Never mind crime, give us the M.E.!

Skulls on a Beach: "Currents carry many d...I don’t want to say my wife and I watch too much television  because really, we don’t. But one thing the advent of the TV on demand era has given us is the option to watch the shows we want to see, when want to see them, with minimal commercials. Even when it comes to services like Hulu, we cheat a bit – we’ll wait a whole season just so we can do a marathon weekend rather than go week to week. Some couples might go to the movies or go dancing (and if you are one of these couples, please, how do you find babysitters, and what are the rates?), but my wife and I, we watch crime procedurals. Its this love affair with crime shows that made us realize that when you set the bizarre, gruesome (and in the case of the English crime dramas, often devient) crimes aside, when you look past the charismatic or aberrant mind solving the crimes, there is always one quirk you can count on: the role of the medical examiner.

This is what I realized this while watching Midsomer Murders with my wife last night, and together we were able to come up with a quick list of examples. In fact, following Quincy, these are the ones we could think of in just a few minutes:

  • John Ballard – Midsomer Murder’s own forensic pathologist, always a source of witticisms and interesting insights while pouring over a dead body, he was actually what started us on the path of making this list.
  • Woody the Coroner on Psych. Awesome crazy. Sure, the show is a comic drama anyway, but Woody is just one step past out there.
  • Lanie Parish – On Castle, she is the non Beckett/Castle source of entertainment in the autoposy room
  • CSI – the obvious answer, this show began with our love affair with the forensic investigation, and then gives us someone like Dr. Al Robbins to be our M.E.. Of course, the practice in the Miami spin off to deliver a “witty” (your wits may vary) one liner over each dead body was a deal breaker for me, but tastes obviously vary.
  • Bones – Lest we forget, Temperence Brennan certainly qualifies.
  • Not to be left out, NCIS has Ducky, with his affectations and personality.
  • Walter Bishop – ok, so the show isn’t a crime procedural…or is it? We have (had, sorry, spoiler) an FBI agent and an eccentric doctor figuring things out. (I threw this one in there all on my own). And there’s nothing like a good Walter bit, especially if red vines are involved.

Look over that list and tell me – no matter how straight laced, stoic the show, isn’t it the medical examiner that gives us that counter balance of entertainment? And the truly sad thing is that I realize this is just skimming the surface of what should be listed.


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Do not adjust your sets

English: TV receiverIts almost comical, I think.

Looking back through the blog, it was at the end of May 2010 that our last last TV died and we decided to take a break from cable. Streaming media was still young back then, as were the ways you could catch it. I think Hulu might have been around, but buying a season of something on amazon was a hassle, and netflix wasn’t streaming like they are these days, and they certainly weren’t keeping up with current shows. Amazon Instant? Still in the far distance. This was, as they say, the dark age of streaming media options.

When I refer to “cable,” I am not referring to the ten thousand channel bazaar most people mean these days. For us, cable has and still is defined as basic-expanded cable, that subset of 60-80 channels (when I was a lad, we had 3, and we liked it!) that count as local channels plus the basics. Digital cable is something we experimented with once, didn’t really see the appeal of in comparison to the cost, and never went back.

We ended up replacing that TV eventually, but we also dropped cable for a while (about 8 or 9 months). It was actually a really liberating, freeing time in our lives. Sure, we had some setbacks, the kids especially – its easy to say you don’t watch much TV, until you realize that unconsciously you’ve been using it as white noise while you work in the evenings.

Time moved on.

We bought a new TV, mostly for gaming and video watching purposes. Eventually we added cable back into our diet (its complicated). Since then, though, streaming finally came of age. Today our family, on average, watches more via Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant than from actual “live” TV. We have been known to buy a season of a show off of Amazon so we can watch it on the roku when we choose, rather than trying to juggle our lives around a show we enjoy but that comes on at an awkward time. We are, in fact, so wedded to our streaming options that we have begun to reconsider dropping cable down to the basic channels again.

The comical part?

For completely unrelated reasons, we bought a new TV this weekend. Its a 32 inch diagonal LED flatscreen, which makes it about 12 diagonal inches larger than our last TV, which previously held the record as being our largest TV ever (the TV before that was another 2-4 inches smaller). If anything, besides the fact that my X-Box games and the kid’s Wii games look completely different when they are so huge and crystal clear, our conviction to do away with cable is growing. Why waste money on TV when we already get most of the shows, in better resolution and color depth, with existing options?

We are crazy, I know.

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So, Who Still Watches TV?

English: Animation of a T.V. set.

It could be the friends and acquaintances I keep. Like minds tend to attract like minds, and as such I guess its no surprise that not only do I not watch much TV these days, but neither do the people I spend my free time with. Sure, the kids have their TV shows – they’re kids. But most of my friends (and “peers”) don’t watch TV. At best, we all catch DVR/hulu/netflix/amazon prime streams of shows. Is it actually our fault there is nothing decent on any more? Is it because we don’t watch TV, so the producers had nothing to gauge good vs. bad with?

List of MacGyver episodes (season 1)

And before you think I’m crazy – name all of your favorite shows from the 80’s (assuming your in the right age bracket). Go on. Don’t forget your guilty pleasures, either – MacGuyver, Misfits of Science, Airhawk, A-Team, what else? Family Ties? I’m pretty sure we could go on for a long time doing this. I’m not saying these are quality shows – of my first three listed, only one of them was almost “decent.” But they entertained us in their day.

Now, same exercise – name your favorite TV shows of the 00’s. I’ll give you time to see if you can get anywhere near the list for the 80’s. And don’t give me that excuse, that you didn’t have a life in the 80’s, or responsibilities.

Of course, less memorable shows doesn’t mean that we are watching less, just that we aren’t being moved by it as much. But then I look around and I see folks using all manor of streaming – I’m a heavy hulu/netflix user myself – and very few people I know watch “in real time.” Our actual, physical TV is more a gateway for the x-box and roku than for receiving broadcast signals.

Which leaves me wondering – who’s still actually watching TV?

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