Friday, November 19, 2010



What the hell has happened to the current state of the mystery?

It’s as if every case is solved by illegal computer hacking. If their detectives are too stupid to get a clue, mystery writers simply have them tap into a computer system with a couple of key strokes and, presto-change-o, the clue to further or solve the case pops up on a state of the art computer screen.

This reliance on databases to solve crimes is not only completely unrealistic, it’s also lazy writing.

The technique is especially used in television mysteries because it’s a quick way of moving the story forward. The new Hawaii Five-O is a particularly egregious example. In fact, despite the beautiful scenery and babes in bikinis, I stopped watching the show after every one of the first five episodes was solve by having the solution electronically handed to the bantering buddies so they didn’t strain their pretty boy looks actually trying to figure something out.

That, and I got totally pissed-off when they usurped a national spy satellite via a friend who just happened to be on duty on an aircraft carrier – COME ON!

If we are to believe the current state of the mystery, no computer database from the Pentagon to Google is safe from our intrepid detective hackers (the bad guy computer geek on Nikita can hack any database in three key strokes or less).

We’re also expected to believe not only does every security video system connect up with every other security video system – public or private – but also  every crime can be solved because big brother is watching.

Again, lazy storytelling.

Also, if the resolution isn’t high enough, you can’t take used and reused and reused again security video and blow it up big enough to reveal the visible fingerprint on the coffee table in the back of the room. THERE AREN’T ENOUGH PIXELS IN THE WORLD TO DO IT!

Technology is great and has been of huge assistance to law enforcement, but crimes are still mostly solved the old fashioned way, by following the evidence trail until it runs cold and then going back to the beginning and starting all over again.

Talking to people is how you find things out – interview and interrogation – not illegal hacking you can’t explain in court. Apparently, nobody writing for television has ever heard of search and seizure laws.

Technology is a fact of life, but it isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, no matter how cool your clearboards and high tech computer screens make it seem.

I’m bored by exceptionally high resolution video placed in the exact right location and computers solving crimes. I want my detectives to solve their crimes using smarts – and failing that, fists and blazing .45s.

It can still be done in the 21st century – case in point the three episodes of Sherlock recently presented on PBS’ Mystery. All the high tech is there, but Sherlock perfectly proves it is all unnecessary. Good on you, mate.


Mel Odom said...

One of the homicide detectives I team taught forensic classes with called it GOYAKOD.

Geo Off Your Ass, Knock On Doors.

He says this is still how most police work is done quickly. Takes at least 6 months to get crime scene stuff back, and that's generally used only on jury trials to wow the audience.

George said...

Every crime team on TV has their "computer expert" to hack into everything. As you say: lazy storytelling.