"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Closer and the Next Stage for TV Cop Shows

In the comments area of my Monk/Psych post below, a reader mentioned the TNT series The Closer, an unacknowledged Americanization of the long-running British police procedural TV program Prime Suspect. In The Closer, now in its second season, Kyra Sedgwick plays a police detective and homicide team supervisor who solves crimes while stumbling charmingly through a rather bumpy personal life. It's a good show, made appealing by Sedgwick's excellent performance. She's quite likeable as the protagonist, and her various problems are handled by both herself and the program's writers with a fairly light touch. The most recent episode, which premiered last Monday night, was particularly satisfying. Unlike most episodes of the program, it had a solid puzzle with several suspects, and the viewer had enough info to solve the crime by the time Brenda was ready to reveal the killer. Most of the appeal of The Closer lies in the non-mystery elements, but having a good mystery made this episode really sing.

There's no reason a police procedural or hardboiled story can't have a good puzzle, as the works of Cornell Woolrich and Fredric Brown make very clear in the hardboiled realm and which the Midsomer Murders and Dalziel and Pascoe series in both books and TV make abundantly clear. (Both of the latter are produced in Great Britain.) I, too, like to see TV moving away from what I called in my NR roundup of the last TV season shows about Saving the World, One Creepy-Looking Corpse at a Time. It has become a very tired genre, and the cop show will begin to fade away soon if the networks don't bring new life to it with an approach more sanguine and less sanguinary.

6 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

I, too, like to see TV moving away from what I called in my NR roundup of the last TV season shows about Saving the World, One Creepy-Looking Corpse at a Time. It has become a very tired genre, and the cop show will begin to fade away soon if the networks don't bring new life to it with an approach more sanguine and less sanguinary.


Well observed, STK, and hehe. The difference between detective fiction and a cop show. This CSI initial blush of discovering the sanguinary sciences will lag behind the demands of popular entertainment, and so cannot hold their appeal.

"I have DNA evidence linking him to the murder!"

"Well, duh..."

James Elliott said...

Does anyone know where I can find a copy of the Nero Wolfe TV series? I dug that show.

A lot of good television comes from Britain. I liked MI-5, which, along with 24, got its structure and signature cinematography (such as the split-screen shots) from a show some 10 years ago about British customs agents. I remember watching that show when I was in London about eleven years ago.

I agree that The Closer is the future of cop shows (though apparently the magazines I submitted my review to disagree, the stupid bastids). Shows like Monk and Psych (I very much enjoyed tonight's premiere) focus more on character and plot and less on the procedural aspects. This is what makes SVU the ony member of the Law and Order franchise still worth watching. CSI lost its flare when they stopped caring about the characters - just look at the spinoffs, where you could trade the casts freely and lose absolutely nothing in the storylines.

Hunter Baker said...

I'm back to reading Nero Wolfe again after the bust of The Black Mountain. Once again I am a satisfied customer. More on that later. I'm going to buy the television show on DVD, too. A & E made a mistake letting that one go.

Michael Simpson said...

It's clear that my lack of cable is making finding any decent tv impossible.

I've never understood the appeal of CSI: the acting is awful (at least in the Las Vegas and Miami versions - I've never seen the NYC one); you're repeatedly bombarded with disgusting images, etc. Maybe it's the fascination with technology that hooks people in.

I still dream of some network picking up Joss Whedon's _Firefly_. I never saw the actual series, but rented it on DVD and thoroughly enjoyed that. Interesting characters, good dialogue, shootin' up bad guys...

James Elliott said...

The odds of a network picking up Firefly are pretty low, though that would be the highlight of television watching for me. Joss Whedon is too busy with the Wonder Woman script and writing the "X-Men" comic books. Firefly had what I think might be the best ensemble cast in years - they were so in synch with one another and truly loved what they were doing.

Between that and Warner Brothers passing on Global Frequency, I guess I'll have to make do with Battlestar Galactica.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Does anyone know where I can find a copy of the Nero Wolfe TV series? I dug that show.

If you mean the A&E one with Maury Chaykin and Tim Hutton, yes, you can get it from Acorn Media

Actually, given your stated tastes, there are probably a lot of items in the Acorn catalog you'd like.