Wednesday, November 27, 2013

They're Brilliant, but They Can Drive You Up the Wall

Before it became an object of social opprobrium to display one's intelligence, the smartest person in the room usually enjoyed some degree of respect.

Nowadays, according to screenwriters, if you're the smartest DETECTIVE in the room more than up to the task of solving what seem to be impossible crimes, you must be as obnoxious as you can get away with if you want to make yourself more "accessible" to an audience:
Oh-so-smug THOMAS BANACEK is a Boston-based Polish/American freelance insurance investigator whom insurance companies turn to when their own investigations have failed. This doesn't exactly endear him to big shot insurance executive types, since calling in Banacek meant they hadn't done their jobs. And the more tight-assed and pompous the executives are, the more Banacek delights in rubbing their faces in it. (Let's just say he's not known for his humility.) But his track record's so good they have to put up with him. Banacek specializes in solving "impossible crimes", recovering such missing loot as an armored car or a professional football player who disappeared during a game. — Anthony Wilson, THE THRILLING DETECTIVE WEBSITE
Then there's D.I. Poole (Ben Miller) on the otherwise very good (for its complex mysteries) DEATH IN PARADISE series. This reviewer nails it:
Most puzzling is why you would hire an excellent comic actor such as Ben Miller and make him the straight man–a very straight man, in fact, since his principal trait is walking stiffly in a dark suit. He conveys charisma by speaking mildly sarcastically. — Sameer Rahim, THE TELEGRAPH, 8 January 2013
Sherlock Holmes, it seems, didn't have nearly enough flaws for the producers of ELEMENTARY, who have gone out of their way to burden Holmes with full-blown addictions and repulsive personality disorders, so much so that the show has become more about the DETECTIVE than about the MYSTERIES.
And, of course, let's not overlook that basket case Mr. Monk, whose defects were often unconvincingly overplayed, straining after but usually failing to achieve either humor or audience sympathy. The only episode of MONK that came closest to a perfect balancing of the show's three primary elements—an impossible crime, Monk's emotional disorder, and humor—is "Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect" (2003). Even one of the scenes played for laughs actually becomes an important factor in unraveling the mystery. Too bad the majority of this show's episodes don't do that.
DEATH IN PARADISE: Season 1 - Season 2
ELEMENTARY: Season 1 - Season 2

Category: Detective fiction

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