When Ken Levine is Right, He’s Right

…And we think this is another one of those times:

            

What the fuck is happening here? – by Ken Levine

Been spending the week catching up on shows I had DVR’ed while on the road. Mostly cable hour dramas. (What else is on in the summer?) I’m starting to notice an annoying trend that is beginning to concern me – shows are trying to be way too clever for their own good.

Case in point: caught an episode of WHITE COLLAR. The plot involved a spy ring from the Revolutionary War that has reformed. Along the way, people were calling each other by numbers based on which Revolutionary War hero they were a descendent of. There was a McGuffin (an original American flag), twists, turns, and red herrings. And to make matters worse, somehow the existence of this spy ring tied into a main character trying to reconcile his relationship with his absentee parents. It was part DA VINCI CODE part MALTESE FALCON part ANNIE. All in forty-something minutes because the hour was loaded with commercials and desperate pleas to visit their website.

What it really was was a complete utter mess. The story was impossible to follow. Pages and pages were devoted to exposition trying to get the audience on board but the explanations were even more arcane than the action. There were coordinates, codes to be broken, treasure maps, clues, and the whole while I just kept saying, WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING HERE?

Then there was an episode of PERCEPTION with Eric McCormick. In this plot a man’s wife disappears. At first it’s thought the Russian mob was behind it. Then we learn the husband had an affair. Then we learn that the husband was having the affair with his wife but didn’t know it. Then we find out the wife wasn’t the person murdered. Then we find out that the wife became the housekeeper and someone else posed as the wife. It was this friend, who was in cahoots with either the real wife or the real housekeeper who died. Tossed in for fun was a scene where someone from the Russian mob threatens McCormick to get off the case or else, and we learn he sometimes has hallucinations. So that scene was just in his head. Again, I’m crying out WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING HERE?

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EDITED BY LB TO ADD: While I love our TVWriter™ staff writers and am a huge admirer of Ken Levine’s work and blog, I must respectfully disagree with the above. Complexity is what viewers seem to want in their cop-type shows these days and what network execs definitely DO want. And, frankly, I find myself intrigued by it because at least the twists and turns make contemporary procedurals different from those done in the past. Sure wish they were done better, though. (But then I’ve always wished that, even about my own work.)