The Wonky World of TV Scripts

There’s nothing on TV that drives me away from a series faster than impossibilities written into a script. You don’t have to go far to find any number of popular shows whose writers are addicted to stupid plots or creating villains who could only accomplish their nastiness if they were possessed of super powers.

I was recently watching a season finisher for an earlier ‘Bones’. If you follow this series, you may remember this season, which finishes as a cliff-hanger, with Bones fleeing from the law in the face of a murder charge. The evidence appears overwhelming, but everyone at the Jeffersonian knows it was all concocted by a psychopathic genius computer wizard. Apparently genius computer wizards can do anything with any piece of electronics. Outwit a leg monitor? No problem, our villain can slip out, butcher people in the Lincoln Memorial or hang a mangled corpse from a flag pole near a busy street and never be seen, all while his ankle monitor continues to show him peacefully resting at home. It never occurs to the intrepid Agent Booth to put the goof’s house under surveillance. No, it’s far better to assume that the monitor is still useful so the villain can happily skip out and plant more incriminating evidence and kill a few more hapless victims.

Apparently our villain can etch computer code into a bone in a way that, when photographed and uploaded into a computer, can wipe out the entire system at the Jeffersonian. Sure. I could hardly wait for the part where he uses bits from old phones and radios and turns them into a supercomputer capable of hacking into… well, anything. I wasn’t sure if that was funnier than when he co-opted a bunch of library books and used the bar codes for nefarious purposes. Really.

I’m still trying to decide if this set of episodes is sillier than the ones about the ‘Grave-digger’. You must remember them. A small evil woman buries her victims and ransom must be paid before the air runs out in the capsules she has designed. Apparently nobody thought to look into their manufacture. She also slips behind one of our heroes in a parkade, paralyzes him with tazer, the likes of which don’t existence, pops him into a vehicle like he’s a bag of popcorn, drives hundreds of miles to a deserted sand pit and buries him, and the entire car, in less time than it takes her to bat her evil eye lash. All accomplished alone, without being seen, and with no visible sign that she had access to anything but a shovel at the sand pit. O.K. Apparently she can use her tazer against the intrepid agent Booth, twirl him around like a baton and transport him to a navy target ship. Excellent muscle tone!

To be fair, one can’t just single out Bones as cornering the silliness market. The Canadian made Murdoch Mysterious, set in the decades between 1890 and 1910, has quite a few amusements as well. There were episodes when the hero flew an air vehicle only seven years before the Wright Brothers, another when a villain produced a talking picture only 20 some years ahead of the ‘Jazz Singer’ and one where the miscreant managed to take a clear picture of the detective embracing his lady love outside a theatre in the street; at night and from a distant hotel window. I thought maybe he’d used a barrel of flash powder (think cameras circa 1900), but discarded this idea as the picture was taken without the flash being noticed and there wasn’t a hole left in the roof of the hotel room from the explosion.

However, as rib splitting as those were, they didn’t hold a candle to the one where the maniacal killer framed the good detective’s fair lady for the murder of her husband. Apparently he was able to slip into her place of work, put her to sleep so he could make an impression of her face, manufacture a latex mask (you heard right) of the lady, make a recording mix of her voice on a wax cylinder by patching pieces from telephone conversations he had hacked into and recorded on yet more wax cylinders, rush back to her house and, in a couple of hours, built a trap door into the floor of her parlor and then install a mechanical device that automatically discharged a pistol with deadly effect. I looked in vain for any signs of the team of carpenters that must have helped him with this little mega project. And let’s not forget this episode is set in 1901. Marvels of the age!

Perhaps you remember the episode on the UK series ‘Sherlock’ when Holmes accused a billionaire philanthropist of being a serial killer. This particular homicidal maniac built a hospital, complete with secret passages, just so he could have the thrill of pulling the plug on hapless patients. Holmes figured it out and accused him of being a ‘serial killer’. The villain responded by making a TV commercial for one of his companies that made breakfast eats, confessing that he was indeed a ‘cereal killer’. Way to go, villain!

What is this fascination with serial killers? It seems that a script writer has but to create one of these mass murders, mix in super silliness and they’ve got an instant hit, making money for endless episodes.

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