TV suspense


One of my pet peeves is stories, whether written or performed, that have incorrect military information.  Some of the wrong information is simple, such as my current peeve, and some of it is illogical made-up-stuff.

Tonight’s irritation is with an episode of “Unforgettable.”  In the story, a Veterans Administration doctor has been asked by Unforgettable’s main character about a veteran who is a person of interest in a murder (the Crazed Veteran is always a popular character if you need a military person in your story).   The veteran in question would be fluent in Pashto, a language in Afghanistan.  The doctor replied to the detective that it would take several tours in Afghanistan for a soldier to become fluent in Pashto, and then says that she does have a client in counseling who fits the description — a corporal.

Insert rant about ‘if you plan on writing about something, learn the basic information about it.’

In the Army, a corporal is an E4, a junior enlisted rank.  If this person were a corporal he wouldn’t have had enough time in service to easily become fluent in Pashto, unless he’d been demoted multiple times.  Pashto is a language that the Foreign Service Institute rates as a level 2 or 3 language, levels that take between 34 – 48 weeks of full-time study for basic proficiency. Unless a person were being trained as a linguist, it is unlikely that the Army would invest the time for the training.

Which brings us to another point.  The photo of the uniformed ‘person of interest’ shows a relatively long-haired white-bread man (for today’s military) in an Army uniform, wearing infantry brass backed by a light blue disc.  An infantryman in Afghanistan is not surprising, however, an infantryman wouldn’t have linguistic training.  If an infantryman had acquired fluency in Pashto — either from multiple tours in Afghanistan or from language training — he would have been in the Army long enough to be more than a corporal.  Still, for story-purposes, a Pashto-spouting bad guy is more menacing than your average veteran.

Then there’s the fiction that he’s a corporal.  In today’s Army, very few military occupational specialties (MOSes — ie, ‘jobs’) use the rank of corporal.  An E4 in the infantry would be a specialist unless he were filling a leadership position.

Specialist is a designation retained from when the Army had ranks from Specialist Fourth Class up to Specialist Seventh Class alongside the NCO ranks of the same pay grades.  In today’s Army, and of the specialist ranks, only the E4-Specialist rank remains.  I’d say this story character wouldn’t be a corporal because, as I said before, if he’d been in the Army long enough to be fluent in Pashto, he was probably demoted more than once and wouldn’t be leader material.

Now if this service member were a Marine, then the corporal rank is appropriate — although, as a Pashto-speaking-E4, he still would be suffering from the time-in-service problem concerning the language fluency.

The holes in this one story point are large enough to drive a truck through.

Writers — and producers and directors — if you’re going to use the Crazed Veteran character in your stories, at least do the poor guy the honor of getting his backstory straight.

NBC recently cancelled Harry’s Law.  Why did the network do this?  Was it because the show was unpopular?  Did it have no sponsors?  Had its writers run out of steam and couldn’t come up with another reason for Tommy Jefferson to toot his own horn? Could they find no case on which Cassie could practice her passionate reasoning?  Were there no pretty girls for Adam to desire?

No.  NBC cancelled the show because the audience is too old.

Harry’s Law: Stars and NBC Chair on Cancellation

NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt said, “It was a difficult decision. Everyone here respects Harry’s Law a lot but we were finding it hard to grow the audience for it. Its audience skewed very old. It’s hard to monetize that.”

Very old?  Ouch.  Rub that salt in.

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Harry’s Law’s old fans have decided that if NBC wants to make them unhappy, the fans might show NBC the depth of their old feelings, all the way down to the old ground.

Harry’s Law protest: Save Our Soles

“Harry’s Law” fans are being asked to send a pair of shoes to NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt Thursday to protest his decision last month to cancel the drama.

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It may be too late for the protest to convince the people at NBC, the people who ration out programs that keep us in our seats until the commercials drive onto the screen, that old people have money to spend, too, but I don’t think the move endeared the network to the audience of legal-beagle-drama fogeys.

Is it too much to hope that CBS will develop a quality world for Ms. Bates to charm us from?

It must happen with every generation that the icons and heroes of one’s youth (or younger years) die.  Even though we’re all perfectly aware that no one goes on forever, each announcement is a shock.  I’m guessing that in their later years, the actors and actresses slow down, and not as many acting roles come their way.  Poor health might also keep the spotlight from continuing to shine on them, so they fade from view.  Then comes the press release that they’re gone.  Each time it happens, we feel the loss of another cultural touchstone.

This time we lost Peter Falk, so famous as Columbo.  My condolences to Mr. Falk’s family.

I’ve already watched the series Rosemary and Thyme on PBS, but I’ll probably ask for the DVD set for either a birthday or Christmas present because the series is a mystery, and the theme is gardening, and Felicity Kendal is one of the stars.  I enjoyed Pam Ferris’s work in the series as well, but it’s Felicity’s performances I enjoyed for so many years on Good Neighbors (US title) /The Good Life (UK title).

  • Rosemary and Thyme: Death in the Garden, Mystery Scene
    Try Rosemary & Thyme. That’s former horticultural lecturer Rosemary Boxer and ex-cop Laura Thyme who solve murders and rein in wayward gardens on each episode of the British series, which ran for three seasons on PBS.

Scenes from Rosemary & Thyme – Series 2 Episode 6 – The Italian Rapscallion

The moving, talking lion answering … thing … in Tim Guinee’s quirky private eye’s kitchen had me absolutely in stitches.  I’d say I want one, but I wouldn’t be able to get through a conversation for laughing so hard.

I really like the Guinee character, especially since I think Blake, the other ‘new’ PI, is nasty.  Scott Porter does a good job at being a bad guy — but I don’t think he can compete against Guinee’s character, especially with a plush toy lion whose head and mouth move making the lion appear to be talking in the caller’s voice.  That was inspired.

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