Sunday, September 28, 2014

Magic Crime Fighter

Not really magic, but...  have you noticed how many crime TV shows have as their central character a mysterious, super rich male who has some sort of organization to fight "bad guys" (as defined by that character) outside of the usual societal channels?  The central figure seems to be either an ex-spy/government agent or a somewhat rehabilitated criminal.  If they're an ex-spy type, they've usually  rejected the government agency/methods as corrupt or ineffective.

I was looking for something to watch on Nflix the other day, and saw James Spader's newish TV show in the choices list.  I never got quite into Boston Legal, but I liked it when I saw it, and Spader's good, so I thought I'd watch the new show.  It's really violent, disturbingly violent.  Spader is good in it, but holy cow, did I mention violent?

It got me thinking about the magical, not really magical, male crime fighter figure.

Robert Wagner in It Takes a Thief, way back in the 60's.  He wasn't super rich, but he had a secret government group behind him, and knew pretty much everything there was to know.

Charlie's Angels, the mysterious Charlie was less of an active presence, but still sort of fits the mold.

Macgiver, super smart, and again working for a secret government agency.

The Equalizer, with Edward Woodward as a retired super spy type fighting crime with a pal.

There's another show on now, or recently, where a guy has basically hacked the world and sends out his streetwise pal to fight crime that he sees on the hacked world thing, and directs through his hacked world thing.  (Okay, so I watched a little bit of this once, but obviously it didn't much catch my attention.)

The A Team is a sort of comic version, and Mission Impossible was a more government organized, but not quite legit version.  Both of these had a leader, but were more group shows rather than centered on the leader.

I'm sure there are others.

I'm guessing these shows are popular because they meet some sort of fantasy, that there really is someone powerful, somewhat fatherly (or literally fatherly), who's going to protect regular folks from super bad people who are dangerously powerful, willing to kill in massive and super violent ways (or willing to kill subtly, and therefore all the more dangerous).  The fantasy seems to answer a perception that the regular social systems are totally inadequate to take on these super dangerous baddies and that we're better off not knowing, not proceeding in ways that respect rights, and so forth, because these baddies are just so bad.

I really wish I could find a good comedy on Nflix, or they'd get the rights to shows such as Northern Exposure, which would be fun to see again, since I enjoyed it during the first run.


  1. Really good point. It's like the division between the Authoritarian Worldview (we need someone in charge -- a Big Daddy to keep us safe) and the Community worldview (Northern Exposure's We all work together to make the world work).

    I too enjoy Community worldview stories more. I think they're more realistic as well. I think this is probably why I dislike Superhero stories / movies so much. Well -- dislike. I find them boring, because unrealistic.

  2. One of the things that's been interesting about the Marvel movies is how they've been playing with exactly this issue: most of the round 1 movies were working on this premise, especially the Iron Man films. However, with the Avengers and the latest Captain America film, they've started pushing back at it a bit -- Avengers had the secret government people threatening to nuke NYC, and Captain America 2 was Steve Rogers figuring out the primary secret agency was absolutely corrupt and therefore all the secrets needed to be revealed. Avengers 2 looks like it's going to be about Tony Stark having his own attempts at "privatizing world peace" blow up in his face. I doubt they'll be retreating from the idea entirely, but it's still interesting.

  3. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it more, a lot of the more recent versions of this fantasy are very anti-government/the government is corrupt--especially the superhero versions. Arrow and Batman both have TV shows at the moment and are about rich men becoming vigilantes because the cities they live in are so corrupt that even they (these most privileged of people) cannot work within the system to get justice for themselves or for others. Person of Interest (the show I think you meant when you didn't know the name) is very similar--a lot of the plot in past seasons has centered around how the main characters are trying to keep the computer out of government control because they know the government will abuse its power.

  4. MacGyver. My 12-year-old self needs to correct that.

    Comedies: Have you watched Better Off Ted? And some of the Korean Dramas are funny. I mean, they're Korean Dramas, so there will be at least one 4-episode arc where you cry, but also funny. I am a big fan of Secret Garden. And The Guild is good if you're interested in gamer culture.

  5. Anonymous5:18 PM

    We're up to Season 6 on Psych now... if you didn't catch that the first time around, it is streaming on Netflix.