Monday, February 25, 2008

A Change of Heart regarding Psych

I think I was a little harsh on Psych the first time I watched it. After the number-crunching smoke and mirrors of Numb3rs, I wanted something that I could understand and Psych fitted that bill perfectly. More than that, this time I actually found it funny. Not side-splitting, rolling in the aisles funny, but enough to raise a smile.

The little flashback to Shawn and Gus as children, I found charming and in their grown-up versions, I found them more likeable this time around. The plot involved the murder of a restaurant critic, again a well-worn plot but this time it wasn’t the obvious angry chef who was guilty. There was also a funny bit about magic mushrooms which seemed quite daring for a family show!

In this episode, Gus’s uncle Burton visits who is under the mistaken belief that Gus is the psychic and Shawn is his assistant. It was an age old farcical problem but amusing nonetheless, especially since the uncle was, like myself, a television detective fan. He mentioned “Hill Street Blues”, “Murder She Wrote” and “Manimal”. It is rare that television detectives acknowledge other television detectives so this was a nice touch.

Unlike Numb3rs, the show does not involve a gimmick to solve the crimes. He solves them through old-fashioned observation skills and it is all the better for it.

2 plus 2 is 4

Maths is not my strong point. Actually that is a bit harsh - I did afterall get an A at it at GCSE so I couldn’t have been that bad. I was always fairly good at both Maths and English but somewhere probably around the age of 14 I decided where my affections lay. I decided it was English for me, and Maths bored me. So while I’m fine with the basic stuff (adding, subtracting, multiplication, division) and even a basic algebra, anything beyond that, I’m lost.

There is a point with all this, other than giving you an insight into my academic background. Yesterday I watched Numb3rs.

I didn’t understand it. It involved a lot of squiggles on boards and the word algorithm was bandied about. I tried to concentrate really hard but I didn’t get it.

Actually again I’m being a bit harsh. I understood the crime solving bit, I didn’t understand the maths part or why they needed it to solve the crime. For all his fancy formula, it seemed a pretty simple solution that didn’t need maths at all – just a bit of thought.

The numbers thing is a just a gimmick, tacked on to differentiate this show from the other crime shows. Simple detective work isn’t enough these days – there has to be some clever-clever techniques involved. I blame CSI. And don’t get me started on the number in the name.

Later I watched Lewis, a good old-fashioned style detective programme, but unfortunately I fell asleep in that.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Song of the Week: Bruce Springsteen "Murder Incorporated"

Yes, its back after a prolonged absense. The feature of (at times tenuous) crime related songs!

Getting us back in the saddle is Bruce Springsteen with Murder Incorporated.

This a song about how dangerous it is out there on the streets, which seems appropriate after watching all of those episodes of Homicide Life on the Street.

I'm quite partial to a bit of The Boss actually. My mum likes him too and its rare that our musical tastes coincide and or a time (when I was still at home) whenever we went anywhere in the car together I'd insist on listening to Bruce.

Sleepy Viewing

Left to my own devices, I really really would not have watched Ashes to Ashe again.

But for some reason the OH thought we should give it another go. I think it is because they played "Geno" last week. He can always be won over by a bit of Dexys Midnight Runners.

I was so tired from work and yoga that I couldn’t be bothered to persuade him to watch something else instead. But I was so tired, I fell asleep and missed half of it anyway.

Then I woke up and we watched an old episode of SVU, the one where Olivia is undercover with some environmental protesters. We’d seen it before but it was still worth watching. An old episode of SVU is better than a new Ashes to Ashes anyday.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Starting out with Criminal Minds

Still mourning the finishing of the latest Homicide (is it wrong to feel a sense of loss over a DVD set?), I was almost consoled last night when I found the complete first series of Criminal Minds was available on our On Demand channel.

I have attempted to watch Criminal Minds when it was shown on Channel 5 on a Saturday night, but, as is so often the case, I’d always fallen asleep. Also joining a series part way through meant I struggled to grasp the different characters in the team, so it was much appreciated to have the chance to see the first series from the beginning. I now know that Gideon is returning from sick leave, traumatised by some past experience and that the rest of the time are learning to trust him. I know know that one of them came from the bomb department, another from sex crimes and one is a child genius.

I enjoyed the first episode so much, I watched two more, the third one being one I’d previously dozed off during and it made much more sense now. Its not as good as Homicide (what is?) but I’m hoping I can convince the OH of its merits and watch another batch tonight. Afterall, we will not, under any circumstances, be watching Ashes to Ashes again tonight.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Vision of Things to Come: Homicide and The Wire

The last episodes of the fourth season of Homicide Life on the Street were marvellous In fact the whole season was sublime. (Actually its been sold as the fourth season in the UK but in the US for some reason it was 5th season).

What struck me most about this season of Homicide, you could almost see the seeds of the ideas forming that were to evolve into The Wire. The on-going plot with drug-dealer Luther Mahoney is very much a taste of what is to come with The Wire. As he corner him in the season finale, Lewis says he can live with the drug dealing, but not the killing – similar sentiments are expressed by D’Angelo in The Wire.

The other thing that developed further in this series was the character of Mike Kellerman. While Munch will always be my idol, I have a slight crush on Kellerman. Looks-wise he’s not my usual type (too blonde, too boy-next-door looking and I’ve not forgotten the jeans with smart jacket crime), but he’s developed in this series. Actually, he has crumbled mentally (at least twice) and embarked on a doomed, drink-fuelled relationship, but he has come a fully formed character and looked quite cute while doing it! In fact, he may well be a precursor to The Wire's McNulty.

I was disappointed that we got to the end of it so quickly and I may have to go back to re-watch it soon. I have to wait until May for the next instalment but I’m also concerned that we are running out of Homicides to watch. It feels like sacrilege to say it, but I’m actually starting to think that Homicide might be inching ahead of The Wire to become my all time favourite show. Just a couple more seasons left, plus just one more season of The Wire. What will we do afterwards? A huge hole will be left in my viewing as nothing else is as good.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Nepotism and Unbelievability

I didn’t have too much to drink on my birthday. I really didn’t. I didn’t have a headache or anything like that. I went out to buy the Sunday paper with minimum fuss. But after that I was besieged by extreme tiredness, so the only thing to do was lie on the sofa in front of the television, where I dozed on and off all day.

In between dozes, I watched the following:

Murder 101: College Can be Murder
Described by the Hallmark announcer as ‘the new Diagnosis Murder”, which was a fairly accurate description in that it was a crime show, starring Dick Van Dyke and it wasn’t very good. He played much the same character as in Diagnosis Murder, except this one was a lecturer in Criminology rather than a doctor so it was set in a university rather than a hospital, but he was still the same irritating character. It also, like Diagnosis Murder, involved his son Barry, who, as far as I could tell, lived with him, was a Private Investigator but not playing his son this time. A few other lesser Van Dykes also cropped up in lesser roles.

Agatha Christies Poirot – Murder in Mesopotania
Despite telling the OH I didn’t like Poirot much, I ended up watching this. I wondered whether it might have any interesting undercurrent about politics in the Middle East and Colonialism, but it didn’t unless that happened while I snoozed. The plot involved the murder of an archaeologist’s wife, who we were supposed to believe was captivatingly beautiful. I found her insipid. The resolution involved asking us to believe that someone could marry the same man twice without realising it. What I refer to as the “Martin Wellbourne Scenario” after a similar plot in The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. Frankly, I don't believe it is possible. Mrs Perrin knew all along that Martin Wellbourne was Reggie, just as Jodie Foster in Somersby knew it wasn't really her husband. So I couldn't believe this was any different. Nonsense.

After this was finished watching the rest of the Homicide DVD which was majestic and deserves its own post. More later

Friday, February 15, 2008

St Valentine's Day Massacre

Yes, even on St Valentine's Day, I managed to watch some detectives. We did celebrate the day with my patented Halloumi hearts and a bottle of champagne, but then we watched some television.

First up was Ashes to Ashes which was on its final chance. Still not really liking it, so it may have been the last time we watch it. The only decent thing in last night's episode was that they played Geno by Dexys Midnight Runners.

Then we went back to the boxset of Homicide. The first episode was called Blood Wedding but was nothing to do with the Lorca play of the same name. It was shaping up to be an interesting episode, but sadly I feel asleep before the end, the champagne earlier having gone completely to my head.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Homicide: A Personal Response

The fourth season of Homicide has finally arrived on DVD. The OH’s parents kindly bought it for me for my birthday but we decided we couldn’t wait any longer so started watching it last night.

By way of introduction, we re-watched the final episode of Season 3 and then embarked on Season 4 and ended up having quite a Homicide marathon.

(Warning – if you have not seen the series but plan to do so, the following contains a huge spoiler).

The Season ended with Frank Pembleton having a stroke. It was pretty harrowing on first viewing back in September, but since then my aunt has had a stroke and is still in hospital, her progress being very slow.

The actual stroke scene in Season 3 was pretty bad, but storyline about the after effects in Season 4 reduced me to tears. There was a scene where he is raging about the coffee always running out, but to the confusion of his colleagues, he uses the word ‘bagel’. Then during his vital shooting test which he must pass to stay in homicide, he is unable to recognise the word ‘magazine’. These incidents were all too familiar as my aunt continues to confuse the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ making the most basic of communications a struggle. The look of frustration on Pembleton’s face is one I’ve seen in real life.

Apparently audiences couldn’t stand to see him like this so(against the wishes of the actor, Andre Braugher ) he makes a sudden and full recovery. Sadly in real life there isn’t such a simple solution.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Dust to Dust

Last night saw the start of the Life on Mars spin-off Ashes to Ashes.

I really enjoyed Life on Mars, especially the first series. The reasons I liked it were;

a) It starred John Simm
i) who I find very attractive
ii) is a very good actor too
b) It was set in the 1970s which meant
i) pretty good music
ii) pretty good clothes
c) It was a crime show

Of these reasons, only c remains. And there wasn’t really any of that last night.

It still features the character Gene Hunt, who it seems pretty much essential to describe as “the irrepressible”. Hunt stole the show in Life on Mars for many people, with his retrograde attitudes and sharp one-liners, and whilst I enjoyed this, I doubted it would be enough to sustain a whole show.

However, this was not my problem with Ashes to Ashes. If anything, there wasn’t actually enough of Gene Hunt in last night’s episode. Instead it was dominated by his new partner, a female psychologist played by Keeley Hawes, who has also come back from present day. Where John Simm was a master of understated bewilderment, she is over-the-top, neurotic and just downright annoying. She’s a terrible actress and an unsympathetic character. I don’t care if she has been shot in the head and can’t get back to her daughter. What decent parents call a child with a huge mole on their face, Molly? Surely that is just giving bullies easy material.

My other problem is that I’m not a fan of the 1980s. I was a child in this decade so can remember it all too well. We had some good toys, but that was about it. The fashions were awful and the mainstream music dire. I’m only grateful that I wasn’t in my late teens during this time.

But last night was just the first episode which needed to set the scene, so perhaps it will get better next week and they might get down to some real police work.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Unsung Heroes

We were watching Monk the other week and the OH remarked upon how much he preferred Monk's second assistant, Natalie to his first, Sharona. I'd read somewhere that the actress playing Sharona left the show because she wanted more money. I don't know if this is true or not but I think I prefer the newer assistant too - Sharona always wore skirts that were too short and didn't flatter her.

Anyway, this conversation lead onto the question of what would happen if all of the detective sidekicks went on strike? Would lots of show suffer if the sidekicks left or would they continue regardless? Are some irreplaceable?

So the topic of my next poll will be "Who is Your Favourite Sidekick?"

Whilst there are some shows where there is an obvious hierarchy, many cop shows have a partner dynamic with both being equals, for example Benson and Stabler in SVU, Starsky and Hutch, Dempsey & Makepeace etc. Other shows go with the lone detective working on his own, without any help from others, like Columbo.

So its not been as easy as I first thought to put together the shortlist and I hope a few people will take the time to vote.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Poll Results: If You were Murdered...

So the votes are in and have been counted in my poll ‘If you were murdered who would you want in charge of solving the case’.

And the winner is Frank Pembleton from Homicide Life on the Street.

I am a bit wary about declaring him the winner as I suspect my OH may have been block voting to fix the result – if you can count seven votes as block voting, that is. But I suppose he is a worthy winner. He’s an astute detective, he doesn’t let his personal feelings get in the way and he is adept at getting murderers to confess.

There was a three-way tie for second place between Criminal Intent’s Goran, Morse and Columbo. As much as I love Morse, I wouldn’t want him in charge of my case – he is too easily distracted by opera-loving women and there is too frequently a follow-up murder. I would trust both Goran and Columbo to get the job done, although they both have habits (head tilting and re-entering the room respectively) that might annoy my nearest and dearest.

Another poll will follow in due course, when I can think of a topic – any suggestions welcome.