Friday, October 17, 2008

How to write an episode of Cold Case

1. Episode begins with a scene from the past. It could be anytime from 3 years ago to 60 years ago. A date will appear on the screen, but you can tell it is the past because it looks different. Anytime before 1965 will probably be in black & white (they didn’t have colour back then, you know), later will be in colour but with a washed-out haziness to it.

It will be a scene from the life of a group of people. They will be wearing the fashions of whatever the chosen period is and there will be a song from that time playing. Either there will be some obvious tension in the scene or someone will profess to being the happiest they’ve ever been. Someone will soon be dead.

2. Cut to the second scene. A dead body.

3. A retro police person carrying a file down to the basement bearing the name of the victim in the previous scene.

4. Fourth scene is the present day (this will be in sharp full colour with naturalistic lighting). A discovery is made or someone turns up at the police station – something that leads to the case being reopened.

5. Cue the dramatic theme music “Waaa, Waaa, Waaaa, De De De ” etc (I’m not very good at expressing music noises).

6. Next scene is present day and the detectives visit either the nearest and dearest of the victim or the person who was the chief suspect. You will see the person in question as they are now, with a quick flash to them “back in the day”. The drama of this will vary – it may be that they are an old man now and boy when the crime happened, or if it happened in the 2000s, they might just have a slightly better haircut now.

7. They will be asked a question and their response will be seen as a flashback, always with period detail and soundtrack.

8. Something that is mentioned in this will send the detectives onto another suspect.

9. Repeat the above three stages with an average of four more people. (Optionally, it can be peppered with hints of the personal lives with the detectives, normally their doomed relationships, but this would be a slowly evolving sub-plot over a whole series).

10. Evidence given by the last of these people will led back to one of the people interviewed previously. Return to them and repeat the process of question and flashback again. This may reveal the murderer or it may lead back once more to one of the other people already questioned, who will then be the killer.

11. The killer is arrested. He/She looks sheepish, both as he is now and as he was at the time of the crime. Montage of all of the characters in their current setting (with a brief glimpse again of them in the past), looking wistful or depressed. Melancholic or outright heartbreaking music from the period plays over.

12. Then the piece de resistance, the victim appears and smiles gratefully at the arresting officer. The arresting officer acknowledges them (even though they aren’t really there). All the while, the heart-wrenching music continues, tugging at the heart strings of the audience.

13. The case box is returned to the basement with “Closed” written on the box.

14. The music starts up again “De, Dedde Da” etc

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Animal Instincts

The new television service is bearing wonderful fruit. Last night I discovered a whole channel devoted to detectives (fictional, not that nasty true life stuff). The Alibi channel has Murder She Wrote, Taggart, Bergerac, Dalziel and Pascoe and Shoestring. What delights! I shall look forward to spending some quality time with these guys over the weekend.

Elsewhere on a channel called something like Thriller Zone, we came across Manimal. A relic from the 1980s that I’d heard of but never seen. “This should be right up your street” harrumphed the OH, before going in the other room to listen to sport on the radio. The premise of the show is (I quote) “a man who can change himself into any animal fights crime”.

To say it is ridiculous would be a huge understatement. From the bits I saw, this man (played by Simon McCorkendale, who I’d seen before in “Death on the Nile” and is a poor man’s Remington Steele) turned himself into a parrot so that he could eavesdrop on a conversation and a big cat so he could scare some villains. You didn’t see much of the big cat (presumably because of budgetary restrictions) hence my inability to say for sure whether it was a lion or tiger, but we did get several close-ups of the parrot looking thoughtful. The day was ultimately saved by an elephant, but it turned out that this was an actual elephant, rather than our man in disguise.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Vintage Pair

I had the morning off work and never one to miss a sleuthing opportunity, I sneaked in a couple of vintage shows.

Randall and Hopkirk Deceased was a case involving a scam with a fake spiritualist. I was struck again about just how weird this programme can be. Hopkirk spied on one of the con men and caught him pretending to be an orchestra conductor, putting on a classical music record and standing in front of a mirror with a baton in his hand. It had no bearing on the plot whatsoever but it is these little quirky bits that make this show so good.

Next was an episode of The Professionals from 1978 entitled “Everest was also conquered”. When a senior policeman claims on his deathbed to have killed a woman called Susie, Cowley’s former mentor asks him to investigate. The duo uncover a web of corruption (corruption is always a web!) involving police and respected businessmen. Parts of it were predictable including the “twist” at the end, but it was saved by the banter between the pair. Not sure if it was an intentional joke, but people in the episode kept referring to them as “Doyle and Bodie” when it is normally “Bodie and Doyle” and it sounded ridiculous the other way round, like saying “Dec and Ant” or “McCartney and Lennnon”.

Sadly I had to go into the office after The Professionals finished, but I enjoyed this luxury.