‘Criminal Minds’ Keeps Growing


This column has been running for so long that it now allows me to circle back to topics I’ve written about in the past. Which brings me around to some thoughts I had while watching the final episodes of the 11th season of the CBS TV series “Criminal Minds.”

It can be rather uneasy viewing for anyone who may be a bit queasy, given the brutal crimes committed by the serial killers that the show’s FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) swoop in across the nation to solve. Actor Mandy Patinkin, who played a profiler on the team, left the show after three seasons due to the brutality of its subject matter.

Much as its focus on criminal psychopathology can give me pause, the show has aspects that compel me to keep watching, that being one of them. And we do live in an age where psychopathic figures and behavior are a major part of the public parade, a fact underscored by the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, who in my view fits the profile – an amoral, pathologically dishonest con man seemingly devoid of empathy (to cite only a few character traits – or maybe better said his lack of character – that I would think should be as obvious to almost all of the general public as it is to me.

Like almost every successful TV series, a form of family is at its core. In this case the families created in a workplace, which the BAU became very early on in the show. It’s a surprisingly resilient unit given the frequent cast changes. And it will be interesting to see how the show fares in its 12th season without the team’s leader, Aaron Hotchner, played by Thomas Gibson, who was fired early on in the season’s filming for on-set misbehavior.

Over time the show’s sense of family has come to include the family lives of the team’s members. And it spotlights the tensions between family responsibilities and a demanding job.

One of the good qualities of the show is that it features women in positions of prominence, including a female FBI director. And the team is multiethnic, with its first Hispanic member in the 12th season. (Computer wiz Penelope Garcia gained her surname by adoption.)

The division of labor across those lines is made evident in a scene that is included, as best I can recall, in every episode. As local police departments are given the profile of the target “unsub” – unknown subject – each member describes an aspect of the team’s analysis.

I also enjoy how the team travels across the nation as it helps solve serial murders. Another nice touch is how every episode features a quote by a noted thinker, author, philosopher or other public figure. To have such nuggets of wisdom as part of a network TV series helps, I think, keep popular culture somewhat enriched.

I’ve realized that another aspect that reflects the show’s ongoing appeal, at least for me, is how when I first started watching, I found two of the BAU team members a bit irksome. Both of them being what could be called geeks: genius Spencer Reid, and computer hacker turned white hat data hunter Garcia. Over time, my feelings about both characters have been transformed into fondness. That says something significant about how “Criminal Minds” handles long-term character development over time.

Like the best crime series – the various “Law & Order” shows come to mind – “Criminal Minds” is about far more than the offense and the effort to apprehend offenders. Which explains why as it enters its 12th season this fall the show continues to thrive.

Populist Picks

Website: MusicAficionado.com – Disclosure: I’ve started writing for this online music publication. If you’re an avid music fan looking for entertaining and informative coverage of popular music that maximizes the power of the internet, this is the best destination on the Internet.

CD: Young in All the Wrong Ways by Sara Watkins – The former fiddle prodigy and singer with the brilliantly progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek delivers a third solo album that largely brings a hard edge to modern roots music – alongside subtle and traditional moments – marked by masterful songwriting and lovely, emotive singing.

Documentary Film: Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon – There’s one gaping hole in modern American entertainment: the lack of a great and smart humor publication. This look at the story of what was at its peak in the 1970s probably the greatest ever magazine (with other ventures) of its kind tells a complex and richly detailed story about the Lampoon’s rise and fall and how it and the many talents that came out of its milieu influenced culture and entertainment for decades to follow.

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

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2016


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