Tagged: Law and Order

Dennis O’Neil: Cop Shows, Reality Blows

I call them “cop shows” or, if I’m feeling a bit cutesy, “badge operas.” A screenwriting acquaintance says they’re “procedurals.” But never mind the label: by whatever name, they’re what constitutes most of the bread-and-butter television programming and you probably don’t have to go further than your nearest remote to find one.

There will be a pseudo family of protagonists – police, doctors, lawyers, feds, the occasional fire fighter or paramedic – and these people will be presented with a problem, usually one that involves injury done to an innocent party, and, using their skills and wit and such facilities as are provided to them, they will solve the problem. Usually, but not always, there is a happy ending appended to the story and once in a very great while, things end badly.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for that episode. Usually, by the rolling of the end credits, righteousness and harmony have been restored, justice has been done. The message, which we get over and over and over and over again, is that the system works to assure that the good guys win. Those good guys may have their quirks and eccentricities, but they’ve got each others’ backs and they will get the job done!

Do you believe that? Do I? Well, no, not consciously. That’s not the message real life has delivered. But it is the message that we hear every day, constantly. And I suspect that it registers with most people, at least subliminally, and we are cheery and optimistic enough to hit the mall and, you know, buy happy-making stuff.

Many of the world’s religions have been offering similar palliatives for centuries. No matter how wretched your life is, be patient and do what we say and eventually you’ll go to the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

But procedurals aren’t all that television provides. Lately, if you’ve surfed your way onto a news channel, you’ve seen images of fire and chaos and violence. That little town outside St. Louis – Ferguson, is it? And a couple of hundred miles or so south of where I’m sitting, a favorite city, Baltimore. Riots and looting and pain and terror. None of it scripted.

More to come? Almost certainly.

Maybe something can be done. But…the situation isn’t really that bad, is it? Oh, that business in Ferguson and Baltimore and maybe a few other locales here and there, now and then – that’s certainly disturbing. But fundamentally, everything’s okay. Nothing broke that won’t be fixed.

Now, what’s on tonight? Law and Order SVU? One of the CSI shows? Oh, and Bones. Bones is always good.


Dennis O’Neil: Crossovers – And That Ostrander Bozo!

Before we get into this week’s topic, if we ever do… Who does this Ostrander bozo think he is? In a recent Facebook post, he told the world that he was about to start preparing a holiday meal. He was preparing to do this only about a month after undergoing bypass surgery.

Well. It so happens that some 12 years ago I had some bypass action and a month later, was I cooking up a feast? You kidding me? A month later I was mostly lying around catching up on my sloth. Wasn’t in the kitchen, wasn’t taking out the recyclables, wasn’t down here in the office tapping at the keyboard. Nope. Just sprawled on the couch, being torpid.

But Ostrander is being a chef and doing a weekly column and for all I know, writing comic books and for all I know, swimming the Hellespont. I have to admit, I’m a little hurt. I guess I expected better from a fellow midwesterner.

Spoiler alert: completely different subject.

Which is this week’s crossover event. Not in your newest comic book. Crossovers in comics have become so common that they hardly qualify as worthy of notice, however much marketing departments might wish it were otherwise. But crossovers between television programs remain still relatively rare.

Before we soldier on, a bit of clarification: a crossover is not a mere appearance of the lead character from one venue in another lead character’s venue – Batman popping up in an issue of Superman, for example. That’s a guest appearance. A crossover happens when a story is begun in one place and ended in another. Lex Luthor blows up Gotham City in Detective Comics and Superman pastes it back together in Action Comics. As noted, pretty ordinary in panel art but not elsewhere. But not unheard of. A few weeks ago, some evil stuff was done in an episode of the venerable Law and Order SVU and the story wrapped in Chicago PD and if memory serves – and won’t that be the day! – an oldie, Homicide: Life on the Street, once did a similar stunt with the Law and Order franchise.

Now, the crossover trope has, in a way, come full circle. Characters who started life in comics are doing comics-type crossovers on television. On Tuesday, if my TV listing is accurate, Arrow and some compadres will visit the Flash and on Wednesday the Flash will operate on Arrow’s turf.

I leave it to the brainier among you to mine this programming for significance. I will allow myself only this with which to close: I think that our television brethren know, really know, how to do superhero material in their medium. It’s been a bit of a learning curve as they encountered and solved the narrative problems we comics guys have been bumping into for decades. The comics-begotten shows are all honorable entertainments and one of them, Gotham, is, I think, more than that.

The only question left to ask is, does John Ostrander agree? Or is he too busy building a garage?