Friday, May 23, 2008

CSI Tediosity

I realize I'm in some kind of major minority here, but I simply can't watch more than about 45 seconds of CSI or CSI Miami. It's not the actors. Oh, yeah, it's true, I don't care for the red-headed dude in the Miami show. Never have been a fan of his. His major acting skills seems to be taking his sunglasses off and putting them back on.

What I really don't like is the tediosity (which seems a better word than tediousness) of the science or pseudo-science. Gadgets, hocus pocus, rabbit out of the hat nonsense. It's storytelling that places an unnatural emphasis on the gadgetry rather than on human affairs that sends my bore-ometer clicking.

I feel the same way about films where something blows up every three minutes. The human dimension is quickly lost in all that wreckage and in all those fireballs.

And while I'm taking on genres, add police procedurals to the list. I know there are good ones (like Michael Connelly, or even John Sanford's Lucas Davenport series, which I do like). But by and large I find them deadly dull. I'd rather watch Law and Order--spend a while with the cops, then a while with the lawyers. At least there's some variety. But police procedures all seem to plod with great tediosity from one bureaucratic step to the next.

Everyone plays by the book at least to some extent. Now when Elmore Leonard writes about cops he tries to do his research and get it all right (at least his researcher Gregg Sutter gets it right). But Dutch never gets bogged down in all the procedural muck and mire. While so many cops, ex-cops and crime reporters turned novelists seem to be more fascinated by the mechanics of police departments than with the more human elements. Tediosity.

James Lee Burke is one of the good ones. Even though Dave R. is a cop and follows procedure (more or less, usually less) it is never at the expense of creating a rich place and a rich cast of characters. In other words, his stories are not ABOUT procedure, while so many other cop novels seem hopelessly bogged down in the realism of the way it works in a police department or with the FBI or with the state police or with the bomb team, or with the hostage negotiators. When a writer's research becomes more important than the people within the story, then the novel turns into veiled non-fiction.

A little cop realism goes a long way.

Personally, I'd rather get the people right than the procedure. Writing about crime is one thing, but writing about evil is quite another.


roro said...

How about 24?

James W. Hall said...

I used to be a devoted fan of 24. The first few seasons on DVD. The computer geek woman was always saying, "We need to open a new socket..." My wife and I were very involved with the characters. They were a bit cartoonish, but hey, it was fun for a while. Then it began to cover and recover same ground, and the writing thinned out. Can't watch it now.

roro said...

Same here, with wife and I moving through early seasons of 24 on DVD. Maybe the repetition will wear us down sooner than Jack's annoying daughter but the transformation of glamorous Nina into a ruthless monster has earned our loyalty for a few more seasons. Before that, we plowed through all but the last season of the Sopranos and a load of series-appropriate pasta dishes. Didn't expect to get hooked on these acclaimed shows but did and it is a treat to sink into them.

By the way, I read your books with a pencil in hand so I can underline really wonderful lines. You are a poet,..

Anonymous said...

It's really a matter of what the reader/viewer enjoys.
Especially with TV. Look at the smash DEXTER series on cable, spawned by Jeff Lindsay who struggled for years with UFOs and other such sugject matter until hitting it big.
I for one, enjoy the current CSI craze, realizing that it is mostly altered for TV technology. David Caruso is certainly a different main character.
The whole show is much like Miami itself....much better on film and television than in person!

GWC said...

Never cared much for that "red headed dude either.