Thursday, July 19, 2007

Procedural predictability

Just once, on a show like CSI or Law & Order, I think it would be fun if the first guy the cops picked up was the actual perpetrator, and he was convicted in a straghtforward trial, and the whole thing wrapped up in about 20 minutes, so they had to put on another story in the second half hour.

As it is now, you know the first suspect won't end up being guilty, you know that there will be some problem with the key evidence/witness required to convict, Jack McCoy will get indignant that the judge would throw it up and have to huddle with his team.

By the way, here's your cast for every procedural cop show ever, with thanks to John:

  • The married or widowed white guy with the complicated back-story: Usually the leader of the group. Each crime story is especially poignant because it calls back to his family or his painful past. Criminals who know this and try to exploit it, but after a misstep or two, he always pulls himself together. (Eliot Stabler on L&O SVU, Horatio Cane on CSI:Miami, Hodge on Criminal Minds, Gary Sinise on CSI:NY, Jack on Without A Trace)
  • The tough as nails white chick. She might not have a great personal life, but that isn't going to stop her from kicking ass. In fact, she usually works a ton of hours to avoid her personal life, to the point where against her better judgement she gets into a relationship with a coworker. (Perhaps to support the above white guy when a case hits too close to home). Criminals think they can scare or intimidate her, and quickly discover they cannot. (Emily Proctor on CSI:Miami, Catherine on CSI, Olivia on L&O:SVU, the woman with the long curly hair on CSI:NY, Poppy Montgomery on Without A Trace)
  • The Latino or black guy from the 'hood: This guy used to run with the wrong crowd, but now he's seen the error of his ways and has joined the Good Guys. He uses his connections to find unconventional ways to solve crimes. Occasionally, he'll get a little too friendly with his old friends and get himself into trouble. (Ice-T on L&O:SVU, the black guy on Criminal Minds, Warrick on CSI)
  • Master of the obvious chief: When the cops describe the mountain of evidence against a perp, he'll say, "OK -- go pick him up." Occasionally, he'll try to pull the white guy off a case he's too involved with, tell the tough as nails chick to take some time off, or advise the guy from the 'hood to stay away from his friends, to no avail. (every L&O police chief, Fred Thompson)
  • Token/cipher: This character fills in whichever demographic niche isn't taken by the guy from the 'hood. Usually assigned to the "B" storyline, she'll just straightforwardly follow the evidence.
  • The pain in the ass assistant DA: She can't keep the perp in custody, flubs the important evidence, and rakes the cops over the coals for little procedural errors. Once a season, she's allowed to be the hero by discovering some legal loophole to get the confession/warrant the cops need.
  • The nerd/quiet guy(Optional):When everyone else is running around, this character calmly provides the key piece of information. (Grissom on CSI, Reed on Criminal Minds, psychologist on L&O SVU)
  • Wisecracking coroner