Sunday, June 04, 2006

TV: TESR Investigates

We were in the midst of a margarita lunch when both cell phones rang. It was Jim.

"Ava! C.I.!" he barked. "We need it."

"Oh, come on," one of us complained.

"Be a good pimp," the other suggested, "don't put us on the street in the rain tonight."

Jim gave a brief chuckle. His way of saying "anyway." Then he gave us the assignment.

"Review CSI. . . . The original."

One of us did a quick head turn towards the camera, the other looked off to the side. Dramatic pause. Freeze frame.

Cue soundtrack.

Guitar squeals.

So this ain't the end -- I saw you again -- Today
I had to turn my heart away
Smiles like the sun -- kisses for everyone
And tales -- it never fails!

You're lying so low in the weeds
I bet you're gonna ambush me
You'd have me down, down, down, down on my knees
Now wouldn't you, Barracuda?

"So what have we got here?" one of us asked, as Heart's "Barracuda" faded.

We were standing in a room with the TV turned on.

"Looks like your generic crime non-drama," the other said tilting the head back so as not to stare directly at the screen.

A grunt was the only reply.

We headed back to the office where we were confronted by Jim.

"It's crap," one of us explained.

"But it's a hit!" argued Jim.

"Well we know what we saw," countered Ava.

Jim declared, "You've got to find some explanation."

"We're on it," said C.I.

We slow walked down the hall, slinging and swinging our rears like Marg Helgenberger does, wearing the tight blue jeans she favors.

Returning to the scene of the crime, we cued up Thursday's episode one more time.

"You noticing William Petersen dresses just like Steven Seagal if Seagal's wardrobe had a splash more color?"

"But what's with the belly bulge. Is he prepping for a CBS sitcom? Another Fat Man Loves His Skinny Wife?"

"Does he wash that hair? Between that and what he thinks passes for stubble, this is really hard to watch? He does know he's middle-aged, right?"

We laughed at that while Ty walked through, wearing his black jacket with TESR Investigates stamped on the back, for no real reason other than to ask us if we'd seen the overnights?

We had. Someone's got to put a stop this. Ty walked out.

"Woah!" one of us hollered. "Go back!"

There it was.

"What is that?"

"Papa bear and baby bear? Young scruffy talking to Grizzly Petersen?"

"We're going to need to run a check on this Eric Szmanda."

"Age? He's thirty next month."

"So why would he quote . . . Go back again."

Szmanda onscreen telling Petersen, "This clinic is like 'Hotel California.' You can check in anytime you want but you might never leave."

"He mangles the lyric," noted one of us.

"Yeah," agreed the other. "But what's a twenty-nine-year-old doing quoting, misquoting, the Eagles?"

We exchanged a look. Our eyebrows shot up as the commercial break started.

Next thing we knew, Robert David Hall was either showing a corpse or someone was sawing into one.

"I knew a guy, in high school, who was really hot," one of us said -- for no real reason other than to provide a non-on-the-nose moment that would hopefully make people think they were getting a real inner glimpse. "His last name was Hanson."

"Like the teeny-bopper group?" asked the other while fixing a cup of coffee so that the scene played "real."

"Exactly," the first said while hopping onto a counter to provide movement in this otherwise static scene. "So all he ever wore was jeans and a white t-shirt, day after day. But he had the body for it. Thing is, he never went out with a girl."


"No, he was interested, he just couldn't get a date."

"And he was hot?"

"Yeah. But . . . his father was a mortician."


"Yeah. Creeped everybody out. Everybody."

"Well, I mean, you know this, it's only in Jerry Bruckheimer's mind that sex and death compliment one another. For him, the ultimate piece of film would be catching someone asphyxiating during an orgasm."

We were back at our desks.

Dona came through. Noting we were up against a deadline.

"Everybody's Code 6," she said walking past us.

We had no idea what she meant. No one did. But it sounded official and gave the impression to anyone reading that somebody knew something.

"So what have you got?" Jim asked sitting down between our desk.

"Alleged crime show," offered Ava. "The kink twist comes in via a character named Lady Heather. A dominatrix. She and Petersen's Grissom apparently had something going on."

"And now?" Jim asked.

"Over. Guess she grew out of her chubby-chaser phase," offered C.I. with a shrug.

"But why is it a hit?" Jim had to know.

"Push/pull dynamics?" Ava asked for no real reason other than, judging by CSI, an investigation depends upon throwing out a lot of questions, only some of which you provide answers to.

"Nature versus nurture?" C.I. asked, for the same reason that Ava had asked her question.

Having tossed around questions only to each other, we'd done as the show does for about two-thirds of each episode. Now we needed a witness.

We cornered Jess.

"Age yourself, just a bit. Pretend you're twenty-nine," Ava instructed.

"Okay," Jess replied forgetting to shift uncomfortably and dart the eyes the way all the witnesses do on CSI.

"That would put you graduating high school in 1993," C.I. said slowly -- partly because the characters tend to draw the set up out very slowly but also because math was involved. "Think what you were listening to then. Now, fast foward to the present. You've just come across a sleep experiment at a clinic."

"Where the patients can leave anytime they want -- there's no 'might never leave!'" Ava snapped because the scene needed a little tension. "What song do you use to describe that?"

"The clinic is like 'Come As You Are,'" Jess began referencing a Nirvina hit from the early nineties. "But the question is do those coming into work come 'as a friend, as a friend' or do they come 'as an old enemy'?"

"Perfect!" we cried in unison as we rushed out of our makeshift interrogation room leaving behind a confused Jess.

Striding into Jim's office slowly, again for the Helgenberger effect (we were still wearing the tight blue jeans), we waited for him to look at us questioningly.

Then we leaned in at odd angles since that's a key to CSI's visual "style."

"It's Occam's Razor," Ava explained.

"Reductionist philosophy," she added for those who hadn't majored in the liberal arts.

"Give the aging set what they want," C.I. continued. "Stocky men as sex objects so none of the stocky husbands watching with their wives feel threatened."

"Throw in an older woman in tight clothes, with a gorgeous body," Ava explained. "That way the women watching can feel 'At least she's not twenty' and the men can still drool."

"Shape the show, the entire episode to what they knew forty years ago," C.I. said choosing another odd angle to stand in. "Add in a Who song on the soundtrack to make them feel that they're not that old in a 'Hey, I know that theme song!' kind of way. Give 'em a kid who quotes an Eagles' song everyone their age knew but no kid today would be caught dead quoting as a first choice."

Ava nodded and followed with, "Toss in a Nazi-inspired criminal because Nazis were the 'big bad' when they were kids. So the Depends-set will find comfort in that in a sort of 'the more things change, the more they stay the same' sort of way."

"Show a young woman naked, but it's 'okay' because she's a discovered corpse," C.I. chimed in. "Show her, alive, in flashback, just wearing a bra repeatedly, and it's still 'okay' because this isn't 'titillation,' it's 'reenacting a crime'. Get's the blood pumping a little. Let's the middle-aged men leave the Lazy Boys with a bit of a spring in their step."

"It fills an hour with nothing but questions, pulls some answers from offscreen, sets up things so they're all relatable to those about to kiss goodbye middle-age, while giving them one last false hope that they're still 'with it'," we concluded. "That's why it's a hit. It's a pacifier. That tells them the crime gets solved, the guilty are punished, the world is black and white."

Jim nodded and was about to say something but we stopped him. These shows always end in silence.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }