Last Week in TV Land

The Super Bowl on ABC wasn't a very good show because the game itself left one with a queasy feeling. The officials took the victory into their hands and handed it to the Steelers. They probably didn't do it for nefarious reasons, but they did it all the same. They took away two touchdowns from the Seahawks on bad penalty calls, calls so bad that even the commentators, who don't usually like to criticize officials, denounced them. One can say that it's just a football game and that there are always going to be mistakes by officials. And that's true. But when an athletic contest is pumped up to the level the Super Bowl is, the least we have the right to expect is fairness and competence from the officials. The Seahawks contributed to their own downfall by giving up three big plays that an effective defense should never have allowed. Still, they probably would have won had they not had to fend off the officials as well as the Steelers. This game will likely will go down in sports history not for the play but for the actions of the officials. And that's too bad for the Steelers as well as for the Seahawks.

24 ran seriously off the tracks this week. In order to push the plot along, the episode included two deaths that were so far from realism they were laughable. And being laughed at is not what the producers of the series need. The president's chief of staff, who had been shown to be in league with terrorists and had been taken into custody, somehow managed to hang himself from a light fixture in the presidential headquarters in California. And then, a captured major figure in the terrorist network, who knew how to arm the stolen nerve gas canisters and was about to reveal their location, was shot by an abused fifteen year old girl in a room full of counter-terrorist agents. She had concealed a gun in her dress. These incidents were so outlandish nothing else that happened could be given much attention. It's to be hoped the series can pick itself up from this atypical foul-up and return to the taut melodrama it has previously been. Slapstick comedy has no place in a show of this kind.

The medical drama House on Fox took up the issue of self-induced illness, which is probably a bigger problem than is generally publicized. In this case, a woman was taking both fertility medication and birth control pills, a dangerous combination which physicians generally don't think of as going together. She wanted her husband to believe she was trying to get pregnant and yet, she herself, wanted no more children. It put House's medical team through quite a few hassles to find out what was really wrong with her, and it wasn't until House asked the question, who is this woman really? that they began to get on the right track. It was a fairly lively episode and it raised a socially interesting issue. How much illness comes from foolish or secretive behavior? At the end, the team was wagering on whether the marriage had a chance to last. The woman still had not told her husband what happened and because of confidentiality requirements they couldn't tell him either. The consensus was that the relationship didn't have a bright future.

One of the mysteries in television is why episodes of series are given the titles  they are. It doubtless matters little because nobody pays much attention to them but, still, it is a curiosity. This week's number of Invasion, episode 14, was called "All God's Creatures."  It's hard to know if that's supposed to be a hint. In any case, we were impelled deeper into the mystery of the shining sea creatures who are able to regenerate drowned humans, but for what purpose we can't yet say. The strange thing is that all the main characters know that some of them are regular humans and others are the regenerated variety, which they generally speak of as being "hybrids." But they don't want that knowledge to spread among the general population because they are frightened. Yet, we aren't sure exactly what they are frightened of. Sheriff Tom Underlay, who clearly is a hybrid, and has been one for ten years, continues to tease us with his moral status. Is he good or bad? He's always doing suspicious things, but he may be driven by a virtue we don't yet understand. It's a somewhat silly show but nonetheless moderately watchable, with enough uncertainties to keep some of us tuned it.

CSI continues down the road of the bizarre and sensational. This week a young woman's body was found in the desert outside Las Vegas. As is so often the case on CSI plots, it had been mutilated. It was missing a hand and had been supplied with a male eye. What could this all mean? It got a little more mysterious when Lady Heather, Grissom's old friend showed up and took a strong interest in the case. As you sure would imagine, it involved a neo-Nazi twin brother who does somewhat weird experiments in a basement lab beneath the living room of his sibling, who, by the way, he has killed and tucked away in a freezer. He seemed to consider himself some kind of scientist and was in search of the perfect human being, who could be achieved by a bit of nipping, tucking, and transplanting. The episode concluded with Grissom driving into the desert where he found Lady Heather in the process of whipping the enterprising scientist to death, because the murdered young woman was her daughter. Grissom persuaded her to desist, and then they embraced as the night lights of the desert glowed gently. Just another regular day in Las Vegas and its environs. Is this entertaining? Hard to say.

In Justice this week took up the issue of government agencies ruining the lives of innocent people for the presumed purpose of protecting more people. In this case it was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who helped one of its informers frame a man for bank robbery and murder in order to keep the mole inside a white supremacist group which called itself the "True Patriots." It turned out that the informer was the actual murderer, but that didn't bother the agents who wanted to get his intelligence from the inside. The rationale was that it's more than justified to jail an innocent man in order to thwart the actions of an organization plotting to kill hundreds. Casuistry of this sort is becoming more and more common on TV. One wonders if it reflects what's actually happening in law enforcement agencies. The curious thing about the TV script writers is that they seldom have a good answer for the argument that one must do wrong in order to do right. The heroes go ahead and combat the wrongdoing, but it's almost as if they don't know why. The childishness of basing action on hypotheses instead of responding honorably to reality is seldom explored. It's good for popular entertainment to raise this sort of issue. It would be better if it dug into it more deeply.

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