Saturday, May 15, 2010

Unwanted Courtroom Drama

I'm writing part of this blog post before watching the latest episode of Bones on hulu, and will write the second part afterward. What has prompted me to do this is the fact that the episode I missed on Thursday was a court episode, and frankly, court episodes of non-Law & Order crime shows and me have a tendency to not get along. Like the odd meal that makes me sick at a restaurant I normally enjoy, court episodes of crime shows generally leave a bad taste in my mouth.

One of the reasons court episodes rub me the wrong way is that it brings up the courts at all, and along with them the possibility of the bad guy not getting convicted. That's obviously how the system works, but part of the fun of these shows is the satisfaction of them getting the bad guys. "They got them and now they're going to jail" is more satisfying than "they've arrested them and hopefully this will all hold up in court and maybe they'll get convicted assuming the prosecutor is competent and the defense attorney doesn't have an ace up their sleeve."

This is more true of some shows than others. Suspension of disbelief is often very demanding with shows like Psych and Monk, particularly when it comes to what would actually hold up in court. In theory, court episodes of Bones should be less of an issue due to cases generally ending with slam-dunk evidence or confessions, but they've got a 50/50 record with me so far.

The first court episode of Bones was essentially a "let's see what happens when these guys are in court" scenario. That sort of episode feels like a cookie-cutter plot to me regardless of the mystery, and it feels to me like taking exotic fish out of water. Yeah, it's a change of pace, but it's not really fun to see them flopping around.

The second court episode was more like taking the exotic fish out of one tank and putting them into another. Not only did it feel like there was good reason for the court episode, but there was more to it than seeing fish out of water. It had been built up to the entire season and didn't feel formulaic. It was also more suspenseful, because either verdict would have been believable, interesting and I could easily have seen the writers going either way on it.

Which brings us to the third court episode, the one I'm on the verge of watching. It is not only the third court episode, but the third episode with a recurring villain. This villain is now defending themselves in court, and it's up to our gang of meddling adults to make sure there's a guilty verdict. Not only is it a court case about cases from previous episodes, but the entire premise of the episode feels unnecessary. I felt the previous episode with this villain was enough, and I don't have much enthusiasm for their return.

The show's creator, Hart Hanson, had been talking about the possibility of this episode for a while, which I'm hoping means there's more to it than I'm feeling prior to seeing it. The guy did create one of my favorite TV shows of all time, so I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I'd be lying if I said I was optimistic.

In any case, enough ranting. Time to watch!

The episode turned out to be pretty good. It had a lot of what I don't like about court episodes, but I can see why it exists and it managed to have a lot of suspense and character development in it. I get why Hart Hanson was excited about it.

It did, however, remind me of one of the other reasons I generally dislike court episodes, which is the defense attorneys. They know they're full of it, the good guys know they're full of it, the audience knows they're full of it, but the jury? They've gotta be convinced. It's pretty standard for me to find that scenario more frustrating than fun to watch, but compound it by having the criminal act as their own attorney? It's successful at making me hate them, sure, and it's the sort of thing I like in small doses, but the doses are extra large in a court episode.

To clarify, this episode was definitely effective, suspenseful, and I'm sure a lot of people enjoyed it. Ignoring my personal pet peeves, I think it was solid. From a personal preference standpoint, however, it wasn't my cup of tea. I am looking forward to seeing the fallout (aka the season finale), however.


  1. could be worse last week at least 12 heavily armed gangsters were released on technicalities,(here in Belgium), people now want to introduce a law to prevent this from happening but without a government

    got star trek online life subscription, a bit of eve online 6 weeks of pointless pvp on top on losing my job cause the company went bust have made me depressed + the corp ceo made clear he felt i was a negative presence so i decided to leave that corp and return to my friends in the game

  2. I prefer the type of court episodes when one of the protagonist's pasts has caught up with them, and now they have to defend themselves and the actions they took in pursuing the course of justice.

    All the elements of watching the prosecution tear into the hero, suspense as the outcome is unclear, and regardless of the verdict, the character development potential is immense!