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What We Believe & What We Can Prove

 

Whether it’s finding lost keys in the sofa or watching an episode of Cold Case, humans love a resolved mystery.  What’s a mystery to me isn’t why there are so many mystery shows on Television, it’s how they’ve changed over time.

For years, the only substantial difference between “Perry Mason”, “Murder She Wrote”, “Diagnosis Murder”, and “Matlock” was the starring actor.  Not only were each of the programs nearly perfect carbon copies of one another, they were also nearly perfect carbon copies of themselves on a weekly basis:

1.) Introduction (catchy theme song)
2.) Murder
3.) False accusation by inept young people
4.) Incompetent legal proceeding (more young people)
5.) Casual investigation by friendly elderly hero
6.) Acquittal of the wrongly accused
7.) Thorough, if brief, revelation of the true culprit (Song reprise)

When you sprinkle in commercials featuring funeral insurance, motorized scooters, and Wilford Brimley  you have the recipe for a typical Sunday evening installment… and a surprisingly handgun free murder mystery!

When it comes to investigative drama written for the elderly, the critical moments always revolve around the eyewitness testimony of an actual participant.  In fact the culprit usually breaks down under pressure and gives the viewer all the details, including motivation, behind the crime so that no one is left wondering about what actually happened.

Real life is very rarely like this since many crimes do not feature living witnesses and most criminals lack the self awareness to accurately describe their terrible motives.  Programming has since changed to reflect this by attempting to mimic postmodern “realism”.  In recent years audiences have become familiar with an updated take on criminal procedure:  The science of forensic investigation.

CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, and CSI: Extreme Makeover introduced us to a new television formula where “people may lie but science never does!”  In this format mysteries are rarely solved by interviewing people, they are solved by recreating the conditions present during the crime, and examining the materials produced during the event.  These programs are populated by beautiful young people with tattoos and piercings who solve crimes using the latest technology, fashionable eyewear, and handguns.

But these shows do have a striking similarity:

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Mace Me Bro!

While you have to be impressed by the sheer audacity of a mother who goes on Good Morning America to protest the pepper spraying of her son during his enraged assault on teachers, students, and an innocent television set, you should be even more impressed by the sheer cheek of her 8 year old son who, while wielding a cardboard shield and a wooden knife, tells the cops to, “Come get me F^*#ers!

As impressive as this level of insanity is, we should be even more impressed by the actual nerve of the police officer who let the kid have it with the business end of an 8 oz. bottle of liquified peppers… twice. Sure the kid wasn’t really a danger to the police officer, but he was IN DANGER of not learning a very important lesson and that lesson is this: “You don’t screw around with people who put their lives on the line to protect human beings.” Whether it’s a cop, a fireman, or a soldier, you don’t get in the way of someone whose job is the care and protection of people, even if that person is you.

None of us live in a vacuum, and while our Constitution gives us a right to speak and live freely, it doesn’t actually protect us from the consequences of our freely issued words and actions.

Sometimes you call a cop out, and he calls your bluff in a way that makes you cry, foam at the mouth and wet yourself in front of the other kids… whom you’ve forced into a closet.
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Your So Called Guilty Pleasure

There seems to be a never-ending list of insufferable teen sitcoms… that I have loved.

Whether you imagined yourself attending West Beverly High or cheering on the Bayside Tigers, the 1990’s were rife with television programming aimed at giving adolescence it’s day in sun, regardless of who was intent on watching it.

My vote for the champion of the genre is the seldom, yet fondly, remembered “My So Called Life” which ran for only 19 episodes during 1994.  While “My So Called Life” was well written and impeccably acted (by actual teenagers nonetheless) it may also have been the first teen themed program to even attempt to honestly touch on the actual awkwardness and confusion that accompanies adolescence.

While other shows caricatured this awkwardness by including a “dork” character, “My So Called Life” pointed out the painful reality that even guys with names like Jordan and Zack did things that made them feel and look more like a Potsie Webber than the Fonz.
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