Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Blue Bloods" Blues: how CBS can't do drama.

"Blue Bloods" You know the TV's bad when you find yourself wanting, trying hard to like the show...but the magic is not there. It feels like there's something special about to happen when the opening title music rolls, but the intensity is doused.

The actors/casting is perfect. The character stories underlying the episodes are intriguing and have huge dramatic potential. But the meat...the main plot each episode...uugh! I want to gouge my eyes out! What is this, CSI:Miami, in NY dress? It's all point and tell, rather than show, imply, and feel. There's nothing for the viewer to do, nothing to think about. "This feels like TV," I said to my wife. "Law and Order, at its very best, that felt dramatic. You got lost in the show."

With this, I'm just watching the clock, hoping it breaks through and becomes spectacular. TOO BAD! Put Sellick and Wahlberg into some stuff they're worthy of. When there's been TV out there like Nip/Tuck, Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, 24, Rome, The Tudors, Deadwood...heck even great cop shows like Third Watch, this simply doesn't measure up.

I watched the 3rd episode, "Privilege" tonight, waiting for a spark. There was a scene near the end where the young cop, Jamie Reagan (Will Estes), is on the couch looking through old photo albums with his grandfather, Henry (Len Cariou). As Jamie notices a photo of his detective older brother, Danny (Donnie Wahlberg), wearing a lapel pin emblem of the mysterious "Templars" cop-club, a thought occurred to me: why is the show spreading itself so thin trying to be seen giving all these great characters something to do each week?

Why not stop trying to do everything at once, and narrow the focus? Let each episode be a vignette more zeroed-in on just one of these major characters, and the work they must do to execute a case, from their perspective. Make the story more about these characters. Not about these so far ridiculous crime plots. You can allow one or two of the other major characters to intersect in the story, if it becomes the obvious and logical thing to do, but stop trying to FORCE it together for everyone, in every 10 minute segment!

Think how much more rich and engrossing you could make the stories then. You'd have time to carefully orchestrate the scenario that's going to propel the story of that week's character forward. Think about "Homicide: Life on the Street" in that sense. The show didn't try to cover everyone in the whole homicide squadroom each week. It used the squadroom as a touchstone, opening and closing the show, coming back to relieve the tension. We get to see everyone there. But then, for the real story and plot development, the show narrowed the focus and kept on just a couple of the major characters for the evolution of the episode.

Like that.

CBS's got a really great concept here, with Blue Bloods. I don't want to stop watching, because the underlying characters, and the larger picture that is tying them together, is so captivating. But the weekly stories and scene setups that these characters must wade far it's just devastatingly BORING!

I don't have any faith that'll get better. So I best stop with the show now, or grow bitter over the future of serial disappointments that await.

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