Criminal Minds and a Foray Into Network Drama

I am sure I’m not the first person to observe that network television is a true cesspool.  Of course, I bet most of the people who offer this analysis would be referring to  reality shows like Survivor, which is actually a fairly deft game show, or perhaps The Bachelor which is much funnier than any two CBS sitcoms put together.  But no, I embrace that stuff – sure some of it sucks, but it is cheap programming and you sometimes get good entertainment if not actually that stimulating.  However, the land of actual fictional television on network TV is – especially in the land of drama – wow.  I obviously knew about the various CSI extrusions, and the sheer volume of police procedurals.  If you built your life based on the world of Law and Order: SVU, you’d basically hide your daughter in the basement until she is 32 and homeschool them without the internet.  But gosh, as I was at an undisclosed location this Christmas and waiting to check out the Kennedy Center Honours program, I had a chance to see Criminal Minds, which is – well, it’s a police procedural.  But this was pretty special – I had to make some notes.

  1. The heft in the cast is considerable for this sort of thing.  That dude from Dharma and Greg, some dude I saw on that Bravo show after Top Chef and Joe Mantegna.  Watching Mantegna in this show makes me realize that David Mamet is not doing nearly enough movie work.
  2. So, the plot of this episode.  Where to begin?  Well, one of the detectives’ cousins or something has become a sex slave to some guy as part of this criminal S&M ring.  I’d like to observe this is a show that airs at 8:00 PM.  On network television.  Of course the show and the network censors lack the guts to actually show the cousin wearing a gimp suit or dog collar or anything – they merely reveal a box that is just the perfect size for a human head with some ominous music.
  3. Anyway – we see a LOT of parts from the Used Screenplay Store.  We get the detective’s aunt (the enslaved cousin’s mother) sobbing about how much she misses here.  We get the explanation that “this is not the woman you knew” (apparently some sort of extreme Stockholm Syndrome sort of thing – this plot point is actually the most plausible).  We get the cops (ok, in this case the Feds) FINDING her captor but the interrogation nowhere.  Of course the villain is black – the average age of the CBS viewer is 54, somehow I’d be surprised if this plot worked in reverse demographically – and he says they love each other.  Needless to say no points for who posts his bond.
  4. The encounter at the precinct between the detective and his enslaved cousin is a festival of wooden acting.  The actress who plays the enslaved seems a bit too wooden – I think the guy was supposed to have beaten her not hypnotized her, but she seemed in some kind of stupor.  It was very distracting, but not as distracting as the case breaking piece of evidence that the cousin’s enslaver’s lawyer was also involved in this S&M sadomasochistic ring.  Frankly at this point the deus ex machina does not move me.
  5. The coup de gras in this episode of course was the manhunt itself where they go to the slave compound – hey, think of a better term,  The detective is involved with a chase of the cousin’s enslaver.  There is the usual fighting, people falling down etc.  Of course when the detective was most imperiled – who is there?  HIS ENSLAVED COUSIN.  That is, his formerly enslaved cousin.  How did she break the programming of years of sexual torture?  How did she change between the meeting at the police station and now?  The show glosses over this completely.
  6. I guess what is offensive and amusing here is the use of something which would have been pretty amazing as a real plot – a sadomasochistic relationship, a woman abused for years and now truly in allegiance and love with her captor, how does one get broken of the pathology, the detective dealing with his family having really slipped – but here approximately none of that is touched.  It is a hacky plot point to churn out 44 depressing minutes of television.
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