Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Crime Hotspots: San Francisco

The Law & Order series alone make New York the undisputed television USA crime hotspot. LA had years of Columbo and Perry Mason cases. Miami had Miami Vice, now CSI and Dexter. And of course Baltimore has made a late bid with The Wire and Homicide.

But today, our attention turns to another US city, San Francisco. Perhaps not so prominent recently (there is no CSI SF for one thing) but my reason for featuring it is more personal. I’m off to San Francisco this week.

In a bid to prepare myself for the trip, I was planning on absorbing some San Francisco crime drama. Sadly, I didn’t have access to ‘The Streets of San Francisco” which I remember vaguely but fondly from my childhood, but I did manage to watch a few episodes of Ironside, one of which featured the post office on Geary Street prominently in its plot.

Looking for something more contemporary, I was going to indulge myself in some Monk, which is set in San Francisco. But it is just set there – it is actually filmed in Canada.

I turned my attention then to cinema. I’d already seen Vertigo which is quite famous for its use of San Francisco locations, but watching another SF based Hitchcock, The Family Plot. The location didn’t play quite as big a role in this one though. I also attempted to watch Bullitt which shamefully I’d not seen. The city looked great in it, plenty of shots of the cable car, but I’m afraid I fell asleep in it.

Of course, the big one in San Francisco crime is the real-life crime of the Zodiac case. I loved the film and am still intrigued by the case. So in between photographing the bridge, vintage shopping, visiting galleries and bars, I’m determined to solve the case!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I don't get the channel Movies 24 and I'm going away over Easter. But if I did subscribe to it and was in the country, I would be able to watch 4 days of non-stop Columbo. That is what they are showing for four solid days. Nothing but the scuffy detective. That's way too much even for me.

Quote of the Week

Well I think that the mind of a serial killer and the mind of the
detectives represent the duality we face as people.

Paul Guilfoyle

Song of the Week: The Jam "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight"

The dangers of the London underground presented by Paul Weller. There aren't many songs about beatings that make you want to sing along loudly (Killing of a Flashboy has that effect too but that's probably just on me).

Despite what Paul Weller has become (a grumpy has-been with no musical relevance and a tragic haircut) this is undeniably great.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Finally, Lewis

On Sunday, I managed to see the whole episode of Lewis for the first time this series. Both of the weeks before, I managed to fall asleep before the end, but truth be told, I wasn’t that bothered as I didn’t really care who did it, or even what they did.

But this week was much better. To start with there was the slight intrigue about Hathaway’s sexuality. Once the notion was planted, he suddenly seemed almost camp, especially the way he held a cigarette and Lewis stood in for the curious viewer, hesitantly asking what we want to know. Modern fellow that he is, Hathaway side stepped the question neatly.

I guessed the ‘whodunnit’ a good 15 minutes before it dawn on Lewis. I think the OH was quite impressed with my powers of detection, but then claimed that he would have solved it too had he been paying full attention. But I doubt it somehow.

Friday, March 07, 2008

36 Hours of Crime & Flu

Still off work ill, but just about managing to crawl to the lounge to watch television and then to the computer to break up the day. The novelty of daytime detective watching has truly worn off and I'm regretting watching Criminal Minds so quickly.

In the last 36 hours, I've watched the following:

Crossing Jordan - I watched it but through my flu-haze I struggled to follow it properly. It was nearly over before I realised there were two separate crimes, which was why I was confused. Like I said, I'm ill.

Season 5, Disc 2 of The Shield - three episodes in total. I wasn't enjoying it but then as the plot moved away from the Strike Team and onto Dutch and Claudette instead, I started to get back into it. I had only just remarked how I would prefer it if they had their own spin-off series, when Claudette fell down and the episode ended. We now have to wait a couple of days for the next installment to arrive.

Law & Order SVU - the second episode about Olivia's brother and whether he is a rapist. I'd seen the first episode a while ago but missed the follow-on, but last night, all the loose ends were tied up.

Intelligence - the first ever episode of it - or rather the first twenty minutes of it before I crashed out. It looked quite good although a poor man's The Wire or Sopranos perhaps.

Ironside - another good episode about using a television show to trap a killer. The television show was part Crime Watch, part debate. It was interesting that the same worries about crumbling society and rising crime were issues in San Francisco in 1970s as they are in the UK today.

Charlies Angels - an episode from series 3 about a psychics. Not bad, but it is late period Angels where Farah has been replaced by Cheryl Ladd and its just not the same. I miss Farah's big hair. I attempted to watch a second episode involving 'the death of Charlie's favourite folk singer'. The plot involved drugs and laundrettes but even so I slept through it.

Cold Case - Whilst I've seen other cold case based programmes, I'd not seen this show before, perhaps because it is on Sky One, rarely a good sign. But it was ok. It was about the murder of a yuppie trader and although it was complete with 80s soundtrack and detail, it didn't get in the way of a pretty good plot. I liked the device of switching between how the person looked at the time of the murder and how they are in the present.

That's an awful lot of crime - no wonder I feel ill but at least I've managed to avoid Diagnosis Murder.

Anyway, I must get back under my duvet as Randall and Hopkirk will be starting soon.

Glossary of Terms: CI

Definition: Abbreviation for Confidential Informant
Usage: The Wire, The Shield
Similar Terms: Snitch, Rat

Not to be confused with: CO - Corrections Officer.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Quote of the Week

Seeing a murder on television can help work off one's antagonisms. And if you haven't any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some.

Alfred Hitchcock

I wish I was a profiler

Thanks to a serious bout of cold, I was off work yesterday which gave me time to finish watching the first series of Criminal Minds.

Some episodes weren't as good as others, but on the whole I was gripped by it. Annoyingly, the series ended with the first part of a two-parter, so now I'm impatient to find out what happens next.

And know I'm totally in awe of profilers. I've come across them in other shows (Profiler obviously!) but here they most impressive. Of course it is fiction but still it must have some basis in reality and now I wish I'd become a profiler. These people are seriously intelligent. Their job and this show answer the question of 'why' which is what interests me most

In honour of Criminal Minds' structure of ending the show with a quotation, I've started a new blog feature, unimaginatively entitled 'Quote of the Week'.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Complex case for Ironside

I'm going to San Francisco in two weeks time and I had in my mind that I would emerse myself in San Francisco culture before I go. Namely reading books and watching films and shows set in the city.

So this morning, when the opportunity arose to watch Ironside, I embraced it despite not being a huge fan of the show on account of it being based in San Francisco. Only today's episode turned out to be one set in Los Angeles. Nonetheless I stuck with it becuase it turned out to be a lot more interesting than the previous episodes I'd seen.

The episode was "Five Days in the Death of Sgt Brown", and was from Season 6, back in 1972. Ironside's sidesick Ed Brown was testifying in court in LA and then the gang were in a hotel in the city, relaxing with drinks on the balcony when shots were fired. Ironside has flashbacks to when he was shot. The others panicked and checked he was ok. Then they noticed that Ed was missing - and looking over the balcony, there he was shot and on the ground!

He wasn't actually dead though and what follows was 5 days that took in a complex tale involving spinal injuries, experimental surgery, another balcony fall, hallucenations, kidnap and a small amount of homoerotic tension thrown in for good measure.

As ever, it all ended well and I'm left rather glad I'm not going to LA as, aside from the drug gangs of The Shield, they have a problem with dangerous balconies and my balance isn't the greatest.

Style File: FBI

In the course of their investigations, FBI agents are smartly dressed, but if they are "going into a situation", they will wear special FBI clothing. At least they do on the television, and I'm assuming that the television doesn't lie about this.

There are t-shirt, baseball caps, jackets and protective vests, all branded with the simple white letters F B I. I've seen them in several shows -Prison Break, Criminal Minds and Sue Thomas FBI spring to mind immediately. The item of clothing is usually navy blue (or is it a special shade of FBI blue?) with white lettering.

It does concern me that these items would be very easy to recreate so in the interests of research, I did a quick internet search and indeed on Ebay, there are FBI t-shirts available to buy, although they are in black, so they wouldn't fool me. There was also a sweet FBI jacket for a dog, with the letters standing for Food and Bones Investigation. Cute, but I don't approve of dressing dogs.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Glossary of Terms: Un-Sub

Definition: Short for Unknown Subject. Meaning the person who is being profiled.
Usage: Most episodes of Criminal Minds.
Related Terms: Perp (short for perpetrator) as used in Law & Order series

Sunday, March 02, 2008


As well as the Criminal Minds marathon, I've also managed to squeeze in the final episode of season 3 of Prison Break and the first four episodes of season 5 of The Shield. Truly this week, I have had no life outside of my house! (Actually that isn't true - its been a very stressful week and crime shows help me relax).

These series have in common that they are both action packed and no where near as good as their popularity suggests. So much action happens in each episode, something is always happening, and yet you can miss an episode without really missing much in terms of plot development. Neither requires much thinking - in fact thinking probably hinders viewing as then you start to worry about plausibility, character development and other things that the writers haven't let get in the way of the action.

Prison Break ended frustratingly, but I'm still hoping that it has actually ended now. It should have ended 5 minutes before the end of the second series really.

The Shield started back up with its usual over-the-top bluster - a hilarious scene of a riot in a church where Ronnie (the member of the Strike Team who seems to get two lines of dialogue a season) was whacked over the head with a crucifix. He used up one of his lines asking who hit him, to which Vic replied 'Jesus Christ'.

We are getting The Shield through our DVD rental service as I wasn't going to pay for another series of it. So we are being drip-fed it, disc at a time. The next one will probably arrive on Monday, so until then, its back to Criminal Minds.

All aboard with Criminal Minds

I've watched about 10 episodes of Criminal Minds now. Its quite good. If it were to be placed on a scale of detective shows, it would obviously be below The Wire and Homicide, but definitely above CSI.

The standout episode for me so far was 'Derailed" which guest-starred Chris Bauer (Frank Sabotka from Season 2 of The Wire) as a paranoid schizophrenic who takes the passengers on a train hostage. Elle, one of the regular profiling team, happens to be on the same train, and the rest of the team have to work to save her and the other passengers. At the start of the episode, we were given a small insight into the minds of each of the other characters, which comes to have some bearing on what unfolds later.

Chris Bauer was excellent as ever, and there was a risky move of having a person there representing the voice in his head, which could have been terrible but it worked. Some comments on IMDB about this episode complain that there were unresolved things in the episode to do with the other passengers, but that didn't matter to me as I don't need everything neatly rounded off. There are also complaints about the inaccuracies of drivers licenses, car number plates and train/flight timetables in the episode, but really life is far too short to worry about such things!

Song of the Week: Suede "Killing of a Flashboy"

I don't know why this song didn't occur to me earlier really.

Suede aren;t a fashionable band to name drop these days, but back in the day they meant a huge amount to me. I was given free tickets to see them when they'd just released their first single, The Drowners, they played six songs for a radio show and blew me away. At 17, the songs about unsuitable love, sordid sex and drugs seemed hopelessly glamorous and they wore great shirts and had great floppy hair.

This song was originally a B side and as they say, a live favourite. It has a special place in my affections as I won a competition on the XFM breakfast show to see Suede by naming the song that the DJ was acting out and it was this one. It was only a few years ago, they were well past their prime and the OH laughed at me for still going.

The song is about someone being beaten to death, possibly for wearing a frilly shirt and having floppy hair.