"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

12 December 2006

Review part 1: Criminal Minds

~to inject some enjoyment into finals week~

I'm not especially enamored of visual entertainment. My parents, thankfully, limited television time in our house, and any time the tv was on we all had books or magazines (Newsweek, Boys' Life) to read during the commercials (and often during the show as well). I haven't been to a movie theatre in years and rarely can make myself sit through a movie on television. People always tell me, you must see such-and-such, and I always think, why? There's not enough time in life to waste it.

But now and then I watch a movie, and I do watch a few tv shows for relaxation if I like the characters and plot lines. Crime and mystery shows especially appeal; after all, Ngaio March and Dorothy Sayers are two of my favorite writers. Most of these shows, however, I can take or leave; there's no significant disappointment if I miss an episode and no one tapes it.

CBS's Criminal Minds, however, has utterly captivated me, and I may even have to lobby for the first season on DVD, since I missed most of it. Acting, character development, plot lines, and the philosophical challenges all intrigue me every Wednesday night.

An overview:
CM follows the professional lives of an FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), a unit highly trained in psychoanalysis of the criminal mind to profile unknown perpetrators and help identify them, predict their behavior, find them, and convict them -- often through psychologically acquired confession. It's based on real-life cases, though of course fictionalized (with the adventurous aspects no doubt hyped up a bit).

Some things I especially like:
It really is about the characters' professional lives. Their personal lives are somewhat known but peripheral: Hotchner's wife and child occasionally appear; any romantic interests are downplayed (as in barely hinted at) and there's never that I know of been even the implication of a sex scene; when personal impinges on professional the effects are made clear and not over-played.

It's clean. There's an occasional curse word, only with great provocation. There's no sex. The women agents dress professionally and don't look sleazy. And there's very little blood and gore, a nice relief from CSI, half of which I visually miss to avoid the explicit effects of violence. Sometimes the crimes, the perpertrators, and/or the victims are sleazy, but there's no dwelling on, for example, strip-bar scenes or excessively violent scenes of crime commission.

The team works well together. There are occasional tensions, of course, but no one-up-manship or jealousy or silly grudges. They have a goal, they have been chosen because they're both smart and trustworthy, and they focus on getting the job done as well as they can. Authority is respected without those under it being sycophants or mindless.

Each character is complex. You think you've got one pegged and then you see another side. No one's a complete stereotype even though they play on these.

The job they do is largely intellectual. It's a kind of Sherlock Holmes approach -- what's the evidence? Okay, now think about it and see where it leads. They get out in the field, yes, but much of their work is reflection on the constantly evolving information they have in order to to out-think the evil-doers.

More to come when another round of paper-grading is over!


Fr. Bill said...

Hello, Beth,

Thanks for this. I don't think I've watched broadcast television (except for rare bits of news and weather) in about 30 years. Who knows how many network sitcoms, crime shows, or other such stuff have flowed past me unnoticed?

Unlike you, I do enjoy visual entertainment. That's why I don't watch television (!). But once in a great while, I suppose, someone somewhere will get something right in that medium.

I'll give it a gander once the commercial-free DVD versions hit Hastings.

alaiyo said...

Thanks for visiting, Bill. I just took a look at Faith and Gender and bookmarked it -- it looks most intriguing, as I would expect.