Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Quote of the Week: PD James

What the detective story is about is not murder but the restoration of order.

P. D. James

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sunday Schedule

The Hallmark Channel isn’t scheduling quite so many detective programmes at the weekend at the moment. I spent Saturday gardening in the garden (where else?). And I’ve actually had some semblance of a social life recently (even if that did include watching darts!). These things have conspired to mean that I’ve not been watching as many shows as usual. But the exception to this is Sunday night. I’ve settled into quite a nice little routine of viewing on a Sunday.

Psych – I feel thoroughly ashamed that I was so harsh on this when I first saw it as I really like it now and wish I could watch it more often than once a week. The settings of the last few episodes have been; a Spanish soap opera, a Lodge and a fashion party. Each one has brought with it ridiculous jokes. Unfortunately, it looks like this week’s is the last episode of the second series. I feel that I may need to buy the first series on DVD soon. I may have a little bit of a crush of the main character, Shawn.

Law & Order – I don’t go out of my way to watch this anymore but on Sunday it fills a hole in my schedule. Despite my dislike of Sam Waterston, it is still usually believable and well-written.

Dexter – Again I have to retract my earlier reservations about this show. I’ve been gripped by it for the past few weeks. First they thought they had the Ice Truck Killer. Then they realised they didn’t. Now we know that it is Dexter’s sister’s boyfriend. But they don’t know that. There is also some new twist involving Dexter’s biological father.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Song of the Week: New Order "Thieves Like Us"

I'll confess that this song has nothing to do with crime at all. It has the word "thieves" in the title, but nowhere in the song. It is a song about love actually (aren't most songs?). But it is by New Order and its great.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Style File: Waking the Dead

Waking the Dead returned this week with its seventh series. It hasn’t really been that good since the end of the fourth series. The sixth series was particularly lame and this one isn’t looking any better.

“The Shouty Man” (Trevor Eve as Superintendent Boyd) is still shouting his way through every episode but with the added tension of him looking for his estranged son. The plot in the first two episodes was a credibility stretching yarn involving various terrorists groups, plus some thoughts on the nature of parenthood.

Besides the poor quality of the plots though, the thing that has started to annoy me in the more recent series is the clothes worn by the team. They are far too well dressed to be realistic. I know there are probably plenty of stylish detectives out there and I don’t believe that they must be in the Columbo/Frost scuffy model, but really, this lots look like they’ve taken far too much time over their appearance.

Spence is probably dressed by Paul Smith, always looks sharp and is bizarrely looking younger with each passing series. Stella is the epitome of French chic and is probably dressed by Agnes B. Dr Grace Foley, with her coloured knits and statement necklaces, looks like she’s had a makeover with Trinny and Susannah. Even Boyd, a man racked with guilt, anger and aggression, still finds time to buy suits that aren’t from M&S.

It just doesn’t seem realistic. Surely it is odd for a whole department to be this well-dressed? Not even the CSI teams are this universally well-groomed.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ironside Triple

I didn't quite make it up in time for the Rockford Files double, but I did see the triple-bill of Ironside.

I still have reservations about some things in Ironside - the portrayal of women is old-fashioned and its inclusion of a black character tokenistic - but I think it was probably quite progressive in its day.

Having watched more of it now, I do like the tone of the show. It is pretty bleak stuff. The mood is resolutely sombre, the sun rarely shines in this San Francisco and the streets are unfriendly. This is not the sort of outlook I would generally associate with the 60s and 70s. This is the flipside of free love generation - the fear of the crumbling of society. A world that is in moral danger of falling apart. And in that respect it feels pretty modern.

Today's trio of episodes were on the following subjects:

  • Illegal abortion
  • Bomb threats on campus
  • Con men

A variety of topics, but all covered with upmost seriousness.

I noticed the character of Eve Whitfield (played by Barbara Anderson) more in these episodes. She is not just some blonde. She is a Hitchcock Blonde transplanted into television. She has the icy beauty that belies vulnerability. The first two episodes were the final ones from Season 2, the third was the start of the third season, which was the last series with Eve Whitfield and I think she will be hard to replace.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wot No Detectives?

I've not managed to watch any detective all week. I'm feeling anxious. I've had an exhausting week and the OH is out tonight, so was looking forward to a bit of mindless viewing. But there is nothing on!

Of course, I don't mean the channels have all stopped transmitting (although our providers, Tiscali are more than a bit rubbish. I mean there aren't any detective programmes on for me to watch. Hallmark (the home of the detective) has Jericho on which is sci-fi. There are various Law & Orders on later but I think I've seen them all already. Most disappointing.

Perhaps I should have an early night so I can get up at 6am for a double-bill of Rockford Files, followed by by three helpings of Ironside on ITV3? It sounds good and all over by 11am which leaves me with plenty of time to go about my business.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Theories on The Wire Part 3

There are plenty of theories as to why The Wire hasn't been more popular - white audiences struggle with a mainly black cast (it doesn't bother me), in the UK it was tucked away on a channel no one watches, and audiences are too stupid. My own take on this is:

The Wire is not suited to television. It is the first ever DVD series

It isn't so much that audiences are too thick to understand the show. It really just doesn't work very well being viewed episode at a time once a week. There are too many characters to remember viewed like that. It needs to be watched a few episodes at a time at least. This makes it ideally suited to the DVD format.

I preferred watching The Sopranos on DVD too, but if there was no choice, you could still watch it on a weekly basis without losing too much. But not The Wire. You need to spend time with it, absorbing it to fully appreciate it. You also can't miss an episode. Its predecessor, Homicde, you could watch like a regular cop show, dipping into it occasionally, but this is where The Wire was a marked departure.

It has to be watched on DVD. But we haven't reached the stage yet where series are released straight onto DVD. Poor films often go straight there, but that is out of necessity, not choice. Series need to be shown on television first, even if that isn't the right place for them, so hopefully the show will gain more popularity now in its rightful format.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Resolution Update

At the start of the year, I made several resolutions relating to this blog. It has gone way past the date in the year when most people give up on their resultions, so I thought I'd revisit them to see how I've done.

  1. To update this blog more - I'm doing pretty well on this front. I've made double-figure posts each month so far and well on target for a bumper April.
  2. To watch more detective shows - not so sure about this one. I have tried to mix things up a bit and watch a greater range of shows, but still room for improvement!
  3. To discover at least one new show that I like - this has been achieved with Criminal Minds, I loved the first series and am keenly awaiting my next installment of it.
  4. To work my way through the Remington Steele box set (22 episodes is looking pretty daunting right now) - very poor showing on this one, I'm afraid. I think I've watched about 8 episodes at the most.

Theories on The Wire Part 2

Despite my notion that Bunny Colin does the most good, he is not the hero of The Wire, which brings me onto theory number 2.

Detective Carver is the real hero of The Wire

As much as such an ensemble show can have a main character, this was probably McNulty. But as the series go on McNulty becomes less and less likeable and in the final season something is even said about realising that you aren't the hero.

For me, a real hero is someone who goes on a journey, who develops and learns. McNulty doesn't do this. He doesn't really change. It may look as if he has matured at one point in his relationship with Beadie, but this doesn't last. Colvin isn't in the show enough to be the hero. Instead I think that is Carver.

When the show starts, he is inept, indistinguishable from his partner Herc. Then it is revealed that he has been a spy for the management in return for career progression, but he realises he was wrong. In the third season, he learns about community policing. By the end of the whole show, he has progressed up the ladder, but is responsible, has a strong sense of what is right. He has grown and is, for me, the unsung hero.

Theories on The Wire, Part 1

Having now watched all five series of The Wire, I've been reflecting upon it and thought I would share some thoughts here.

My first theory is this:

Bunny Colvin has had the most positive impact

Drug dealers may have been locked up, murders may have been solved, but at the end of the show, the cycle is shown as continuing. One addict may recover, but there is always someone else succombing to it. And where one drug lord is dethroned, there is always another one coming up behind to take over. The war on drugs has not been won.

I therefore contend that perhaps the only person who has done any real lasting good is Bunny Colvin.

This has nothing to do with his career in the police force or his radical approach to drug crime. It is because he took Namond Brice from the street corner, gave him a stable home and education. This is one true success of the whole show. Its only a small thing in the grand scheme of things but the life of one young man has been saved. None of the police can lay claim to having done that - things ended badly for all of the kids they tried to help (D'Angelo, Wallace, Randy, Bodie)

A better version of Ashes to Ashes

I made no secret of the fact that I was disappointed by Ashes to Ashes. I gave up on it after a few episodes and have no idea how it ended (I assume it has) and whether there will be anymore.

But for anyone who did enjoy it, is missing it and/or can't wait for the next installment, may I point you in the direction of ITV3 which is currently showing Dempsey and Makepeace.

Dempsey and Makepeace is just like Ashes to Ashes, except better. Like Ashes to Ashes, it features:

  • a mismatched pairing comprising:
  • a posh woman
  • a sexist man with outmoded views, but who is still rather attractive
  • constant will they/won't they sexual tension
  • car chases
  • 1980s fashion
  • London
  • inneundos
  • witty one-liners

The main difference is that rather than being a figment of someone's imagination, Dempsey is just on secondment from America. So there is thankfully no hallucinations or evil clown figures. Just crime capers and the hint of a possible romance.

Today's episode involved the robbery of a Bank of England van containing half a million pounds in used notes. The criminal gang wore gorilla masks which seemed particularly apt today as it was announced that Charlton Heston had died.

Glossary of Terms: Red Ball

Definition: A high profile case that needs as much resources as possible thrown at it
Usage: Homicide, The Wire

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Game Over

I returned from San Francisco on Friday. I’m sorry to report that I failed to solve the Zodiac killer mystery. Actually, I was having far too good a time to remember to investigate and I went pretty much a whole week without any detectives. (I did doze through a Law & Order).

When we returned, there was a DVD of the fifth season of The Wire waiting for us, which made post-holiday blues a bit easier to deal with. Until of course, it was replaced by the post-The Wire blues, which are especially hard since this was the final ever season.

The fifth season was good one. I won’t go into too much detail as it hasn’t been shown in the UK yet, but it was as good as previous series. The plot mainly revolves around an audacious plan by McNulty and Freamon that could only end in disaster. A new layer was added with the addition of the press to the already complex story.

But now it is all over. In a way I’m glad it has ended while it was still brilliant, but I doubt we’ll see anything as good as that again for some time. The final session worked well in tying up some loose ends (nearly all of the main characters across all previous seasons at least had cameos here) but of course it wasn’t a neat happy ending because these things continue, “because the game is always the game”.

Song of the Week: The Clash "Somebody Got Murdered"

If I was a fan of rap or heavy metal, it would be really easy to find songs about murder, slayings and shootings, but my tastes are more refined. This makes finding the Song of Week a bit harder, as I’m determined to stick with what is my idea of good music.

I’m not a huge fan of The Clash. I think I have trouble getting over the fact that they were mainly posh boys (son of a diplomat, anyone?) which makes it harder for me to take their political stance so serious. But this song is pretty good.

Way better than anything by bands with names like Slayer, Dismember, Razor or Cannibal Corpse!