Get Those Bad Guys!

by Janis Patterson

I admit it – I’m a crime-show junkie. Nothing makes me happier than to settle down after supper in front of the TV and watch the bad guys get it. Whether it’s real-life true crime (which can be very slow going and sometimes repetitious to fill out the allotted time slot, I know) or some scripted, fancily filmed TV series (which can be so fantastic as to be unbelievable) I love seeing the good guys triumph and the bad guys feel the full force of the law.

It makes a lovely change from real life. For example, several District Attorneys around the country have announced they will not prosecute theft crimes with a value of under $750 dollars; as one said, he doesn’t believe in prosecuting poverty. He said nothing about bad guys who are not poverty-stricken but just want to take other people’s stuff. Talk about a license to steal! This is just more reason to prefer TV justice.

All is not well in TV land, though. For the last couple of decades there has been a trend to water down the catch-the-bad-guys-and-send-them-to-jail storyline to a more biographical picture of cops as flawed human beings with wretched personal lives. I’m sure that is true in some cases, but if I wanted reality I would sit on my front porch and watch real life.

Another thing that bothers me is that about 20 years ago the focus of TV series shifted from a primarily masculine-oriented team to a female-led group where the woman is in charge while the male officers hang on her every word like adoring acolytes.

Now don’t get me wrong – I have every respect for women police officers. Real ones. They do a fantastic job and are an important part of law enforcement. They do not – like their television counterparts – constantly fluff their hair (in the middle of a gunfight, no less) or miraculously intuit the solution from the flimsiest of connections when no one else can see it.

Plus, I admit to a certain amount of personal prejudice. I would really rather watch a team of good-looking hunky men than a preternaturally gorgeous woman leading her close-to-incompetent male team around by their noses. And yes, I do know that not all real-life male police officers are good-looking and hunky, however competent they are. This is TV we’re talking about, remember? Other people’s fantasies and preferences might and probably will vary, and that’s okay.

However, my worst complaint about scripted TV series is what I call the ‘Moriarty villain.’ This is a seemingly unstoppable evildoer who has a pathological hatred of the protagonist who appears in a great number of episodes and escapes at the end of every one. The first case that comes to my mind is the infamous ‘Red John’ of The Mentalist. Another example is ‘Jack’ on the 20 year old Profiler – which I will watch anytime it comes on anyway, as I am a die-hard Robert Davi fan. Even the original (and infinitely superior) Hawaii 5-O had Wo Fat, though the producers were intelligent enough to get rid of him fairly early on. Pity far too many other producers weren’t so wise. Such indulgence is not only annoying, it is incredibly lazy writing and more than a little insulting to the viewers.

Of course, this is all TV, meaning it is both inconsequential and ephemeral. As well as very annoying. But I’ll still watch because… well, because I’m a crime-show junkie.