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Torture Five-0

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.


Comments on: "Torture Five-0" (6)

  1. You have to consider that 24 was a FOX network show. That it promoted the idea of torture without consequence comes as no surprise. This is no less than a brainwashing of America and hardly coincidental. Most people didn’t even notice.

  2. I love posts like this.

    I did not mind this show

    Some of the new stuff is so lame. But they keep taking the good ones off the air.

    But You have me thinking and I shall check in onto this drama.

  3. I don’t watch much television other than an occasional episode of House or The Office, so I can’t weigh in as a viewer, but I’ve heard enough about the premise of 24 to know that I feel it’s a huge mistake to allow torture to seem “okay”. The fact that you’ve found it’s spreading over onto other shows on other channels bothers me. Perhaps a writing campaign to the networks would be in order, but something tells me they would simply let our letters pile up in some box somewhere.

  4. I like fantasy, and that’s all these shows are. Just like there’s no such thing as Prince Charming, or happily ever after (the premise of most chick flicks), torture doesn’t work. But, its fun to believe in fairy tales, and its fun to believe the good guys always win, and the bad guys have bad things done to them…even if it’s only for a few minutes.

  5. common sense tells us that torture, specifically the kind of targeted torture TV heroes use, is in fact both effective and reliable.

    the kind of torture that doesn’t work is taking people at random and torturing them in the hope that they (the torturers) will stumble upon a conspiracy. (the former soviet union and similar regimes engaged in this kind of torture)

    but what the military knows about the reliability of targeted torture (and liberals don’t):

    1. first, be pretty sure the suspect is guilty
    in the TV shows, they are pretty sure

    2. establish a baseline
    ask the suspect questions to which you already know the answer; then gradually move to questions to which you don’t know the answer
    (on the TV shows they don’t really do this)

    3. test the suspect’s answers

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