|But I'm stylin'!|
I understand that a certain amount of artistic license may be necessary for dramatic purposes, but do writers have to make TV cops short-bus stupid? Surely there are real cops across America that are rolling their eyes, pissed off that TV portrays them as clichéd numbskulls. Don't get me wrong; there are a few smart cops out there. Detective Kate Beckett on "Castle" is smart, pretty, and tough. Detective Robert Goren on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" is brilliant. And Detective Jane Timoney (the brilliantly acerbic Maria Bello), late of "Prime Suspect", was the coolest, most realistic female TV cop since Cagney and Lacey (probably why she was canceled). If I was murdered, I'd want any of these top cops on the case.
But most of them are just dumber than a bag of rocks. For example:
Should Be Working Vice
Why are the male detectives all balding, middle-aged, non-descript gray suits while the female detectives are hot and sassy? Carrie Wells on "Unforgettable" (see photo) wears tops cut down to her navel and 5-inch stiletto boots (along with an annoying, ever-present smirk). If I was a suspect and I saw her coming after me, I'd run. Why? Because she can't catch me if she's wearing 5-inch stiletto boots. With her long, bright red hair, sleeveless low-cut tops and heels, she should be working vice, not homicide.
Sharing is Good For the Soul
Why do cops discuss ongoing investigations in front of, well, everyone? They interview a shop-owner in his store, and then reveal details of the case while he listens on. What if he was involved in the crime? Good thing for him that they're kind enough to let him know exactly how off-track they are.
Mr. Manson, Meet the Parents
Why do cops parade families of victims through the squad room, in plain view of the suspects? "Right this way, Mr. Smith." "Hey...hey...! Is that the scumbag who raped and murdered my daughter?" Always eager to help out, some hapless cop has a firearm handy for the victim's dad to snatch and shoot the suspect. The suspect who turns out to be innocent.
Always Give Fair Warning
This is one of my favorites. Our intrepid detectives are searching for a suspect. They spot him on the street and shout, "Hey, you! FREEZE!" from either a) a block away, b) across a crowded room, or c) when the suspect is within easy reach of a potential hostage. Naturally, the suspect always gets away in the ensuing chaos. If I was a cop, I'd casually saunter up to the suspect, put my gun in his ear, and shout FREEZE! That way, he wouldn't get away and I'd have the added benefit of scaring the shit out of him.
Nah, He'll Never Use the Fire Escape
The entire detective squad is decked out in riot gear, the S.W.A.T. team is present with battering rams, shotguns, and automatic rifles. They bust into the suspect's lair, a gunfight breaks out and...the suspect gets away through a secret tunnel, onto the roof, down a fire escape, etc. Did it not occur to anyone to check the building's blueprint before mounting the assault? (The suspect did.)
It Could Be Ketchup
Why do detectives always have to dip their fingers in a pool of blood and then rub their fingertips together to discover that it is, indeed, blood? Haven't they seen enough blood to know what it looks like? And hello? Blood-borne pathogens? Hepatitis? AIDS? ("Dude, did that paper cut heal yet?")
It Could Be Powdered Sugar
If I was a badass drug dealer and wanted to bump off the entire narcotics division, I'd plant a brick of arsenic-laced cocaine in plain view because I could rest assured that all the cops would whip out their switchblade (they all have one), poke a hole in the pack, and taste the product. A product that could be...PCP perhaps? Or Drano? Or rat poison? And how on earth do they pass a department mandated drug test after they've been sampling smack all week?
No, No, Really – I'm Fine
Det. Curtis shoots a kid by mistake. Later, he slams a suspect against a wall during an interrogation and snarls, "You think I'm done with you? Huh? Well, do ya? Punk!" His captain says, "Um, ok. That's enough, Det. By the way, how's the counseling going?" Is there a TV cop out there who actually welcomes counseling after a traumatic event? And is there a lieutenant or captain who would let their detective carry a gun after seeing him/her go uncharacteristically medieval on some perp's ass?
Better Let 'Em Know We're Here
After an episode's worth of searching, our heroes have finally discovered the location of the mad bomber's hideout. So they head over with sirens blaring and tires screeching to a halt, thus alerting the suspect that the police have arrived. While the team is preparing to bust in the door, the perp is setting a booby-trap bomb and effecting his escape. Which leads us to...
No, it's not! Busting into a house, quickly sweeping a room with a flashlight and declaring a room "clear" is just stupid. Did they check the closets, under the bed, the attic, the crawlspace under the house? If I was a bad guy, I wouldn't come out, guns blazing. I'd just hide in the bathtub, because they didn't check there either.
If I Look at You Hard Enough, You'll Confess
If you suspect, but as yet have no proof, that someone's guilty of something, why would you stare them down, thus alerting them that they're under suspicion. "Hmmm... Clearly she knows I'm up to something. So while they're continuing their investigation, I'll eliminate all of the evidence that could possibly implicate me. That way, I'll escape and they can bring me back all season long to not get caught again and again and again and..."
A Few Honorable Mentions...
- Empty threats made against suspects during heated, yet fruitless interrogations
- Insubordinate cops that wouldn't just get fired, they'd be shot
- Unmarked cop cars that look like cop cars ("Hey Vinnie? You think that's a couple of cops in the black Crown Victoria with no hubcaps that's been parked across the street for the past 7 hours?")
- Serial killers that don't get caught
- Unsolved murders of our hero's loved ones (Kate Beckett's mom on "Castle", Patrick Jane's family on "The Mentalist", Carrie Wells' sister on "Unforgettable")
I don't know if it's something in the Police Procedural Writer's Rulebook that says every show has to have this crap, but enough already. Let's get some smart TV cop who wear sensible shoes.