RARA-AVIS: tv party

From: foxbrick (foxbrick@yahoo.com)
Date: 26 Feb 2009

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    So, oddly enough, the very good crime drama LIFE and the less good but not bad and often more relevant here crime drama CRIMINAL MINDS both had episodes last night, scheduled against each other at 9p ET on NBC and CBS respectively (and both against LOST on ABC at the same time), which involved women who were murderers who pretended to be prostitutes to get to their targets-this isn't really a spoiler for either episode, as it becomes obvious pretty early in both.  Both episodes also quoted the line, "I don't pay prostitutes for sex. I pay them to leave," though one show attributed this to Dashiell Hammett, the other to Charlie Sheen.  Inasmuch as the big PBS outlet in Philadelphia uncleverly counterprograms the newly syndicated MI5 (known as SPOOKS in the UK, where the slang is more likely to be taken correctly to mean "spies") at the same hour, I mostly watched LIFE and looked at Anthony Michael Head as a rogue spy who might or might not be abetting anarchists trying to kill George W. Bush on a visit to Blair, and Hugh Laurie as a Pecksniffian MI6 (I believe) agent who constantly resents our heroes, and at CRIMINAL MINDS (which also has an endearing cast), during LIFE's commercial breaks.   As for the anarchist threat, I'm reminded of the old joke that ends with, "You think *this* line is long..."

    LIFE ON MARS followed on ABC, the probably better US version (to judge from my limited experience of the UK original), while up against LAW AND ORDER on NBC and CSI: NEW YORK on CBS. At least, as far as I can tell, there was no such close approach of subject matter between the three crime dramas, with LIFE ON MARS having a certain psychodrama or fantasticated element to it (much like LOST, LIFE ON MARS wants to keep the audience guessing as to whether the protagonist has actually been transported back 35 years, or just hallucinates that he has), but it does seem like part of the problem that the networks are having with their audiences can't be helped by piling so many series with essentially the same audience against each other...and while I don't like LOST much, it does suggest that perhaps a non-cop show now and then among "dark" drama isn't the worst idea, either.

    So, executive summary: watch LIFE and you could do worse than LIFE ON MARS (US) and boy tv schedulers are not doing us or themselves any favors, particularly on Wednesday nights in Philadelphia.

    Todd Mason

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