Thursday, March 26, 2015

We believe it, even when we shouldn’t

Sheila York

Reading: The Art Forger, BA Shapiro
Watching (in the Blu-Ray): The Drop

My best friend Kathy and I agree on a lot. We’re on the same side of the left-right political spectrum. We like the same music, movies and mysteries. And the munchies to have while we're enjoying them.
We also agree that we love TV. We admit it publicly. Well, all right, I admitted it for her. At the end of the day, we both like to click on the DVR and watch what’s there, like opening up a surprise gift. We agree on many of our favorite shows, and we have been loyal to them for years. And years.      
Here we are at Rockefeller Center at Christmas.
Kathy and I also agree that she is way smarter than I am.
When the temperature is 10 below, she wears a hat!
TV (and movie) writers get away with a lot of implausibility, and this occasionally irks some mystery writers, “irks” meaning tweeting/Facebooking/emailing about it till people start to mute/defriend/direct-to-junk-folder them.
If we want plausibility, we know where to get it.
But when it comes to reality, we agree to cut TV more slack than we do novels. Kathy and I understand that TV shows have time constraints that novels don’t. And that, while novels can be riveting while remaining inside a character’s head, that won’t work in visual media. And that writers on many shows have to crank out scripts even faster than James Patterson does books.
We sigh, but we understand why TV suspects regularly agree to be grilled by detectives without a lawyer. Otherwise, nothing much would happen. Many more suspects would agree to eschew the lawyer in real life if real life detectives would agree to spill to the suspect important details of their case the way their TV counterparts do in interrogations. We also understand that TV lawyers have to ask questions in court they don’t already know the answers to, so that a bombshell can drop, or you wouldn’t have any drama. In real life, you wouldn’t have any clients.
Kathy and I also agree to gripe about some shows set in New York City, even when we are devoted to those shows. To be clear, we do not mind when characters round a corner in Midtown and are suddenly in Tribeca. We understand about location availability and what works better for the visuals. But if you're setting your show in New York, you at least by golly ought to make some effort to make it look like New York.
We agree that Castle is the biggest offender of our favorite shows. It’s the version of New York City created by someone with deliberate ignorance and disdain, who never set foot in the city and doesn’t want to bother. Castle's NYC streets are wide, the sidewalks sparsely populated (and with mostly young white people in California colors), the buildings are low rise with broad windows. There is no New York vibe. Once, they put a motel with a parking lot in Manhattan.  

In (mild) defense of their ubiquitous use of broad, well-lit alleys for finding bodies, we do still have a few alleys left in Manhattan, and it's much easier to put a crew in an alley than on the street. 

You'll note however that, even when a real NYC alley is clean, it's narrow and sort of dark. Manhattan has tall buildings, and therefore no golden California light.

It annoys us that the show doesn't want to look anything like New York, but felt that their premise — a writer gets to run with the cops — required New York for cred. 
Having said all that, Kathy and I agree that we will follow Nathan Fillion almost anywhere.
We agree that Elementary has got a bit better at portraying New York City. Of course, when in your very first episode, your writers put a paupers cemetery on Manhattan's Upper East Side, you’ve set a pretty low bar. 

We agree that Person of Interest does the best job of portraying New York among our favorite shows. In fact, they do a darned good job. As a bonus, we get to see Kathy’s apartment building in one of the regularly used establishing shots of Detective Fusco’s precinct house (which was once a real precinct house, but is now a recreation center).

White Collar earned serious points by having characters take daytime strolls down real Manhattan streets and for having affection for the city. 
We agree we will really miss Matt Bomer!
In fact, at least in its first two seasons, its villains couldn’t tear themselves away from the Big Apple. They’d have a 24-hour head start on the heroes, but would choose to stick around so they could be caught. We agree this show ought to still be on the air, and highly recommend it for bingeing.

Recently, however, Kathy and I disagreed.
Yes, disagreed. We were discussing our continued devotion to the two shows whose setups seriously tip the scales of believability. But we disagreed on which was the bigger tipper.
So, let me ask you.
Which is the more preposterous? Person of Interest or Castle?
Is it more unbelievable that there’s a clandestine network out there seeking world power by using every electronic device on the planet? Or that the NYPD would let a mystery writer help them solve murders?
I’m going for #2 there.
I’ve found police detectives to be quite helpful in providing research assistance and sharing their colorful stories. But not one of them — not one — has ever taken me up on my offers to review case files for them.
On the other hand, I once made the mistake of donating money online to a national political organization, and I’m convinced they will chase me for another donation and find me wherever I am for the rest of my life.

Copyright 2015 Sheila York


  1. My main TV shows are C-Span - where I feel I can get to know the real players in Wash. DC - and some of the mysteries on Ch 31 and 80 ( I am on Time Warner ) - and of course I try to have a stretch on Th. now to immerse myself with the wonderful writing and acting and plotting of Tom Selleck and his gang.Oother than these, and the nightly news at 6 P.M. I do not watch TV. tjs

    1. Kathy is also a C-Span girl! Any of the mysteries that show up from British TV, I'm there. Golly, I even watched Grantchester, just because Robson Green was on it, even though it was a waste of his talent. I've been seriously tempted to give Blue Bloods a shot -- speaking of shows actually shot in NYC.

  2. Girl, you are SO lucky your good friend matches your tastes! My closest and dearest friends are not crime or mystery buffs and how I wish they were. tjs

    1. I am lucky to have her as a friend for many reasons. One of them is that I really liked being agreed with. hehehe.

  3. Hey, don't we all!!!!!!!!!!!! tjs