I have fond memories of cop shows, from Dragnet to Hill Street Blues to CSI, but I have noticed that there has been less and less regard for the rights of televised suspects as time goes on. Adam-12 once had Martin Milner complaining about some guy pulling an, “I am a citizen” routine, but he and Kent McCord were generally as polite and courteous as could be, though somewhat wooden. The heroes of Hawaii Five-O, like Kam Fong playing Chin Ho Kelly above, were comparatively wooden, too, but they managed to solve their cases without beating up their suspects.
My friend Rog turned me on to CSI and later raved about 24. I started to watch CSI, and became a fan, but never caught up with 24. Later I read that torture had become a mainstay of the series. Lovable Weird Guy Donald Sutherland’s son Kiefer played Jack Bauer, and somehow Jack always had to either torture some evil dude or let a mall full of innocent children die. I wasn’t interested in watching that, but I saw similar scenarios creeping into other series.
For example, I was a fan of Star Trek: Enterprise, the Trek prequel with bony Jolene Blalock as hot Vulcan T’Pol and Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer. Even without a Prime Directive, Archer, who watched water polo videos with his puppy, seemed like the least aggressive of Star Trek captains early on. In the wake of 9/11, the show was rewritten to have the Earth attacked by alien meanies called the Xindi, and Archer became all-too-willing to pummel any other aliens they captured to find out more about the Xindi. That was about when I stopped watching the series.
Saturday night, CBS reran the first episode of the remake of Five-O, which is Hawaii Five-0, with a zero. Steve McGarrett is played by Alex O’Loughlin, a fellow I liked from the Moonlight series, where he played a vampire PI that could go about during the day as long as he wore his Foster Grants. The new Danno, James Caan’s son Scott, was OK, and the new Chin Ho, Daniel Dae Kim, had been good on Lost, and the new Kono, Grace Park, was a bikini babe. But when McGarrett was offered a job as head of a task force with complete immunity, I groaned. Eventually they caught up with some nasty grinning Asian who knew something but wouldn’t talk. The solution – hit him in the face with a large ash tray. He tells them everything because as we know from 24, torture always works perfectly.
After Five-0, they reran the first episode of Blue Bloods, with Len Cariou and Tom Selleck as scions of a family of NYC cops named Reagan. Actually they aren’t all cops – one daughter is a district attorney. I’ve liked Selleck both as goofy Thomas Magnum and gruff Jesse Stone. The rest were all new to me. Right at the beginning, someone unseen in a white van snatches a young girl off the sidewalk. She’s around ten years old, with diabetes. That’s important because it added a time constraint. They find critical evidence, and Detective Reagan, Selleck’s son BTW, soon finds the suspect, who isn’t talking. The missing girl needs her insulin, pronto, so the obvious thing to do is to shove the suspect’s head in the nearest toilet. He tells them everything because as we know from 24, torture always works perfectly.
They find her still alive, and everyone is happy, except the lady Judge, who is just this close to releasing the perp to kill again, and the DA, Selleck’s daughter BTW, who has no untainted evidence to mount a case. So at least the writers stipulated to the fact that physical coercion is technically against the law. But it didn’t matter because amazingly fast police work uncovered another crime in the perp’s past, and they extradited him to a state where he could be executed – so everyone was really happy.
Except me. Because it ain’t never that simple.