expected to believe that Monk’s devoted wife was not dead after all this time, tears and heartache? Not only had she returned, but she murdered an old man? I was finding it hard to believe, but no more so than the final conclusion. I don’t think I’m spoiling too much for anyone in revealing that it wasn’t really the late Mrs Monk, but an impostor. But does anyone really exist that looks so much like another person that even a husband could be deceived (albeit briefly)? I think not.

A plot devise of such silliness not seen since Bobby emerged from the shower in Dallas.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Crying Shame

Last night I watched an episode of 'New Tricks' on BBC1. I was feeling a little tired and emotional as, truth be told, I'd had a little too much to drink the night before, plus I was aching from my first ever yoga class. So I wanted something easy to watch, that wouldn't tax my brain too much, so I thought New Tricks would be ideal.

Unfortunately, I'd forgotten that it often makes me cry. Its James Bolam's character that does it mainly - with his mourning for his dead wife, talking to her shrine in the garden. To make matters worse, last night's episode was set in an old people's home. My gran has recently had to go to live in a home, as she needs constant care after a stroke, so it hit a bit of a raw nerve there. Suffice to say, by the end of the episode I was sobbing quietly to myself.

But this is not an isolated incident. I've cried at several detective programmes. Although detective shows are about death, they very rarely focus on grief or sadness - the solving of the crime is the focus, so I realise I'm not supposed to cry, but I have. Here are a few other incidents:

Homicide: Life on the Streets - 'The City that Bleeds'
The episode where three of the cops are shot had me in tears. It was by far the best episode of this series that I've yet to see which is saying something as it is always very good. What was particularly moving was the way the other cops reacted to the shootings. Somehow I don't think my workplace would be affected in such a way, but then working in the arts doesn't really have that sort of risk.

The Remorseful Day – the final episode of Morse
I knew he was going to die, I cried most of the way through in anticipation and was inconsolable when he collapsed. It was his loneliness that got to me. It reminded me of when our family dog, Rebel, went & lay in the snow to die.

Various episodes of Monk
I know it is supposed to be a light-hearted series, but sometimes the stuff about his grief for his wife just gets to me and I’ll have a discrete cry. I think there may have been tears in the episode when he wanted to adopt the little boy too. The episodes with his brother, Ambrose, also tug at the old heart strings, despite the ridiculousness of his character.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
I'm pretty sure this has made me cry on several occasions but the one that stands out most was the episode '911' in Season 7 where a little girl rings Olivia claiming she has been kidnapped and there is a race against time to find her.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Dangers of Typecasting

Sad and shocking news in the paper this evening that The Bill's Reg Hollis tried to slit his wrists after being told his contract with the show would not be renewed.

Excuse the way my reporting of this seems to muddle the actor (Jeff Stewart) with the character but that is how the newspaper covered it too. And obviously the role was important to the man himself - he's been on the show since it started in 1984. That's an awful long time in one role and it is easy to see how it must be more than a job to him.

I've been made redundant once and whilst I was upset and worried about finding another job, I wasn't driven to such extremes. I quickly got myself some temping work, but I suppose that isn't an option for him (can he touch type?). Vacancies for people who've pretended to be a policeman for over 20 years are probably a bit thin on the ground, although I believe Heartbeat recently lost a policeman so there may be a position for him in 1960s Yorkshire town.

I hope Jeff feels better soon and if its any consolation The Bill has gone downhill anyway so he may be better off out of it.

Song of the Week: Donovan "Hurdy Gurdy Man"

Its been a while since I posted a Song of the Week and I feared that the well may have run dry. But here it makes a return with 'Hurdy Gurdy Man' by sixties singer Donovan.

You may well wonder of the relevance of this song. Well, it is here because it is the title music to the film Zodiac, which I re-watched at the weekend. And how menacing did it sound over the film? Now I find it terrifying. Its so creepy.

My OH claims he always thought it was, but then he agreed with Shaun Ryder who said of Donovan 'anyone that happy has got to be evil'.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Steele Watching Remington

I’m making slow progress with Remington Steele box set. I’m five episodes in. There are 22 in total Each one with a title including the word Steele, usually as a weak pun on the words Steal, Still or Steel (hence my tribute title above). That’s 22 Steele puns for the first series alone. Last night I watched ‘Thou Shalt Not Steele’.

Remington Steele isn’t one of the better known detective programmes so for anyone reading who might not know, the premise is thus:

Laura Holt is a trained detective but nobody wanted to hire a female detective. So she makes up a male boss, Remington Steele, puts is name on the agency and the work floods in. Things are going along smoothly but then in the first episode Pierce Brosnan, a mysterious man with a shady past and unknown identity turns up, and ends up assuming the identity of Remington Steele. As he is charming and dashing, it helps out the agency top have a real Remington Steele to introduce to clients, but of course he gets involved in the cases and there is an on-going will they/won’t they romance between him and Laura.

In each episode they take on a new case, usually investigating a theft, providing security or looking for a missing person, although often there is a murder thrown in for good measure. It is what I would call a light-hearted detective show - the murders aren't gruesome or sad and there is a fair bit of wit from Mr Brosnan. The show's creators went onto do Moonlighting and it is pretty similar in tone to that.

Along the way there are little bits of information given about Remington’s past and true identity, although knowing it runs for 4 seasons means I’m not hopeful of finding out who he is within this box set.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

News Just In: Law & Order London

I read in the London Lite paper tonight that ITV will be doing a UK version of Law & Order, set in London. It will have the imaginative title Law & Order London. Scripts from the original show will be reworked to suit the English legal system.

Now I love Law & Order and there is a severe lack of good UK crime shows at the moment so my initial thoughts were positive. But then I realised that this is ITV. Their idea of quality drama is rarely mine. Their dramas tend to use a small pool of actors, usually former soap stars. I'm picturing Robson Green and Ross Kemp as Logan and Briscoe, John Nettles as the prosecutor, perhaps assisted by Michelle Collins or Sarah Lancashire. This is not a good thing.

But perhaps I'm being harsh and it may turn out to be as good as Morse or Cracker. No dates have been given yet for when this is likely to come on as it seems to still be in development, but I'll await its arrival with interest.

Out with a Bang

I’m an infrequent watcher of the CSI franchises which may seem odd as they appear to be most other people’s favourite shows – CSI Miami is in fact the most watched programme in the world! But if there is nothing else on, I will watch a CSI in bed, more often than not falling asleep half way through.

But the other night I managed to watch a complete episode of CSI New York, the final episode of the season that was showing on Channel 5. What a season finale! There was a suspected gas leak in the offices of the CSI team but it turned out to be an elaborate plan by a drug gang to steal back their drugs and avenge the arrest of some of their men.

The baddies were led by a rather sexy Irishman (as is often the case in fiction – in reality I don’t think IRA supporters are normally that good-looking – Gerry Adams certainly isn’t). It was tense and exciting but all ended well with Mac being reunited with his woman and agreeing to go on holiday to London with her. As I don’t watch it very often I knew nothing of their relationship but was struck by her English accent which is that generic English accent that you only ever hear on American television or films – even if the actor is English, it is not how anyone here speaks.

Anyway, these gripes aside I did enjoy it and am looking forward to the next season.

Watching the Detectives Resolutions for 2008

  • To update this blog more
  • To watch more detective shows
  • To discover at least one new show that I like
  • To work my way through the Remington Steele box set (22 episodes is looking pretty daunting right now)

My ambition to solve the Zodiac killer mystery while I’m in San Francisco in March might be asking a bit too much and might get in the way of enjoying the sights.