Saturday, May 31, 2008

Career Cases

Some actors' whole careers are defined by one role. Peter Falk has played other parts, but he is Columbo. Richard Belzer is John Munch, in a record breaking number of programmes. Others are celebrated for two roles; John Thaw was Jack Regan in The Sweeney then Morse and Raymond Burr was just as much Perry Mason as he was Ironside.

As I've mentioned before I love it when someone famous from one show turns up in another. But then there are those minor players who have appeared in a staggering number shows.

Take Richard Anderson, who appear as the father of drug-using niece in today's Ironside. He may have found success in the Bionic Woman and Six Million Dollar Man series, but his crime show CV comprises:
  • Columbo
  • Hawaii 5-0
  • The Streets of San Francisco
  • Perry Mason
  • Barnaby Jones
  • Charlie's Angels
  • Nero Wolfe
  • Knight Rider
  • A Team
  • Hardcastle and McCormick
  • Simon & Simon
  • Murder She Wrote
  • and five episodes of Ironside, each time as a different character.

Then there is Robert Lipton, who played the would-be murderer in the episode "One Hour to Kill". He has appeared in the following:

  • The D.A.
  • The Mod Squad
  • Police Story
  • 21 Jump Street
  • Murder She Wrote (in three episodes as different characters)
  • LA Law
  • The District
  • Without a Trace
  • and two episodes of Ironside (again as different characters)

Just by following the careers of these minor characters, I could fill up my schedule for months (if only I had access to all those old shows).

Its Family Affair: Ironside

The two episodes of Ironside I watched this morning were from Season 2, which is strange because the last episode I saw was from Season 3. Both episodes involved family members of the team, but they couldn't have been more different.

The first episode "Up, Down and Even" involved Eve's niece being arrested for drug possession. What followed was a diatribe on the dangers of drugs, but it was so dated that even the dangers didn't seem quite so dangerous. One boy sleeps a lot in class, another doesn't do athletics anymore, a group of girls skip school to lounge around giggling - I'm sure teachers and police today wish that drug problems were so innocent.

The language too was dated. Kids were being "turned on" to marijuna use, which was "groovy". One "drug fiend" even used the phrase "better living through chemistry". There was a soundtrack of ethreal beauty about lost causes including B J Baker's "Melody Man" and despite the obvious anti-drug message of the episode, it didn't seem that far away from 60's exploitation films like "The Trip".

Next episode saw a complete change of pace. "Why the Tuesday Afternoon Bridge Club Met on a Thursday" had a lighthearted feel to it in comparison with the previous episode, which is bizarre considering this episode involved a murder and the last just involved a bit of cannabis. The family member this time was Ironside's aunt, a prominent member of the Bridge Club. When one of her bridge friends disappears, the aunt suspects foul play and has Ironside investigate, but she and her cronies can't help but get involved. The husband, it turns out, has a bit of a Crippen complex, but in case we should ever find it too gruesome, there is bouncy incidental music to keep things jaunty.

Lynley returns

I watched the latest Inspector Lynley Mystery on playback last night because there really wasn't much else on.

Lynley is still foppishly good looking, but plot was still paper thin. The son of a posh family, old friends of Lynley naturally, goes missing. Fast forward 12 years (although most of them don't really look to have aged that much) and his body is found. Lynley persuades his sister to return from Rome for the funeral, and "accidentally" ends up bedding her. She is then found splattered on the pavement and our hero finds himself a suspect.

Of course, we know it wasn't him, but he has to find out who it was. Unfortunately, there is never any real sense that Lynley might really get charged with it (this is afterall the start of a new series) so there is no dramatic tension. The final "twist" whilst being fairly obvious, didn't make much sense in terms of motivation.

The 10 minute chase scene through Rome must have been great for the actors and crew but didn't add anything for the viewer. The whole thing could surely have been wrapped up in 60 minutes rather than drawn out to 90.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Song of the Week: Gram Parsons and Emmy Lou Harris "Streets of Baltimore"

Since I've watched nothing but Homicide and The Wire this week, it seems only fitting that I pick a Baltimore song.

It isn't anything to do with detectives, but like The Wire and Homicide Life on the Streets, it is about the streets of Baltimore.

And its by Gram Parsons, the acceptable face of country music, the grandfather of alt-country, the pioneer of country/rock fusions etc etc etc. Actually the older I get the more country music I like, but Gram Parsons was one of the first country-ish artists that I liked.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I take great pleasure from seeing actors I know from certain crime shows popping up in others. Law & Order is particularly good for this.

Last night in an episode of Homicide, I encountered something I like even more but that happens less frequently:

Crime shows mentioning other crime shows

In this episode, "Abduction", it is suggested that the police use a hypnotist to get more information out of a child witness. Falsone is unconvinced, but Giardello says "At this point, I'd even use that woman from Profiler".


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Homicide: The Subway

Continuing watching Homicide, we reach an episode entitled "The Subway".

This may be one of the most traumatic things I've seen on the television.

A man is pushed into the path on an oncoming subway train and is trapped between the train and the platform. He is alive but his spinal cord has been severed and he can't feel his legs. The trains needs to be lifted away from him so that he can be pulled out. But once he is moved, his heart will stop in 30 seconds and it is a 5 minute journey to the hospital. There may a million to one chance of survival, but this Homocide, it doesn't do miracles or fairytale endings.

Into this situation comes Frank Pembleton, a murder police faced with a victim who is still alive but who knows he will die soon. Bayliss interviews the suspect, Lewis searches for the victims girlfriend, but the episode is mainly a two-header with Pembleton and the dying man. The big questions about life and death have never been so urgent.

The man (played exceptionally by Vincent D'Onofrio before he was in Criminal Intent) is no simpering victim. He is angry with life, with the world, with the twist of fate that has led to this and Frank Pembleton is his friend in his last minutes.

In the past week, I've been to the theatre twice and the cinema once, yet here it has been this, on the small screen, a medium often derided as low-brow, that has left the biggest impression on me.

I read recently that the average Londoner will spend 5 years commuting during their lifetime. Travel safely.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another Quirky Detective

I just saw an episode of Pushing Daisies. I'd not seen it before and had no idea that it featured a detective. Not just any detective, but a knitting detective by the name of Emerson Cod.

The episode was called "Smell of Success" and involved the death of a woman by the means of an exploding scratch & sniff book.

I don't mind a bit of quirky and kooky but this was too much. It was all too quirky and all too kooky and all so sickly sweet. I like things with a bit more grit.

Of course, I have been known to completely change my mind about programmes (Psych and Ironside for example) but I'm not sure it will happen with this one.

Early Morning Ironside

Despite it being Sunday and the day of rest, I woke up at 6.50 this morning and watched Ironside. Actually I'd had trouble sleeping all night so I thought I may as well capitalise on it and watch Ironside while I was awake.

Today's episode had William Shatner as the Special Guest Star. He played a criminal who was in prison after Ironside had persuaded him to turn himself in, but now his wife had been murdered, leaving his son alone. There was nothing wrong with the plot but Shatner was his usual hammy self. I don't understand how he managed to get work as an actor. This rather marred the episode for me.

I watched another episode of it yesterday morning, which was much better. Ironside was alone at home as Mark was at his evening class and Ed and Eve were at the opera. He received a threatening phone call, saying he had an hour to live (the episode was called "One Hour to Kill"). Tension was built up as the episode moved between Ironside anticipating his fate, Ed convinced something wasn't quite right and Mark struggling with some detail in his mind, trying to place its significance. There was suspense, but also a discourse on perception, guilt and the human mind.

Besides the drama, there were also moments of levity involving Ed's inability to understand opera and a pessimistic pizza maker. It really was a great episode which made it worse that it was then followed by today's Shatner ruined effort.


There have been no posts for a while because I've been very busy and unfortunately not watching much in the way of detectives. I've had a hectic time at work and I'd have liked nothing more than unwinding in front of a good murder or two, but there hasn't been much on recently. So my viewing of late has mainly consisted of rewatching The Wire and I'm not sure I've much more to say on that topic at the moment.

But we are now in possession of Season 5 of Homicide which should keep me entertained for the coming week.