Where do I start……..The West Wing was for four seasons compulsive TV viewing, the writing and acting on the show was incomparable as countless awards and high ratings attested. After the departure of Aaron Sorkin, season five floundered and the series lost its way, by Season 6 we were back on track and by the time we had a new “President” at the end of Season 7 the series was back up there and went out on a high. I have watched Season 7 of Criminal Minds with the same feeling of sadness that I watched Season 5 of The West Wing, finding myself asking the same question over and over as each week passes by and I feel more and more disappointed as the closing credits roll, what have you done with the show I love so much?
Criminal Minds is like James Bond, The British Carry On Films or a music concert by your favourite artist, there are certain things which are standard which you expect to see and what you pay your money for. Take those away and you are left with, a basic action movie, a basic comedy film and a concert you didn’t particularly want to see as you didn’t hear anything you would expect. Shirley Bassey once told a story in an interview that she was begged by a venue owner to return to the stage and sing “Big Spender” before the audience trashed the place, the decision to leave it out of the programme about to cause a riot. Someone has left the “Big Spender out of Criminal Minds this season. I thought I was the only one feeling this but in the age of modern technology and the not always very nice world of Social Networking I have come to realise that I am not the only one feeling this way.
CSI (all three), NCIS and Law and Order SVU have all been running for many years now, they are still massively popular both in the US and here in the UK taking up much of our Prime Time Television, they have faithfully stuck to their original formulas and sad as it maybe that is what we like tried and tested consistency.
Much to my shame I have to admit I was a late starter to Criminal Minds, not sure how it managed to elude me for those first couple of Seasons but it did, I made up for it post haste and can honestly say I have enjoyed many episodes time and time again. Yes of course I know that Garcia is going to get shot, I know that Haley is going to die at the hands of the Reaper, I know whose black SUV will be blown up at the end of Season 3 but it doesn’t matter. I know that Hotch is going to tear Reid of a strip for putting himself in danger at the end of Elephant’s Memory, I know that Rossi is going to play Professor Rothschild in Masterpiece, I know that Prentiss is going to confess to being the FBI agent in Minimal Loss but it doesn’t matter such was the power of the writing and my empathy with the characters I know and love I am happy to watch it over.
It was rarely that we discovered who the unsub was until at least half way into an episode, if we did there was more often than not a twist in the plot. Now we find out who did at the start and then watch the team solve the case. Colombo did that back in the 70’s another series that ran and ran but another series that had its standards, a crumpled rain coat, a cigar and a clapped out old car and of course the well used phrase “there was just one more thing…..” Heaven forbid changing any of those things, I mean a new Burberry trench coat, perish the thought!
At the time of writing we are up to Episode 16 A Family Affair, I can honestly say in some 16 episodes from a personal perspective I can recall four memorable/outstanding scenes and three of those were in the first two episodes; I am not having a go I just find it, for want of a better expression incredibly sad. My benchmark Season is 4, and the memorable scenes in Episode 16 Pleasure Is My Business alone would fill a page. Yes we have seen a few “sick dudes” this season, some heinous crimes but do any one of these compare to, (no I am not going to state the obvious ones), Floyd Feylinn Ferell, I think I was eating my lunch when I discovered what he had done to Tracey Lambert, Eddie Mays and The Roycewood’s to mention but four, the last name of an “unsub” I can even remember in Season 7 and I am not sure if he counts is Ian Doyle.
This season for reasons known only to themselves the writers/producers whatever of Criminal Minds have decided that we only get team interaction at the beginning and end of an episode and even that is pretty sketchy and very weak, too many “outside influences”. We know the BUA team has a life outside of work, but the two ALWAYS overlapped and it NEVER detracted from the “family bond” they share at work: Rossi wrote his books, mentioned in various episodes but the integral part of the plot in Zoe’s Reprise. Prentiss doesn’t get on with her Mother a US Ambassador, mentioned in various episodes and integral to the plot of both Honour Among Thieves and Demonology. Reid has a schizophrenic mother who we all adore and who has made every episode she has appeared in outstanding, from The Fisher King to the brilliant Memoriam; the relationship she shares with her genius son is both moving and fun. Who didn’t love finding out that Garcia acted in her spare time and how wonderful was it to see the entire team watching her in action at the Tollgate Theatre at the end of Reflections Of Desire, not a word said as the episode closes, applause and camera pans to the team…….priceless!
The interaction between the team during an episode be it about catching the unsub or about something entirely adhoc was what put Criminal Minds in a league of its own. Even when it was so dark, there was a chink of humour; two instances spring to mind immediately without ANY thought,; Exit Wounds ~ Rossi turns up to the briefing in a tuxedo, “ I see you people way too much” he says after taking a ribbing from the team about his attire. The Internet is Forever again over the team briefing, “what did you do join a boy band?” Hotch’s reaction to Reid new haircut. I and I could probably safely say WE miss that. It’s almost as if the writers no longer understand the relationships between the characters or are even scarred of what to write. The same applies to the team interaction with the unsubs we hardly see that anymore it is almost as if we have two separate stories going on and it only comes together at the end when the unsub is caught or shot. Some of the best writing over the previous six seasons has taken place when the team have been in the same room as the unsub, right from the outset they showed us how it was done, what BAU actually meant, Gideon and Adrian Bale in Wont Get Fooled Again, Hotch and his quietly menacing interrogation of Vincent Perotta In Natural Born Killer, Hotch again only in antagonistic mode with a terrified Reid and convicted Serial Killer Chester Hardwick in Damage one of Criminal Minds most memorable scenes, Rossi and Morgan, Reid and Prentiss taking turns at suspected unsubs Barrett and Pearson in JJ and of course Reid’s unusual and mesmerising encounter with Julio Ruiz in Corazon.
The writers do not seem to have any comprehension of the characters they are writing about anymore, the bond between the characters is weak so the bond with audience weakens, as a viewer you do have an understanding or the characters you allow them in your home week after week, you go through every emotion with them, you watch them love, you watch them laugh you watch them cry, you even watch them die, when the people who are writing for them don’t have that empathy and understanding then how can they be expected to write convincingly for them.
Why oh why have the “Powers That Be” decided to change all of this, to leave us with a series we no longer recognise and one which we clearly no longer look forward to or rush home to see. As I finish my screed Season 8 has been picked up. If this is to be our last Season then lets go out on a high, if you want their to be a Season 9 and you want ratings to stay high then PLEASE lets go back to how it used to be.