Television Cliches Continued
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about all of my favorite television cliches, like when characters being stalked are too proud to accept police protection or when cars on the freeway don’t slow down for even when there is a gun battle.
Since then friends have been reminding me of more television cliches, things that just don’t work in real life, but we love them nonetheless. Here’s the continuing list. By the way, these are not necessarily bad things. They make our favorite shows more fun. We come to television and the movies for fantasy. After all, real life is always just a little bit disappointing.
And hey, if you have more, please let me know. Let’s grow this list.
1. Television Shows Inside Television Shows Are Oddly Personal
The hero has been thinking about a murder victim who was dressed provocatively. He broods in his apartment because he hates that the victim is being blamed for the crime as we all hate it. Suddenly, he decides to check the television news, and the newscaster is talking about the case right at the moment that he turns it on.
There are any number of news stories that I’m interested in and follow. When I brood about injustice, and I flip on the television to see the 5 o’clock news, inevitably the newscaster has just finished talking about it. I can see that he’s been discussing it, but I don’t know what he’s said.
I sit down and endure the five minutes of commercials for beer and panty hose until the news comes back on, but the whole channel 12 news team has started gently teasing the weather guy about his new haircut, and it’s not going to be until the 5:30 program that they get back to my thing.
2. The Snide Miranda Rights
The television cop reads the bad guy his rights victoriously, his voice full of heroic justice and domination over the forces of evil. He’s doing this as a matter of form, of course. He has to do it. It’s the law, but it just has to come out of his mouth in a careless way and in a private place to count.
I’ve known a lot of police officer, and in these matters, they are not careless. Frankly, it’s a rare cop who’s careless in any matter regarding the law. Mostly, they want to be sure that the criminals are well aware of their rights, and that they understand their rights, so their arrests are not thrown out in a case.
3. Knife Wounds
There are two effects that knife wounds generally have in television and the movies. They are usually either instantly deadly or they have little effect. Lucky is the television good guy who is stabbed or even shot in the shoulder. That requires little more than a sling for the last five minutes of an episode.
And the victim who is stabbed in the stomach has just about no chance of living.
Except for the very well placed shot, it takes a lot of effort to kill someone with a knife. People aren’t like balloons or space suits -- puncture that outer layer and the rest is not going to be destroyed. No, it takes work to kill a living thing that wants to live.
At the same time, once muscles, tendons, and bone have been insulted with a hole, it takes a long time for them to heal. A shoulder would is a terrible thing. Sure, you’ll live through it, but think about the years of rehab, and the fact that those tendons might not just grow back.
4. The Exciting Stakeout
The stakeout is one of those time honored tropes. The cop sits outside a house as he gains valuable insight into a bad person’s life by looking through a pair of binoculars.
Have you ever tried to stake someone out? I asked a friend’s permission to do this once, just for the sake of realism in a story, just so I could gain a real understanding of the process.
It turns out that very few people walk outside their front doors and make major revelations about who they are and why they have made the poor and evil choices they have made.
For me it was very much like staring at someone’s front door for five hours.
5. Famous Guest Stars
I’m sitting there, enjoying the mystery, trying to figure out who did it. I’m presented with four possibilities: the mother with the limp looking to avenge her son, the shifty eyed teenager who enjoys drugs, a man with a beard who never looks directly into the detective’s eyes, and that character played by the man who won the academy award last year for that dramatic movie everyone saw.
Well, I wonder who the bad guy is? I wonder if he’s going to have a big dramatic scene at the end that we’re all going to marvel at?
6. Finding Evidence
This is the big one that I missed last time. I love the scene where the scientist come in with the machines radiating blue light. They find a single hair or dried drop of spit.
“Karl,” one says, “check the DNA Spectolectrometer.”
Karl nods seriously. He opens the machine that has a glass screen that he controls with his fingertips, and he nods seriously as it checks the entire database in fifteen pulse pounding seconds.
“Yes,” Karl says. “It was the mayor’s son.”
“The mayor’s son? I never would have guessed. Good thing we brought this vital piece of equipment along.”
These are fun scenes, but come on now. Forensic science is difficult work for professionals, and it takes a lot of hard work and time.
Anyway, as galling as these could be, they’re all fun, aren’t they? I can lose myself in this kind of television. I love every single one of them.