Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Cop Show Cliches

Suspect: I went for a walk!
Inspector: At ten o’clock at night? In a snowstorm?

As of 2009, UK cop shows have to be whimsical – the central character is a time traveller, or something. Yawn! Bring back Bergerac and Murder in Suburbia. Though He Kills Coppers wasn't bad.
The central character has to be a maverick.

The cop’s wife has to say: “It’s me or the job!” or “You never have any time for me!”

Liking jazz is a sign of depth of character.

Cop is tailing female suspect. She dodges into the tube/metro/subway. He blunders through crowds of commuters only for the doors of a train to shut just as he gets to it. His tailee smiles and waves through the glass as the train draws away.

Friendly, unthreatening detective has just been interviewing someone in a low-key way, in their own home. At the end of the interview he says, "Mind if I just use your bathroom?" Once in the bathroom he flushes the toilet while checking out the medicine cabinet, where he will find the incriminating stash of heroin/pregnancy testing kit/nail file with bit of murder victim's scalp attached/razor blades + shaving cream although no man lives in the house etc etc etc (Or else he sits on the toilet lid and sobs.)

Rachel Cooke in the New Statesman picks the cliches out of Whitechapel: "Welcome to hell, gentlemen." Posh top cop owes promotion to "smoking cigars with the right people". "Chandler, in charge of his first murder investigation, is run ragged by D S Ray Miles - ordinary coppers are always called Ray - and his team of podgy, sweaty, cynical detective constables. Oh, how he wishes they would wear deodorant and ties and use their waste-paper bins, and when they refuse to do so, he rubs Tiger balm into his temples and breathes deeply.

Andrew Billen in the Times does the same for psychic crime show Empathy: “Can you imagine if the press get hold of this?” “You could have compromised the entire investigation!” "This stops, NOW!” “You can’t possibly think I had anything to do with this?” “You two are off the investigation!” “You’ll pay for what you have done.” "You had me worried there!" "Nice to know you care."
A friend writes: The best bit about Empathy was when a shrink tried to persuade him that it was all due to guilt, denial etc. You were plainly meant to think, There's obviously something in this psychic lark, psychiatrists getting it wrong again etc etc.

Other cliches were: 2 detectives in charge of the operation, one (the superior) a man, the other a woman. The man thought the psychic thing was all bosh, the woman kept saying things like, "I think we should talk to him again", "You know, this doesn't really add up" etc etc i.e. used woman's intuition to get at the truth.

Another cliche: a longer than necessary shot of the murderer's head, from behind, before he was even under suspicion, so at the end you could say. "I thought there was something funny about that bloke ..."

CSI, House, Criminal Minds:
Someone has a problem. He looks thoughtfully at the scene (dead body, badly planned building) and immediately we see a short film of his thoughts: virus whizzing down bloodstream, people beating on locked fire door, probably with Psycho style music.

It's a
dangerous situation being dealt with by a team of people. Only one of them is a woman, who says words to the effect of "Sarge, let me try it, I think I can deal with him" or "I'm sure there's something in there. I want to go and have a look." The foolhardy woman barges into the dangerous situation alone, usually without informing colleagues, and ends up on her own with the gangster/monster/psychopath whatever holding her at gunpoint or something and is only saved by the reliable bloke from the team rushing in and rescuing her at the last minute.

Here's some reach-me-down dialogue to help you write your script:

By rights I should take you off this case!
My private life is no concern of yours.
That's a very serious accusation, Sergeant.
Better not look, miss.
Everybody move back - give’em some air.
Don't try to be funny, Inspector, it doesn't suit you.
I'm a policeman, not an artist!
Aren't you being a bit mysterious, Inspector? What's this all about?

More here.

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