Sunday 5 June 2011

More Cop Show Clichés

As of 2011, TV cops have to be female, with a lot of back story.

At least Scott and Bailey avoids the scene with the laconic pathologist cheerfully sizing up a corpse while a rookie police officer vomits in the corner from shock. Every time Vera turns up to see a body, there’s a jaunty bloke carrying out the autopsy while being sarcastic and patronising. Other clichés of the genre also regularly feature: both episodes one and four begin with a body found underwater and shot with arty blurrings and reflections after the Millais painting of the drowning of Ophelia. Vera is overweight, drinks too much and is unable to sustain a relationship because of her workaholism and abusive relationship with her dad. Oh, and she has a habit of going off on hunches, which lead her colleagues to think she’s gone completely mad, until she proves to have seen things that nobody else did. (See also reviews of The Shadow Line with its ridiculous extended metaphors. Policemen don’t talk like that. Why don’t writers shadow real policemen, who speak a genuinely colourful argot? Oh, and look out for the pathologist who munches a sandwich while pointing out the horrible injuries.) Private Eye on Vera and Scott and Bailey.

As my colleagues in the Guardian have pointed out, the more realistic the cops, the more fanciful and improbable the murders. And the cliches remain the same, whether in Vera, Lewis or Case Sensitive. Here are some more recent ones I've spotted: the first murder is usually the weirdest and is unexplained at the end. Any group of children having a boisterous outing will always stumble on a body. All mobile phone calls come at the worst possible moment. When the sidekick searches for a crucial clue on the internet, he invariably finds it immediately, usually with a cry of "Bingo, boss!". Simon Hoggart May 7 2011

The suspect will go out of their way to make contact with the person in charge, simply to comment on how alike they both are. @matr77 (Mat Ranson)

Use of the internet is either elaborately casual, or obviously grafted on to a pre-Internet plot. Internet searches take seconds, not hours. Cops told to search the internet comply either over-seriously (the internet – ooooh!) or grumpily (to show how at ease they - and the director and writer - are with technology). Wouldn’t you Google the suspect as soon as you heard his name, without being told?

Man in phone box: Inspector? I’ve got something really important to tell you!
Insp: Oh, OK, I’ll come to your houseboat at 8.
He arrives. The houseboat owner is lying there dead.

More deathless dialogue:

I don’t know what you’re talking about!
Oh, I think you do.

Can we talk?
I have nothing whatever to say to you! (or: I don’t think we have anything to talk about! or: Not here!)

Look, I didn’t murder him, if that’s what you’re getting at.

What do you think you’re doing here! After everything you’ve done [to me/my daughter/my dog/Stark Enterprises etc]!

If Harry Worth thought that Kaufman was Dr Belasco, he’d hardly suggest his café for a rendezvous with Sir Graham. (The invaluable Francis Durbridge)

More here. And here.

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