April 08, 2009

Crime TV, Is it Too Real?

A recent post about Law & Order, writers and reality at Poe's Deadly Daughters got me thinking about the continuing fascination with "reality TV."

I don't mean fun "reality" shows like "Dancing With the Stars." (Love it!) I mean shows like Law & Order," "NCIS" and other cop/crime shows where the realistic or "reality based" stories seem to be getting, well, too real.

I can't remember who it was, but I thought I'd heard that one star had quit Law & Order because the crimes were getting "too" real. I was a L&O fan, watching most of the spin-off's until the five-day-a-week shows got to be too much. And the one thing that I've noticed from not watching it regularly now is the increasing amount of gore.

The old TV news adage, "if it bleeds, it leads," seems to have become the byword for all the crime shows. L&O has its bloody closeups, or worse, it seems to have crossed into an almost perverse delight in re-enacting a crime. One show I watched had me thinking how attractive the killers could look to someone who was off-balanced or mentally unstable. Not a good thing. It creeped me out.

That show, of course, isn't the only one guilty of overdoing the blood. Other shows I liked like "Criminal Minds" or NCIS with its gruesome autopsies (and never mind CSI's scenes as well) have me cringing, looking away, closing my eyes, or sometimes just switching channels. Not what the stations wanted, is it? And I admit being a horror and Stephen King fan.

As I enjoy writing mysteries, I like crime shows. I like the twists and turns as the case is solved. But I guess I'd prefer a little more Agatha Christie instead of "Nightmare on Elm Street."

The other side effect, I fear, is that all that blood day and night, has desensitized a lot of people to the true horrors of crime, or made it seem "not real." (Like kids who think they can fly because they saw Superman or whoever do it?) Or is that the intention?

** Your Turn: Is TV becoming too gory? Is the constant stream of crime and murder on TV shows and the news desensitizing?


  1. I used to LOVe CSI, but it has gotten so gory in the past two years that I quit watching.

    Hubby, who's not squeamish (unless it's his OWN blood! LOL) doesn't like it either.


  2. Glad to know I am NOT alone. ha!

  3. I love NCIS but mostly for the characters, not the crimes. Never got hooked on CSI. I liked the original Law & Order best - again for the characters. Best sort of traditional who-dun-it? I'd vote for Medium.

    aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

  4. I also like NCIS and Criminal Minds for the characters and not the crimes. Maybe I'm desensitized myself - I hadn't noticed the rise in the gore factor. Once CSI premiered with the detailed autopsies and flashbacks, nothing much surprised me after that. But if this really has gone too far, I think it's just a matter of time before a "softer" show swings the pendulum back the other way. In the movies, "The Sixth Sense" heralded the turn from "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Friday the 13th," and "Halloween" (and their myriad sequels)back to the more traditional ghost story. Sooner or later someone will hit TV with another successful "Murder, She Wrote" sort of cozy and the shift will happen again. Just my thoughts.


  5. Unfortunately criminalslearn a lot about cleaning their crime scene through these shows.

  6. It is simply too disturbing to continue watching. I gave up all that stuff ages ago & stick to only old movies and the weather. Seriously. Or read a book. It's better for your mental health in these very unhealthy times. Great post, thanks for bringing it up. :)

  7. I'm an old TV practitioner. I've never been persuaded that television has as much influence as some people think it does. So, desensitize no. Is desensitizing happening? Yes, but it's a combination of factors which include television as a minor part. TV is a follower, not a leader in societal trends. As the reaction against the gore and explicitness grows--and it is--you'll begin to see a decline in the shows and in their explicitness. As an aside, it's always fascinated me that in the US we tolerate explicit violence and gore at a very high level and frequency, but nudity and sex are barely tolerated at all, something that is quite the reverse in other parts of the world. My personal preference would be for less violence and more love.

  8. I, too, wish the producers would concentrate on good stories without feeling the need to punctuate them with gratuitous blood and gore.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton


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