Wednesday, September 15, 2004
This season, cloning comes to television. The networks’ nerve has failed and instead of blazing new trails they give us copies of existing programs that weren’t great in the first place, or try two versions of the same suspect reality TV idea.
Several of the retreads build on the success of the tightly plotted but heartless ‘CSI’ franchise. CBS launches a new spin-off, ‘CSI New York’ (Wednesdays), with Gary Sinise lending some gravitas to the show. Proving that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, NBC also tries to cash in on our ghoulish tendencies with ‘Medical Investigation’ (Fridays).
These shows are competent but leave little room for character development, nuance or quirkiness, which is why they’re so easy to clone (the ‘Law and Order’ family follow a similar approach). The characters and settings are completely interchangeable: you just need one slightly aloof leader with a black sense of humour, one loyal female lieutenant, a couple of younger earnest helpers, two unrelated investigations each episode, one poorly-lit laboratory (where the requisite ‘science bit’ happens) and you’re done – in New York, Vegas or Miami. (article continues)
(first published in the Santa Fe Reporter, Sept 15th, 2004 – for the full text of the article, please contact me)