Law-And-Order Liberal

Can a progressive be into police dramas and procedurals? I am, especially in two lengthy serials.

TV/DVD: Law & Order (Season 20); Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (Seasons 10 & 11) — As I wrote here in the past, I’m a Law & Order leftist. The long-running original series (since 1990) that has spawned two other successful variants may be at its best today, or at least reinvigorated to top form over last season and its current one that began in late September. The dynamic between both the detective team played by Jeremy Sisto and Kevin Bernard this current season and last and that of the district attorney portrayed by (dedicated leftist) Sam Waterston and the executive assistant DA played by Linus Roache are a good part of its current strength, as well as continuing fine writing, contemporary relevance, and frequent moral and ethical dilemmas.

The show has a good shot with one more season to outpace Gunsmoke as the longest-running prime-time series in television history, but alas it is woefully unavailable on DVD (only seven seasons have been released), but frequently seen in reruns on TNT. I also noted here of SVU that in its ninth season from 2007 into 2008, the series seemed to have jumped the shark. It seems to have regained its footing with hard-hitting and relevant topics in its 10th season that aired from 2008 into this year (though its final show in which an annoying police technician turned out to be a mad criminal verged close to past failures). It was issued on DVD in September, which was when its 11th season began with promise that the show will continue to be well worth following. It all whets my appetite for what will come in March with the ninth season of the franchise’s Criminal Intent series — which has pushed the envelope of the Law & Order concept furthest — when quirky detective Robert Goren (played by Vincent D’Onofrio) leaves it in a two-part premiere.

Books: The 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain — For decades now I’ve turned to these procedurals set in the fictional city of Isola (read New York City) for lively leisure reading. McBain, a.k.a. Evan Hunter, first made his mark as a novelist with the classic Blackboard Jungle and from 1958 to his death in 2005 he wrote nearly 60 books about the detective squad of Isola’s 87th Precinct. I figure that I’ve read a good 20 or more of them, and recently dipped back into the ones I have on hand to indeed savor what McBain created. At its best — and some books were better than others, though most I’ve read stand up well — the series created a ongoing set of detective characters that one gained affection for in their humanity while also exploring the many dimensions of criminal behavior and tragedy with twists and turns that kept on coming. And over time, especially in the most recent published editions I’ve read, McBain kept creating deeper and better books (as opposed to too many detective and crime book series that seem to peter out and grow rote with age). I find it hard to accept that with McBain’s passing there will be no further 87th Precinct books when I feel the need for entertaining reading that still has some punch and real life resonance. But I’m somewhat consoled by my resolution to try to get and read all of them during the rest of my life.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email orca@io.com.

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2009


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