As stated in Part 1 of this article, PBS presented a four part series which premiered Sundays from October 30 to November 20, 2011 at 8-9pm (ET) called ‘America in Primetime’. Each program showed top talent in creators, writers and actors giving their opinions on characters they formed in primetime and its effect on American viewers.
The final episode, Episode 4, was the documentary ‘The Crusader’; that aired November 20th. The Crusader showed examples of archetypical heroes and antiheroes that bring about their form of justice. Its analogy further states –
“Heroes today are complex. Their stories are told with increasing humanity, depicting characters who confront almost impossible choices as they fight evil in a world where the line between right and wrong is often blurred.”
Part 2 continues and concludes with observations in television programs on heroes and the constant blight they face with their enemies and themselves regarding evil. The last four shows talked about were ‘The X Files’, ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’, ‘The Wire’ and ‘Dexter’.
The comments made about The X Files were more on the relationship between the two FBI agents instead of the cases they combated. The popular program ran for almost ten years (1993 – 2002) and was described as a “science fiction mystery thriller.” The two main characters who played FBI agents were David Duchovny as Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully. Their task was to investigate unsolved events dealing with paranormal and mysterious circumstances. Despite their different beliefs (Mulder believed in conspiracies and aliens, Scully was a skeptic) and due to their unusual situations, they became closer and there existed a loving platonic relationship; but many viewers wanted the couple to be more romantic.
Andre Braugher (‘Glory’, TNT’s ‘Men of a Certain Age’) gave his opinion on the character he played in the procedural police drama ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’. As the personality Frank Pembleton, a homicide detective in Baltimore, Maryland, Pembleton was serious about his job and strongly believed in the pursuit of justice; in that there is something satisfying in good conquering evil. Homicide was on for seven seasons and Pembleton became the most popular figure. His quest in many episodes was being heroic in stating the following: “We speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves”, referring in many cases to the dead. During the series Pembleton dealt with family issues, was used as a pawn in a police investigation, had a stroke, and was afraid to pull the trigger of his gun in an episode when needed. Each episode revealed an ultimate journey – he began to understand that “justice was imperfect.” In conclusion, Braugher stated that Frank was “blindly righteous, each death was a reflection of own search, life is complex, not simple.”
‘The Wire’ was explored by its creator David Simon, who also did the program out of Baltimore. The show was and still is very popular and currently in syndication. The five season series has been used in college courses, lectures, and has received praise from prominent people for its realism. Its continuation of characters involved in government, law, crime and drugs is part of being “in the game” drew audiences weekly. Simon speculated that in some scenes one could see an “urban westernized version” of players, much like the deviant behavior displayed in western movies.
“I have nothing to hide – I’ll make a deal with the devil if it will help me carry out my program. But believe me, there are no strings attached to those deals.” Quote from Willie Stark (played by actor Broderick Crawford), in a scene from the 1949 classic film “All the King’s Men”.
The above quote in a surreal way can apply to the crime suspense drama shown on the cable movie channel Showtime about ‘Dexter’ (Sundays 9pm EST). Dexter is played by Michael C. Hall (HBO’s ‘Six Feet Under’). Dexter is currently in its sixth season and portrayed on Showtime’s website as this –
Dexter Morgan, Miami Metro Police Department blood spatter analyst, leads a double life. When he’s not helping the homicide division solve murders, he satisfies his dark desires by hunting and killing bad guys who slip through the justice system, all the while following a strict code established for him by his father.
The Crusader series stated that Dexter only targets terrible people but in doing so is a serial killer; not a good person to be – there is no such thing as a “good serial killer”. The question arose “If I could get away with it, how can I get my revenge?” Dexter saw his mother chain-sawed to death when he was five; it apparently had a terrible effect on him. He follows the belief that some people deserve to die. Dexter was also compared to “The Dark Defender”; it was the fifth episode in the second season. Dexter sees a poster of the comic book vigilante killer during a crime investigation at a book store; inspired by the Bay Harbor Butcher, and relates this in contrast with his own crimes.
The television creators and writers in The Crusader series enjoy writing more for television because it gives them the opportunity to see a character grow. A TV series to them is more satisfying then writing for a movie that lasts a couple of hours. They can also delve into their characters and find out what makes them tick.
One writer explained that Americans are going through a “passivity phase” and that the internet contributes to its effect. Another noted he is disappointed in today’s moviemaking, stating it has “turned into a 3-D spectacle.”