Tell me if you’ve heard this setup before: Big-city cop and team of crack specialists in technobabble and fake forensics solve crimes. I’m betting it sounds familiar; that’s because it’s pretty much 99 per cent of TV nowadays. Flipping through the channels, desperately looking for something that doesn’t actively slaughter your brain cells, you’re guaranteed to find at least three variations of TV’s most formulaic and confusingly popular phenomenon: police procedurals.
The genre was basically shoved out of the womb and into the world by CSI, a show so terrifically popular that it’s lasted 13 more seasons than it should’ve. With something like 26 million viewers in America alone during season three, it’s not hard to see why the networks like it; but why do the people?
To be blunt, I have no idea. The very nature of the show makes the outcome of every episode predictable. It’s like a mystery for dummies. Cops go in, talk about scanning for semen. If it’s CSI: Miami, David Caruso makes a half-baked pun, and the crook is caught. How is that enough to hold on to a run that’s a decade long, and counting? Shouldn’t they have run out of ideas by episode 5? Well, yes. They absolutely did. But apparently, for most of the TV-watching populace, it’s comforting to watch a show with a simpler plot than Baywatch. For the record, the plot of Baywatch was this: “Girls! In bikinis! Hooraaaaaaaaaaaaay! Maybe there’ll be sharks! It’s really hard to find beach-related hazards after a while!” I guess watching the same thing 500 times must be like a warm, homey slice of ma’s apple pie, if ma’s apple pie was made of coincidence and bodily fluids.
That’s not even considering the rip-offs. Oh god, the rip-offs. While CSI, like most TV shows, has been known to use rather loose logic, it usually keeps itself in the bounds of rationality. This is not so for NCIS, one of its foremost mentally inferior twins. I have a personal bone to pick with NCIS, chiefly because most of its writers seem to have been stolen from the land before time.
I swear, on my life, there’s a scene in which two characters type using the same keyboard. No, they’re not telepathically connected, the writers are just dumb. To give you an idea of exactly how well such shared typing works, invite your best friend into your car (This will work better with a manual transmission). You should be in the driver’s seat, with whichever lucky subject you picked in the passenger seat beside you. Now, crouch down near the pedals, and begin operating them with your hands. Ask your partner to unbuckle his/her seat belt and operate the stick and steering wheel. Then, proceed to attempt to drive around town. Congratulations, you’ve now driven directly into a tree, or perhaps a pedestrian. This is also a fitting analogy for how enjoyable it is to watch NCIS in general.
So, I can really draw no conclusions. Seems to me that those types of shows are always boring, formulaic, stupid, and generally no fun. The TV equivalent of eating crackers for dinner, if you will.
At least they’re nowhere near the worst things on TV. Among the hordes of bland sitcoms and reality shows about fat rednecks, they seem almost watchable. I mean, hey, they have at least a semblance of action. A small one, but that’s apparently good enough for millions. Still, the presence of so many worse things does not justify the lameness of the police procedural. Maybe sometimes people just like awful things. Look at Taco Bell.
One more thing: Yeah, yeah, I just spent 590 words ripping on CSI, but I quite enjoy watching compilations of David Caruso’s one-liners. They’re just so… bad.