May 8, 2006
In the world of television, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the writers and producers of hour-long crime dramas, and the viewers, who watch said dramas. These are their stories.Be Careful Out There
COPS... IN... SPACE!
A Modest Proposal
Dear TV Network Executives,
I come to you today, not to bury the cop show but to praise it. And by praising it, revitalize it. I realize that with cop shows of all sorts scattering the airwaves, the genre can't be called dead so much as... compromised. Frankly, it's now spread so thoroughly, so thickly across our dials, that I fear the only way to truly save it from itself, to breath new life into this sagging, overplugged genre is to take a step back, knocking over walls of the box as we go, and start from scratch.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is where I come in. Because, you see, I have for you a plan. CSI has had its 7 year run of dominance. Law and Order has trounced the competition (except for Trial by Jury, but we just won't talk about that). We've got NCIS and NUMB3RS threading the themes through academia, the FBI and the military. But frankly, the genre needs to look beyond its current boundaries and borders. It's time for the procedural to take a new leap forward, to- if you will — boldly go where no cop has gone before.
That's right. To space.
The cop show unveils what we most fear in our society, while science fiction showcases that which exists at the periphery of our hopes and dreams. There's a reason why people flocked to LOST in all it's desperate escapist glory, why Desperate Housewives flourished, and why Battlestar Galactica is on everyone's lips. These are serial stories about people caught up in something bigger than themselves. The current failing of the cop show is that it is about people mired in a morass of their own making. And we can look at the news these days for that. There are only so many molestations, twisted murders, absurdist deaths we can watch before we become numb to the plights and pains of victims and investigators alike.
So why not take the mystery, the crime, the morality tales and put them somewhere that also asks us to let go of our perceptions, unleash our conventions?
Why not take these things to space?
|We could do it cheap. We could do it in... Canada! (And then, eventually, when the show was making money and the actors were homesick, we could move it to LA, rustle up some cattle and some palm trees and a desert planet or two).|
Add in a station full of cops — ex-military, starry eyed rookies, people from all over with sketchy pasts and dashing ideals and cynical smiles and possibly green hair and tentacles — trying to keep some sort of order with a lot of rain and fog and some funky coloring. A smallish station, I think, an uneasy truce of people who recognize that someone has to be doling out order, but whether the order is internal or external is always up for grabs. Drama manna I tell you!
|The cop show is organically about place. Crimes are specific to their location, criminals a product of them and cops a reaction to those crimes. Space is the ultimate location. It's the next frontier.|
And how better to investigate those questions than by following cops while they navigate explicit cultures and cultural wars? Our cultural assumptions say cops our on the side of justice. So we define justice, we define right and wrong in this new society, and then we see where the cracks are, where our mores fall, where are ideals split. Science fiction lets us play those riffs, lets us shape imagery into iconography, twist nuance from a lumpy forehead and a crash course in anthropology. We know the guy next door could be a serial killer, now lets meet the alien from the next sector who's running guns for a revolution. What side of the revolution will our cops be on?
Now, keep in mind, this idea is not simply offered as a way to bring together my favorite genres into one tasty TV sensation. As an added bonus, if you follow this plan, you can snag a variety of soon to be unemployed actors to take the journey with you. (Victor Garber as the hard nosed veteran. In space? How can that be bad? Adam Baldwin's already been to space. And we liked him there!! He can still be the muscle. Stargate: SG-1 has to end sometime, which means that... oh shit, the moratorium isn't over. Well, go back a few months, read my columns. I have guest star delusions of grandeur. And they all involve leather!!)
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