Friday, April 1, 2011

Oh, Medical Crime Dramas, I Want To Love You

Show, we need to talk.  I just watched you, and I did so because I love Dana Delaney.  She's just one of those actresses who can take a small moment and make into something so personally intense, you feel like a voyeur.  But what I want to talk about isn't Dana Delaney, but her character; and not just her character, but all the M.E.s and C.S.U.s, etc. that are flashing across millions of screens right now.  Because all feels terribly wrong.  And you're one of the culprits.

All right, show, I'm willing to give you some poetic license.  I'm even willing to suspend a huge hunk of reality for television.  Take "Castle" for example; I love that crime-drama-comedy (I'm a Nathan Fillion fan from back in his Firefly days).  I'm open enough to go for the whole "writer shadowing cop to get a feel for his next character".  In fact, I think it's a wonderful thing to showcase a writer actually doing these things so he/she can get a feel for what cops go through, because that translates over to the work.  It's just too bad some television writers don't seem to be doing the same for the medical personnel, including you, show.  (I'm excluding "Castle" because their M.E., Lanie Parish, actually appears to do her job and not everyone elses'.)

Facts are facts, dearest show, and the hard truth is M.E.s do not play detective.  That is not their job.  They do not go out and question suspects.  They do not solve the case all on their own.  Yes, they definitely contribute; their information is key to helping detectives solve crimes.  However, the over glossing, over dramatized medical dramas give a false sense not only of the reality of what it is to be in a C.S.U. or to be an M.E., but it also creates a terrible ripple effect.  You, show, are only adding pebbles to the waves, waves which are called the "C.S.I." effect (any guesses where they got that name?).  Juries think that there is always solid proof; there's undeniable evidence of the bad guy, DNA spread everywhere, security cameras that take pixel perfect images that can be blown up to see reflected faces in car windows.  Really?  Cause you lost me at DNA everywhere, show.  I might give you a few blood spatters, and as I've proven I'm willing to let myself float along in a little bit of fantasy; but please don't insult my intelligence.  I want to like you, medical-crime-thriller-drama show.  Don't make me hate you.  At least try to pretend to infuse the insiest winsiest bit of pseudo-reality into your plot.

Now if you want to see anything close to what a "real" M.E. might do, dear show, then check out N.C.I.S. (the original) and dear Ducky (the character I wish were my uncle).  If you like the British scene, try Midsomer Murders (which is an excellent show in and of itself) and the ever stoic and prosaic Dr. Bullard.

I don't want to put down television writers, or the shows they create (well, okay, some deserve it, but I don't want to lump them all together), or even you, newest medical-crime-thriller-drama.  TV is a fantasy world.  I get that; most people do.  However, being a writer I just want to bash my head into the floor when I see plot bunnies running like wild llamas all over your script.  Trying for some reality in the words and actions of the characters can only help; make at least some of it believable - and not just the tongue twisting medical jargon.  It can be done.  I've seen it happen.  And if you can't do that, then don't be a medical-thriller-drama that has their medical staff solve crimes for the police.  There are plenty of excellent medical dramas that don't: House, Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, ER, St. Elsewhere, and that's just to name a few.  Even canceled ones, like "Leaving LA" (just a few episodes, but if you haven't seen it, you must!) are prime examples of medical dramas done beautifully.  And some of them, really most of them, have the whole "solve the mystery of X's death/deadly medical issue" written in, so you don't even have to abandoned your beloved "thriller" or "crime" undertones, show.  As a matter of fact, "Leaving LA" is actually set in a Coroner's Office.

Okay show, I realize you're already airing.  I know you can't change stream midcourse (even if you're paddling toward a waterfall, which is actually harder to steer away from).  But isn't it possible to fuse some of these past, much prized medical shows' magic into your story?  I think it is.  I really, really do.  And I think there's got to be someone out there who can do it, because I believe you deserve at least a small chance to live past five episodes, show.  Mainly because of Dana Delaney...but still, you deserve it.  And the viewers deserve it, too.

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