One thought ahead. Two sentences behind.

Detectives

It can’t be that bad. That’s what I thought, watching Police Detective John Luther drive the streets of London in a worn-down, economy-sized car. Idris Elba who plays the iconic TV character is a big guy and he doesn’t fit into small compartments. A Mercedes-Benz S-Class Sedan would offer a little more room. Also, don’t TV detectives drive nice cars? Does all of Luther’s money go to a posh London flat?

Seeing him later on a tattered couch in a concrete high-rise puts that theory to rest. The Spartan surroundings are better suited for some bloke on the dole than a Detective Chief Inspector on the rise. So what’s the deal?

Maybe being separated from his wife has something to do with it. It probably doesn’t help that she is already living with another man. Luther is in danger of walking into a TV cliché: a brilliant crime solver whose personal life is in shambles.

At least he dresses nicely. All around him might fall into disrepair, but his suits hang nicely with a signature tweed overcoat adding another layer to his already large frame. He moves through his landscape like a soulful bear, not so much a threat, but still creating a gravitational pull of violence. People tend to die around him, which isn’t something you look for in a coworker.

Luther is not a bent cop, but he doesn’t really play above board. With investigations he’s always cutting corners. With supervisors he’s constantly withholding information. Even if he were to run the office bingo party, something about the final payout would go sideways.

 

Oh well, the devil makes us sin
But we like it when we’re spinning in his grip

Massive Attack
Paradise Circle

 

This is from the theme song and it may help explain the world Luther inhabits. He is neither pure nor corrupt but somehow inhabits the two which allows him to work with everybody and connect with nobody. The show’s creator, Neil Cross, wanted to create a detective that was a hybrid of Sherlock Holmes and Columbo. Luther does use his mental facilities instead of his physical presence to capture the bad guys. He doesn’t even carry a gun for he can’t in England. If things get dicey, he can always shout “Oi!” like a verbal timeout to let the bad guys know that it is time to behave. After all, this is London, mate, not the OK Corral.

The bleak life of this London cop reminds me of another detective series that washed up on the shores of Maryland in the 90’s.

Homicide: Life on the Streets is based on Baltimore Sun Reporter David Simon’s Homicide: A Year in the Killing Streets. Simon wanted to demystify the life of the police detective and felt the show had the potential to tell an array of stories much like James Joyce’s collection of short stories in Dubliners.

The setting of the show was in Baltimore. The police station looked to be an abandoned warehouse on the city’s waterfront. The producers of the show wanted to create gritty realism by using hand-held cameras and shooting on location, but did anybody want to watch this much reality?

 

Homicide

Homicide: office break room

 

The executives at NBC didn’t understand the show and only kept it around for it had garnered universal praise from critics. (It’s the only television drama to have won three Peabody Awards.) In fact, the waterfront police station may have been the perfect metaphor for the precarious nature of the show, as if the execs kept nudging it closer and closer to the edge of the pier in hopes of finally pushing the whole enterprise into the harbor.

The show’s only saving grace was its well crafted stories. Also, it was funny. Seriously, it was. The show even employed comedian Richard Belzer to play Detective John Munch.

 

MUNCH: Homicide, our day begins when yours ends.

 

The cast had a deep bench but it quickly became apparent that one was going to be the star.

Detective Frank Pembleton, portrayed by Andre Braugher, was like John Luther in that he took great care in his appearance. Pembleton was not only a natty dresser he even added suspenders and sometimes donned a fedora, a possible nod to the detective that started it all – Sam Spade. But that’s where the similarities ended.

Unlike Luther, Pembleton was married and lived in a nice row house. Also, he was not morally ambivalent. College educated and mentored by Jesuits, he was a clarion of moral righteousness. Where Luther is a soulful bear, Pembleton was a cantankerous badger. In Pembleton’s world there was good and there was evil and you put evil in the box to get a confession. The problem was the streets of Baltimore rarely bent towards his line of thinking.

What made the series compelling was it didn’t follow any of the normal conventions of a television crime drama. Up until that point there was an agreement that the good guys had sixty minutes to catch the bad guys. But with Homicide, the criminal might not only get away, he or she might never be found. And the killings would continue as names of prior homicides remained in red (unsolved) on the board like hanging threads on one of Pembleton’s suits, which made him furious, which made him a badger to be around. His wife constantly threatened to leave him. His beleaguered partner, Tim Bayless, continually tried to find ways to connect with him that didn’t involve Pembleton exploding like a comet. But the more Bayless tried, the more he sounded like a needy wife.

 

BAYLESS: You never say please. You never say thank you.

PEMBLETON: Please don’t be an idiot. Thank you.

 

The show was at times so grim I wondered if actual police detectives sat back with a cold one and asked, “Is my life this depressing?”

And to add to the misery, the detectives of this beleaguered precinct had to drive around in fleet-white Chevy Cavaliers, which were as reliable as Taiwanese microwaves.

My God, it was bad enough that these homicide detectives were in Baltimore, stationed in an abandoned warehouse with faulty electrical work and cold coffee, but to have to drive around in a car that had no chance of catching a riding lawnmower may have been a bridge too far. Where were the wins? Where was the fun? Did we need to go back to the days of disco?

That’s where it all started for me. Friday night! My brother Chad and I would pack our PJ’s and head to Grandma Dora’s for a sleepover. Come Saturday we would wake up, eat pancakes and stroll downtown to visit Grandma’s place of employment – Shriver’s Department Store, where we would saddle up to the café’s counter to have a slice of one of her homemade banana cream pies. But before all that there was frozen pizza, popcorn and Barnaby Jones.

For some reason we had to be in our sleepwear before the show started. It didn’t matter if it was 8pm and the sun didn’t set for another hour. That’s what senior citizens did. They got ready for bed after dinner even if they weren’t sleepy. So Grandma would sit in her recliner with a nightgown and Chad and I would lie on the hideaway in our PJ’s, munching on popcorn and watching Barnaby solve another case.

 

“Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.”

 

Grandma liked the show for Barnaby was close to her age. The premise was the retired Barnaby handed over his PI firm to his son who immediately gets murdered working a case. Barnaby comes back to solve the murder and then sticks around to help his daughter-in-law, Betty Jones, run the operation.

Even though the show was set in the 70’s there wasn’t much about the lead character that reflected the changing times. After all, Buddy Ebsen, who played Barnaby, was close to 70 and from another era. His character was courtly and deferential even when interviewing suspects. He even drove a Ford LTD which was big enough to hold a Mexican quinceanera.

 

Barnaby Jones

Barnaby Jones: Ford LTD, as wide as it is long

 

Barnaby wore conservative suits. Instead of downing shots of bourbon, he drank milk. Basically, he was the nicest person you’d ever meet. He was the comfort food of private detectives. He brought as much raw emotion to his cases as a retired engineer taking up a new hobby like woodworking. Barnaby was a wise old owl, slow and steady, dispassionate and methodical, he always got his man unless the suspect started to flee.

Since Barnaby was thirty years older than most of the fleeing suspects, the writers of the show had to help him out.

While the suspect had to run through a thick crowd of pedestrians who were carrying sacks of groceries and walking dogs, Barnaby followed in the wake.

If the suspect ran into an alley, there was always a high fence that he had to climb. By the time Barnaby arrived, he noticed the unlocked gate.

If the suspect ran through a shopping mall, he got lost in the food court and ended up passing the same Orange Julius twice. Barnaby would consult the map at the front entrance and plot a course to the adjacent exit.

Crossing a dangerous intersection, the suspect would get upended by a passing vehicle, only to get up and limp away. Barnaby, noticing the dumb luck, would wait for the light to turn green and utilize the crosswalk.

And before the limping suspect could reach a metro bus, Barnaby would power walk to the finish, pull out his gun and say, “No you don’t.”

Much like Luther’s “Oi!” Barnaby’s gun was used as a whistle to let everybody know that playtime was over. Barnaby was tired and wanted to go back to the food court and get a milkshake. But no matter how much the writers stacked the deck in Barnaby’s favor, there was one thing that they could never fully resolve – his advancing age.

Barnaby had technically retired and was no longer game for the fist fights, gun battles, and car chases. Eventually, a savior would come in the form of a distant cousin, JR (Jedediah Romano). He came to Los Angeles for law school. He took a part-time job in Barnaby’s PI firm to help run down leads and make some extra cash.

With so much pent-up energy in having to treat Barnaby like a porcelain doll, the writers of the show really let JR have it. I don’t think an episode passed where he didn’t sustain a Grade 2 concussion. Fist fights were now mandatory. Biker gangs would stop for no other reason than to pummel him. Female suspects weren’t shy about slapping him. And when he would limp back to the office to look for a bag of ice, he would find Barnaby sitting at his desk drinking milk and working on a crossword puzzle for he already solved the case.

Barnaby still got his man. JR was there to take one for the team.

And what kind of cases did Barnaby take? Most of them were run of the mill like extortion, adultery and missing persons. From the below episodes, which did not appear in the first season?

 

(a) A millionaire blows up his yacht to fake his death. Barnaby is hired by the girlfriend of the murdered captain to investigate. But first a nap.

(b) A rock star is found dead in his empty pool and all the milk in the fridge is expired. Barnaby is not pleased.

(c) Barnaby investigates a scam involving counterfeit medication after his blood pressure skyrockets. Someone’s going to pay for his emergency room visit.

 

If Chad and I were good and didn’t spill any pop, Grandma Dora would keep the television on and we would move down the road to watch another Southern California private detective who worked out of a dilapidated mobile home overlooking a Malibu beach.

At 46 James Rockford was considerably younger than Barnaby Jones, but he was still too old to be hip. He did have charisma for he was played by the movie star James Garner. Where Barnaby Jones was comfort food, The Rockford Files was fast food you’d pick up from a street vendor while on a stakeout. Rockford was the eternal bachelor. It didn’t help that he spent five years at San Quentin, wrongfully convicted of robbery. Although pardoned, he didn’t fully give up his incarcerated past. His best friend, Angel, is a former cell mate who tries to get Rockford to go along with his next hare-brain scheme. His father, Rocky, wants him to give up PI work and find a real job, but that will never happen.

 

ROCKFORD: Dad, even on my best day, I’m borderline.

 

Rockford never seemed to be bona fide TV detective. He had a gun but he kept it in a cookie jar. He worked cold cases to avoid running into the LAPD. His sports coats were loose-fitting. He had no money. He drove a Pontiac Firebird, but it was a run-down and perpetually in the shop. His life and profession could be best described as a ramshackle. He was an old mule that you had to keep coaxing down the trail.

It’s not surprising that Rockford’s signature move was an evasive driving technique taught by the Secret Service and used by most pizza delivery boys. It involves driving a car in reverse at a high rate of speed, slamming on the brakes, spinning the steering wheel and swinging the front-end of the car around so you can drive away in the other direction.

 

Rockford Files

Rockford Files: looking for an escape

 

There was nothing normal about this show. NBC execs felt the writers were not taking the role of the TV detective seriously. After all, Rockford was supposed to drive towards the gun fire, save the ladies and nab the bad guys. He wasn’t supposed to talk his way out of a shoot out, hang out with ex-cons and keep creditors at bay.

If Rockford wasn’t spending his time trying to keep his friend Angel out of jail, he would take the occasional odd-ball case. Which of the below episodes was not part of season one?

 

(a) Rockford travels to Newark, NJ for work and runs afoul of the mob, the FBI and hotel room service.

(b) Rockford is hired to find a missing thoroughbred that won the seventh at Santa Anita and kept running.

(c) A mystery woman hires Rockford to find her in an elaborate game of hide and go seek.

 

As the Rockford Files was winding down so was another police show, Hawaii Five-O. The executives at CBS had built a large infrastructure for the weekly series and they didn’t want it to go dormant. So why not take James Rockford and make him younger and taller? I’m sure someone got the idea watching Tom Selleck guest star as Lance White, the positively perfect detective to the rundown James Rockford. To see the two together was to see the past and the future.

 

rockford-lance-e1547144040238.jpg

Rockford vs White

 

Whereas Jim Rockford was a perpetual bachelor, Thomas Magnum was an unrepentant frat boy. Just look at his lifestyle and see how easily it could have translated into a dorm room:

 

  • He wore Hawaiian shirts and shorts
  • He lived in a small guesthouse with a mini-fridge devoted solely to beer
  • He kept a rubber chicken on his couch

 

Even though he was a retired Navy Seal who fought in Vietnam, Magnum had no intention of growing up. Why would he? His Hawaiian paradise was his playground and his employer granted him full access to the 200 acre estate and all the toys in the stable.

When Magnum showed up to Robin’s Nest to work security for the estate, he was driving a 1966 Volkswagen convertible Beetle. It didn’t take him long to jettison the wheels for the boss’ red Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole.

 

Magnum PI

Magnum PI: Don’t park so close!

 

No more Ford sedans and broken-down Firebirds. This was the 80’s and it was time to have fun. Magnum was in his 30’s and still spry enough to get into fistfights, drive fast and save the occasional female tourist. He was a rhesus monkey looking for a good time. He would even kick off the show by driving the Ferrari along the Hawaiian coastline, as if we were watching a commercial, which we were. At this point the TV detective had crossed a new threshold. Now the toys were just as important as the story. The car was as iconic to the show as Tom Selleck’s mustache. But what was a show to do when it was built around a set of boardroom ideas:

 

  • Make Jim Rockford younger and taller
  • Get a real sports car
  • Have the guy’s name be a gun
  • Have the guy shoot the gun
  • Throw in a rubber chicken
  • Mustache is mandatory

 

It helped that Magnum had a couple of friends on the island, two ex-military comrades by the name of Rick and TC. Rick ran a bar/restaurant, which Magnum frequented to run-up a tab. TC was a helicopter pilot and tour guide that Magnum visited when he needed to get to another island. Then there was the caretaker of estate, Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, also ex-military, but on the British side. His purpose was to play Felix to Magnum’s Oscar in their version of The Odd Couple.

I never fully understood why Magnum was hired for security. Besides Higgins nobody else lived at the estate. The reclusive owner, Robin Masters, never made an appearance. Plus Higgins had two Doberman Pinchers by the name of Zeus and Apollo who were better trained than Magnum when it came to securing a perimeter. Magnum really didn’t have much to do. Maybe that’s why he took the occasional case. Which of the below episodes did not appear in the first season of Magnum PI?

 

(a) Five school girls visiting from Vermont ask Magnum to find their missing teacher. But first can he help with their term papers?

(b) In order to find a missing surfer, Magnum enters a local competition and nearly drowns, calling into question whether he really was a Navy Seal.

(c) Magnum is hired to guard a dog of a wealthy socialite. Can he really teach an old dog a new trick involving a rubber chicken?

 

Magnum was having so much fun avoiding actual work the execs at NBC took notice of favorable ratings and disregard for any plot. Did the story no longer matter? With this belief, NBC execs wanted to create a new show where MTV met cops. Film director Michael Mann heeded their call with Miami Vice.

Here was a show where stories and characters no longer mattered. It was the particulars that were important: the setting, the clothes, the cars, the boats and the music. Michael Mann took the traditional cop show and turned it into high school. Why high school? Who else had the time to drive around all night listening to music except for bored teenagers and undercover vice detectives?

You would think Mann’s focus on the particulars would have been a negative but it was the 80’s and Miami only had one crime – international drug smuggling. The normal plot lines did not apply. The story was the backdrop and the background was the attraction. Sonny Crocket (played by Don Johnson) and Rico Tubbs (played by Philip Michael Thomas) were the leads but they might as well have been mannequins. A typical show even had them changing costumes multiple times. Crocket always wore a signature Armani sports coat with pastel-colored T-shirts. As a nod to Rockford he lived on a sailboat. As a nod to Magnum he had a pet crocodile named Elvis that also worked to secure the perimeter. And Like Magnum he drove a Ferrari, but not fire engine red. No, Michael Mann banned the color from the set. Any colors that clashed with the blue waters of the Atlantic and the Art Deco pastels of Miami Beach were cropped from his lens. Crockett’s Testarossa had to be white, much like the fleet cars of Homicide but with more horsepower. After all, hermano, this is Miami not Baltimore.

 

Miami Vice

Miami Vice: waiting to punch in for work

 

Then there was the music. Mann had a hip musical composer in Jan Hammer, but he also wanted to play Top 40 songs throughout the show like a DJ at an after party. The NBC execs wanted MTV and Mann gave it to them, literally. He even had musicians as guest stars: Phil Collins, Willie Nelson and Miles Davis. The Eagles Glen Frey not only stared as a twitchy drug dealer, he also composed “Smuggler’s Blues” for the episode. Sonny even married guest star English singer Sheena Easton, which didn’t last long when she found out he was living on a boat with a pet crocodile.

There wasn’t much to the show other than the hit songs, the changing clothes, the driving around and the final shoot out with drug dealers, but what more did you really need? Based on this belief, which of the below episodes did not appear in the first two seasons?

 

(a) Sonny and Rico spend the whole night driving around in Sonny’s Ferrari trying to find an open White Castle.

(b) Sonny and Rico go undercover to expose a vigilante cop who is killing drug dealers and forgetting to fill out the paperwork.

(c) Sonny and Rico head to the Everglades to bird watch and also find a principal witness in a major drug trial who decided to flee.

 

As Michael Mann proved mannequins could play the lead roles in a television series the execs at NBC took it even further and asked, “Does the leading man even matter?

If Miami Vice was high school, then Knight Rider was the final de-evolution of the television crime drama. Don’t believe me? There was an actual belief among television executives that a talking car could carry a show. Cut out the middle man. He just got old. KITT could live forever.

In all honesty KITT was a pretty cool car. It could go 300 mph. It was fully armed and fully armored. It could see through walls. It could eavesdrop on conversations. It was artificially intelligent and had access to any database. As a nod to Rockford it was a Firebird, but this was no entry model. The actor William Daniels who provided the voice for KITT even sounded a little like the stuffy Higgins. So who was Magnum? It was the even taller and younger David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, an ex LA Police Detective who was shot in the face and left for dead in a drug bust gone bad.

 

Knight Rider

Knight Rider: Michael found a parking spot

 

Apparently, Wilton Knight, an eccentric billionaire saw fit to save Michael’s life by giving him a new face, a new identity and a new profession as a field agent for FLAG. But who cares about any of that when you have a talking car with a functioning flame thrower. KITT was the star and Michael was the sidekick. Their relationship was that of a concerned parent and a rambunctious teenager.

 

[WRITER EMBELLISHMENT]

MICHAEL: I’m heading into the bar to question our suspect.

KITT: Just don’t drink any beer. You don’t want your allergies to kick in.

MICHAEL: Quit nagging me.

KITT: I’m not nagging you. Do you want me to have to shoot you with an EpiPen again?

MICHAEL: [MUMBLES] No.

KITT: White wine is fine but only in moderation. Also stay away from the redhead at the bar.

MICHAEL: [PERKS UP] Red?

KITT: The data shows a sorted past.

MICHAEL: No promises.

 

Michael was fine as the sidekick but I think KITT would have been better served if it had teamed up with another vigilante by the name of Robert McCall. McCall may have been at another network (CBS) and had his own show (The Equalizer), but I think he may have been more aligned to KITT’S sensibilities. After all, he was half English and much older than the rambunctious Michael. As a retired CIA spy, he had no need for cash. He lived in a posh NYC condo and drove a Jaguar. He still was in charge of his faculties and had a desire to help the less fortunate, but there was one problem: where do you find parking in Manhattan?

 

The Equalizer

The Equalizer: McCall looking for a parking spot

 

McCall should have sold the Jag and went on the road with KITT. He could have still done the vigilante part, but he could have also visited historical landmarks and tourist destinations. After all, that’s what senior citizens do if they are not getting ready for bed after dinner.

 

[WRITER EMBELLISHMENT]

MCCALL: I believe we should stop at his roadside diner so I can order a spot of tea.

KITT: You think it wise?

MCCALL: How so?

KITT: Pardon for asking, but would a man of your taste find Lipton acceptable?

MCCALL: Quite right. That’s the rub of the road.

KITT: May I suggest an afternoon cappuccino? I just had an espresso machine installed.

MCCALL: Splendid. Reminds me of my days stationed in Vicenza.

KITT: Do go on…

 

Soon the 80’s gave way to more serious fare like NYPD Blue, Law and Order and Homicide. But as these 90’s detective shows began to take themselves too seriously another detective appeared on the horizon of a new millennium to point the genre in a completely different direction.

Executive producer, David Hoberman, wanted to create a character that combined the bumbling Inspector Clouseau with an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The creator, Andy Breckman, liked the OCD part but thought Sherlock Holmes would be a better fit.

Thus, Monk was created. At 5’10’’ Adrian Monk wasn’t tall enough to be a leading man. At age 50 he was too old to be shooting a gun, punching out bad guys and speeding through the streets of San Francisco. It didn’t help that this former homicide detective had a nervous breakdown when his wife, Trudy, was murdered by a car bomb.

Tony Shalhoub won three Emmy’s playing this iconic character for he somehow found humor in his character’s maddening condition that manifested into 312 phobias. Here are the more unusual ones:

 

  • Harmonicas
  • Clouds
  • Chalk
  • Ladybugs
  • Rodeos

 

Monk became unmoored with the slightest disorder. So, he kept his apartment immaculate. The colors on the walls were neutral. Everything about his surroundings was controlled. He vacuumed his curtains. He cleaned so much, Lysol became a sponsor. He even cleaned his money.

 

MONK: Hand-wash, no bleach. Tumble dry, medium heat. Cool Iron.

 

Like Magnum, Monk had an apt name. The color of his sports coats even matched the robes worn by Capuchin Monks. No hood, yet no tie. No, trying to set the knot just right would drive him and the viewing audience perfectly insane.

Even though paralyzed by his OCD, it was this part of his character that made Monk brilliant as a detective. His ability to see the smallest detail like a blinding comet is what separated him from the other detectives. But first he needed to get back on the force.

Help arrived in the form of a nurse assistant by the name of Sharona Flemming, a no-nonsense gal from New Jersey, who knew when to coddle and when to kick her patient in his well-ironed pants. She also had to drive for that was another one of Monk’s phobias.

To get back on the force Monk starts to consult with his former co-workers, Captain Leland Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Randy Disher.

 

Monk

Monk: Adrian would really like to go back home

 

This is what made the show so much fun to watch: Monk trying to solve a case while confronting his long list of phobias. When he arrived at a crime scene, Monk never seemed fully engaged with the actual homicide. He seemed more interested in straightening a crooked picture frame in the hall. Forget the bloody knife in the kitchen. Who is going to wash all the dishes in the sink? The dead body in the living room is not the issue. It’s the burnt-out bulb in the lamp.

The solving of the crime was always secondary to Monk. Stottlemeyer, Disher and Sharona were there as an ad hoc support group to guide Monk back to normalcy. In return Monk helped get the guy by explaining how the murder happened.

Each episode was an opportunity for Monk to confront his OCD and laundry list of phobias. He made progress but it was always incremental. But isn’t that life for most of us: bravely confronting the odds in hopes of a small win, which takes us back across the pond to a seaside resort town on the southwestern coast of the British Isles.

Creator, Chris Chibnall, wanted to create a series in the vein of Twin Peaks. But instead of Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic sheeting at the top of a waterfall, we have Danny Latimer, a young boy placed on a public beach under the towering exposed cliffs of the Jurassic Coast.

The fictional town is also the name of the series – Broadchurch. It’s a small town where everybody knows everybody else. Still, there are secrets. But the townsfolk are not as eerie as the crew on Twin Peaks. After all, this is England. Try to be sensible.

The detective on the small police force is Detective Sergeant, Ellie Miller, played by the incomparable, Olivia Coleman. What makes her different than most TV detectives? Well, how about everything:

 

  • At 5’7” she isn’t even close to being tall. (All the previously mentioned detectives except for the mannequins and Monk were well over six feet.)
  • She doesn’t fit the role of the leading man. (Being a woman doesn’t help.)
  • She doesn’t carry a gun. (Not in England.)
  • She isn’t a loner. (She is married with stay-at-home dad and two boys.)
  • She doesn’t drive a sports car. (She drives a VW Passat with a baby seat in the back.)
  • She’s never been suspended or incarcerated. (Luther and Rockford take note.)
  • She doesn’t live in a mobile home or sail boat. (She lives in a two story house.)
  • She not brilliant. (She works in a small resort town not in London for MI5.)
  • She doesn’t wear sunglasses, a trench coat or fedora. (Her signature look is a Safety Orange rain jacket which is quite practical living on the English coast.)

 

Miller doesn’t fit any of the molds of TV detective, but that doesn’t mean the mold can’t change. After all, why not a working mum? Why can’t she work her way up from traffic cop to Detective Sergeant? And why not be in line for a promotion to Detective Inspector except for one problem. The position is filled by someone outside the force.

At 6’1” Alec Hardy (played by David Tennent) better fits the television mold of a police detective. It’s not only his height. He is divorced and barely on speaking terms with his teenage daughter. He also moves to Broadchurch to accept the new position for his last position involved him botching a murder investigation. He is a man in need of a fresh start. Unfortunately, he is still haunted by the past and it perpetually erupts even as he tries to put it behind him.

 

Broadchurch

Broadchurch: Miller and Hardy on break

 

Where Miller can been seen as a playful otter, Hardy is most definitely an ill-tempered sea hawk. He is wounded and not afraid to lash out with biting sarcasm. He doesn’t take long to alienate the entire department, which is a problem for he has a medical condition where he passes out at inopportune moments. So, Miller gets the opportunity to drive around her new boss.

Miller and Hardy are a mismatched pair. And even though she lost her promotion to this tempest in a teapot, Miller makes overtures to welcome her new boss. She tries simple chit chat which Hardy immediately shuts down as a distraction. She brings him dinner one night when he is working late. Hardy rejects the kind offer by showing no favor for the selection.

 

MILLER: You don’t eat fish and chips? What kind of Scot are you?

 

Things get so contentious Miller ends up with two options: She can strangle her new boss or…

 

MILLER: You’re invited to dinner.

HARDY: What?

MILLER: Pick a night.

HARDY: In your house, why?

MILLER: Do you know many people here?

HARDY: No.

MILLER: Are you living off hotel food?

HARDY: It’s not a good idea.

MILLER: Please don’t be an arsehole about it. I really don’t want to do it either, but it’s what people do.

HARDY: Is it?

MILLER: Yes! They have bosses around. We don’t have to talk about work.

HARDY: What do we talk about?

MILLER: I don’t know. Just say yes.

HARDY: [Mutters] Yeah.

MILLER: Thank you. Bloody Hell!

HARDY: [Awkwardly walks away]

MILLER: Knob.

 

Hardy accepts and they have dinner but all is not resolved over a bottle of white wine. Nonetheless, something happens. Miller starts to wear down the rougher edges of her boss. And as Miller helps point Hardy in a more agreeable direction, I was struck by something. Miller is not self-absorbed. She isn’t obsessed. She doesn’t brood in soulful moments. She doesn’t lumber off to a pier to mope or head to the nearest pub to get blottoed. Why not? Well, she cannot afford the luxury of self-pity found in so many other TV detectives. She is the breadwinner, a working mother. She shows up every day and you see the wear, but you also see her rally.

Watching Miller dealing with all the knobs and tools in her life, I was struck how long it took me to come across a television detective like her. I wondered if I would have been better served if DS Ellie Miller came to the aid of Barnaby Jones instead of Jedediah Romano? After all, JR could have avoided the weekly concussions while studying for law school and Ellie and Barnaby could have gone out for smoothies after solving yet another case. Also, as a young television viewer, I could have seen how a working mother gets things done. Already, I saw it in my grandma. It would have been nice to see it on TV.

 

ANSWERS

(c) Barnaby investigates a scam involving counterfeit medication after his blood pressure skyrockets. Someone’s going to pay for his emergency room visit.

(b) Rockford is hired to find a missing thoroughbred that won the seventh at Santa Anita and kept running.

(b) In order to find a missing surfer, Magnum enters a local competition and nearly drowns, calling into question whether he really was a Navy Seal.

(a) Sonny and Rico spend the whole night driving around in Sonny’s Ferrari trying to find an open White Castle.

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