Watching Criminal Minds with my In-Laws

First off, apologies. This has been a super-busy couple of weeks for me filled with family visits, writing for my “real job” and lots of admin work to boot.

In the meantime, I would urge you to visit my most recent post on the online journal that I co-edit, Flow . The article is on the 25th anniversary of one of my favourite mock-documentaries, The Canadian Conspiracy and the article can be found here:

So my last post talked about the pleasures of watching TV with my wife’s grandmother. Since she left town, I can’t quite bring myself to watch the show, if only because I feel that I would need to watch with my Dancing With the Stars buddy (who I should call for an update about the show.

In the meantime, I’ve been getting behind on my usual shows, as well as watching lots of TV with my wife’s parents.

We watch different shows too. Rather than watching the latest Mad Men or other “quality” show, they would much rather sit down to the three or four shows that they religiously watch – NCIS, Criminal Minds, and the now-extinct 24.

A couple of things strike me when watching these shows. Firstly, they are all about super-special crime fighting teams led by a serious leader. Second, each of the team has their own specialty, one is the fast-talking genius, another is perhaps the martial arts expert, one is the female computer-geek, and one (my mother-in-law informs me) is the hunky eye-candy.

I think that Shemar Moore is who my mother in law refers to as the "hunk" in the show...

I’m also intrigued by the presence of the geeky, female computer expert, who seem to appear in every version of these shows and virtually have interchangeable personalities.

There’s Abby from NCIS

Who is presumably what grown-ups think of when they think of goth types…

And then there’s Criminal Minds’ Penelope Garcia, who has a penchant for wearing plaid or flowery twin-sets, and whose quirk is talking in hip-hop lingo to the hunky Shemar Moore throughout the show, while she quickly accesses the info that the team needs to solve the crime.

Maybe this is because I’m currently reading William Goldman’s great book Adventures in the Screen Trade. He talks about how the main difference between TV and film is that the TV industry is predicated on speed and the need to get things done really fast.

While I don’t necessarily agree with Goldman when he says that TV always features “low quality acting,” I do think that his description of TV actors as “one-takers” is an interesting point of comparison between TV and movies.

Here, he talks about how TV acting is populated by “one-takers,” a term that denotes actors “who can give you a reasonable line reading the first time.”

Though I could have chosen just about any clip, I feel like this one, with its flat delivery, the exposition of “quirky” dialogue and the sheer volume of words is typical of the kinds of exchanges in the show.

I feel like this idea extends to these shows derivitive nature as they almost seem to be written as first drafts as well.To me, Criminal Minds seems a little bit like a cross between every serial killer film that I’ve ever seen, with a little bit of  soap opera thrown in for good measure.

And perhaps this is all part of the appeal. The shorthand nature of TV, recognizing its character types the first time, as well being hooked by the ongoing storyline has my in-laws hooked, and I can’t say I blame them at all.

Hearing my mother-in-law talk about the intensity of last season’s finale, its obvious that these shows are doing something right to engender their high ratings and their appeal to a more adult demographic. More to the point, it makes me think that sometimes I ought to be thinking more fully about why despite the fact that these serials are so appealing to a huge audience, we still insist on analyzing “boutique” programming instead.

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One response to “Watching Criminal Minds with my In-Laws

  1. I don’t really like Criminal Minds, but every now and then I’ll catch one with my parents or when I’m home sick or whatever, and it is really fascinating. They are so matter of fact about things that you would normally think would be pretty intense traumas — like this one epsiode I saw, Shemar Moore goes back home to inner-city Chicago and is accused of murder, but then, it turns out he’s not the killer! And actually he was molested by the community hero when he was a kid! Who’s actually the killer! And has been molesting other boys! And Shemar has to deal with all his unacknowledged pain over being molested. And then everyone’s just like “Thank goodness that’s over!” It’s incredible.

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