[ PERSONAL NOTE:What a wonderful cascade of birthday greetings from you yesterday. What can I say but thank you all. It was a lovely day made extra-special by all of you. Thank you so much. ]
Until a friend pointed it out several months ago, I had not realized I am a fan of police procedurals – cop shows - on television. I've been watching them since Dragnet and I'm fairly indiscriminate about my choices. Often I don't watch a show until it is in reruns, but sooner or later I see most of them.
I couldn't tell you what I like about them unless it's the orderliness. Problems solved in 44 minutes which is a relief from the messiness of real life where some things go unresolved for years, even forever. Law and Order fools me now and then when the prosecution fails leaving the bad guy on the loose. But the structure of the show never changes: crime, investigation, court, judgment.
My current favorite is N.C.I.S.. Someone accused me of having a crush on Mark Harmon, but he's not my type. I'd be more likely to fall for David McCallum, who plays the medical examiner Ducky. Years ago, he played Illya Kuryakin in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. spy series and there was a nice, little inside joke in one N.C.I.S. episode where someone can't place who Ducky reminds him of. “Illya Kuryakin,” says the other character.
Of course, that went right over the heads of any young viewers. You need to be old enough to have watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to get it.
An added value of N.C.I.S. is the multi-generational cast who are given equal screen time. There are the three young agents in their 30s, the young forensic scientist Abby, their leader Jethro Gibbs, in his 50s, and Ducky who is old enough to be the young agents' grandfather. Plus, Ducky's aging mother, who is quite dotty, nuts even, and imperial in her early stages of dementia, is a recurring character. Four generations.
In recent years, those who give advice about succeeding in the workplace, write about difficulties between young and old, often making it seem that conflicts are inevitable and hard to overcome. But week after week, the N.C.I.S. writers portray the generations working well together, displaying their differences through misunderstandings, arguments, jokes and, in the end, respect. These are better lessons – taking dramatic license into consideration - than what the employment “experts” give us.
Still, there are few enough elders in anything but out-of-date, stereotyped roles on television. Recently, Peter Tibbles, who lives in Melbourne, turned me on to a British cop show, New Tricks (as in old dogs, etc.), about three old men – well, let Peter tell you as he did in a recent email:
“The premise is that they get three retired detectives to investigate old crimes. Ho-hum usually, but this is excellent. The three are played by Alun Armstrong, Dennis Waterman and James Bolam. Amanda Redman (no spring chicken herself) plays their governor and Susan Jameson has a continuing role (as Alun Armstrong's character's wife). As these are old crimes, they always have excellent elder actors in various roles.”
The program is in its fifth season in Britain and Australia and it has never been broadcast in the United States. But hey, we live in the internet age where you can find almost anything online if you look far enough.
The Internet Movie Database lists the particulars and 68 readers give it a (deserved) 9-out-of-10 rating. And here is the BBC webpage about the series. Much has been made of the opening theme song, titled It's All Right, which apparently is hard to find. However, YouTube has it, introducing the characters [42 seconds]:
But wait - there's more. Although they are a bit difficult to locate, YouTube has several full episodes broken up into 10-minute segments which is where I've spent a good deal of time for the past few days.
So if you are interested in some really good cop drama with a soupcon of comedy starring some fine actors who are our age, here are the first two segments of a New Tricks episode titled, “A Face for Radio” [10:28 minutes]:
“A Face for Radio” - Part 2 [10:16 minutes]
You can find the rest of the episode by following these links. Each segment is about 10 minutes long:
Now if you are hooked, there are four more episodes posted at YouTube. It's tricky to search for them, so here are links to the first segment of each episode. You'll find the succeeding segments of each show below the view screen on the right under “Related Videos.”