Thursday, June 01, 2006

Homicide Lives

I was a big fan of Homicide: Life on the Streets - the Barry Levinson produced Baltimore cop show starring a great ensemble cast portraying the hard workin' dectectives tasked with solving those metro-section murders that we'd rather not even hear about - domestic violence, drug killings, kooks, sadists, stupid people...

Homicide: LotS depicted the reality of homicide investigation. Most cases are broken with confessions, not evidence, not CSI lab forensics - but getting the bad guys to admit their crimes. And virtually any sort of emotional and intellectual manipulations were fair game to that end.

The centerpiece character of the show was The Box. The Box was an oppressive, grubby, tile-lined room with one of those gov't issue steel tables equipped with a beat-up ashtray and half a set of handcuffs welded to the edge. To quote squad boss Al Girodello, The Box was where the dectectives would "match wits with Baltimore's criminal masterminds."

The two masters in The Box were Frank Pembleton and Tim Bayliss. One episode featured a spiteful Frank twisting a confession out of an innocent man - so powerful were his skills of manipulation.

Homicide is gone now. I've got most of them on DVD - two more seasons to go. I've never been a big Law and Order fan. But my dad mentioned that he and my moms liked Criminal Intent - the newest incarnation with Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe. So I started watching it in rerun on cable...

L&O:CI is terrific. Detectives Goren and Eames are my new FrankenTim. It continues the Homicide meme in that the show is all about weedling the confessions out of the killers. D'Onofrio's Goren is quirky, well-read, insightful - his supervisor calls him a "right-brain kind of guy." Eames is good humored and snarky, isn't put off by Goren's ideosyncracies and enjoys watching him drill into the psyches of the criminals.

Only two complaints - Erbe needs her character developed further - many episodes have little for her to do. This is pretty typical of Law and Order so I'm not holding my breath. The other complaint concerns the new tag-team format of the series. As this is NBC, naturally they're going to muck around with the show and do everything within their power to kill it. (See: Homicide: Life on the Streets...) As I've been watching cable reruns and the DVDs of season 1, I haven't gotten to any of the recent eps. But apparently, D'Onofrio and Erbe now share the show with Chris Noth and Annabella Sciorra - 11 episodes of each team.

What is refreshing about Goren is that he uses his head, his imagination to figure things out. Noth apparently plays his old L&O character - his style of dectective work is pretty much smacking folks around - as if there weren't any other cops on TV who work like that...


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