|★★★★★||= A must watch-multiple stars indicates level of recommendation|
|= Skip it|
|= Smart and worthwhile and requires the viewer to think and to know something|
The following is necessarily heavy in crime dramas, police procedurals, detective mysteries, and so forth, particularly those of European and British origin, as these all seem to be the meat and potatoes of all streaming television platforms. Nothing, I think, is more appealing to people today, for some reason. It has been thus since Edgar Allen Poe invented the detective story, and Arthur Conan Doyle perfected it; Agatha Christi, Dorothy L. Sayers, and others brought it into the modern era, and now television seems to have pushed it into our own century.
Although there is a sameness about these that borders on redundancy, I find that most all of them, predictable though they sometimes are, offer puzzles to solve, and that may be the appeal. A variance in acting can have a very positive impact, but the opposite is also true. Often the actors seem to be phoning it in. There’s a lot of variation in quality, but less variation in plot structures and all suffer from inconsistencies, loose ends left dangling, and improbable coincidences. They also basically ignore significant details such as how long certain pathology tests actually take and all the paperwork that the average cop has to do.
But I have to say that what I’ve mostly learned from them is the following:
—Avoid English coastal villages and most European coastal villages; they are rife with drug dealers, grisly murders, secreted and often long-buried corpses from cold case files that are exhumed to fit into more contemporary mysteries. Societies in these villages are close-knit and tight-lipped, with little regard for the local constabulary, armed or not, and protective of volatile secrets that hold the key to whatever mystery is afoot.
—Detectives of all sorts and ranks and nationalities who figure prominently in the investigation all share identical traits: They most all have perpetual three-day beards, although they never maintain these, and none ever becomes a full beard; they have perpetually clean clothes, sharp neckties (if they wear such), although they seldom or never bathe or launder garments; in Europe, particularly, they go about in jeans and well-worn tee-shirts, tails often out; although they are grossly underpaid, they all live in picturesque homes, well furnished, often beachfront properties, and far beyond the affordability of a typical police officer; they all have troubled backgrounds owing to widowhood, divorce, or unhappily maintained marriages, often producing children who are troubled and are either always on the cusp of victimhood themselves or are marginally criminal in the main; mothers and mothers-in-law, usually widowed or divorced, live with them or are handily nearby and interfering; fathers are unsupportive and usually irascible if they’re not physically or mentally incapacitated; they invariably drive small SUVs and practical sedans of either Asian or European make; they have a love-hate relationship with cell phones and computers; they are outliers, mavericks, not team players, stretching the rules and varnishing the facts to suit their relentless pursuit of justice; their bosses are stern and sometimes troubled themselves with domestic problems they try to keep secret, and they are quick to come down on violations of procedure and policy, which occur with frequency and threaten to derail an investigation. Sometimes, they’re involved in criminal mischief themselves. The killer is never who you think it is, and red herrings and misleading plot lines are designed to set this up. Contrivance and coincidence occur without apology; so do plot gaps one could drive a truck through. and many end with more loose ends dangling than a hand-knitted Christmas sweater. Confusing arrays of side plots and multiple characters and suspects often arise to muddy otherwise murky waters.
Rural American sheriffs and police detectives invariably drive vintage full-sized Ford Broncos or Chevy Blazers, all of which are in mint condition in spite or rough treatment. Muscle cars of sixty-year vintage are commonly seen everywhere and just as commonly wrecked beyond repair in the course of things. European detectives prefer Volvos, Land Rovers, Mercedes, and occasionally Kias for some reason, it seems, although a few Porsches do appear here and there. They always seem to have ample clips of ammo for their weapons ready to hand, rubber gloves stowed away in a pocket for handling evidence, and, for some reason a flashlight somewhere on their person.
It’s a cinch that when entering a dark building, room, apartment, warehouse, or other structure, no one thinks to turn on a light with a handy wall switch. Instead, they whip out a flashlight and prowl around in the dark, thereby making themselves a can’t-miss target for any lurking thug with a firearm at the ready. It’s also a lead-pipe cinch that when readying themselves for a confrontation by taking out a semi-automatic pistol or pump shotgun, they will ratchet back the slide or pump, which would have the insalubrious effect of reducing their firepower by one round. It’s also noisy, which isn’t always advisable.
It goes without saying that cell phones never need charging even when left by a bedside night after night, computers get instant WI-FI, even when operating in a racing vehicle down a rural road and are never bothered by viruses or annoying prompts that updates are required. Coffee is invariably bad. Meals are rarely eaten in their entirety or sometimes at all (Often, one wonders how some cops keep from starving to death.); sleep is put on hold for days at a time with no deleterious effects, and money is always tight.
They almost never do paperwork. Lab work, particularly DNA testing, is almost instantaneous. Pathologists can whip out a full autopsy in minutes, unless the plot calls for a long delay, photographs can be perfectly and instantly produced from any camera or device, including film, without benefit of dark room, and nobody ever secures an evidence room. Printers never jam, tape always sticks. No lock ever made is worth a damn; any cop or criminal can pick one with a nail file or paperclip or, for that matter, fingernail. Jail and prison cells are roomy and uncrowded; prison common areas are neat and clean; interview rooms are sparsely but efficiently equipped, and all prisons are pristine clean, and are staffed with polite but firm guards, unless they’re part of a criminal organization, which they often are, or are on the take, which they usually are.
But on some level or other, almost all are entertaining, with some notable exceptions as noted. The appetite for these is insatiable, apparently, and some are considerably better than others.
TV Pandemic Log II 2020-2022 by Clay Reynolds
Read it here, or download it. Click the titles in the Table of contents or in the column on the left.