With all of the TV cop dramas focusing on the law, the order, or the science behind a homicide it’s refreshing that a series comes along offering up a slightly different perspective, as does the hit series, Criminal Minds. Now in its sophomore season on CBS television, Criminal Minds follows chronicles the cases of an elite F.B.I. criminal behavior unit, led by the uptight Thomas Hotchner (Gibson) and the mercurial, tormented Jason Gideon (Patinkin), both of whom lord over a young, sexy (well, mostly) troupe of profilers.
While Minds is essentially a “killer of the week” series, it keeps things fresh with fluid dynamics between cast members, lots of juicy back story, and genuinely intriguing and oftentimes disturbing antagonists. The show is also not afraid of spilling the red stuff (although, due to the “unscientific” nature of the content, Criminal Minds doesn’t seem to get away with quite as much grue as the more procedural CSI), as evidenced by the bloodbaths in episodes like “The Tribe” and “Blood Hungry”. The series can also be downright clever, especially in the season-ending cliffhanger, “The Fisher King”, in which our profilers become the prey in a delicious game of cat and mouse that features a criminal mastermind who would run circles around SAW’s Jigsaw.
If only the dialogue were as clever.
While I’m a huge fan of the show, if there’s anything negative I can say about it, it’s that Criminal Minds team of writer’s insist on dumbing things down for the “average viewer”. Characters often spout off droning commentary about real cases in hopes of educating the audience at the same time they draw parallels to that particular episode’s plot. While this tends to happen in most shows dealing with such subject matter, Minds uses this technique with alarming regularity. Here’s an example:
Cop Character : “She was strangled, then bludgeoned, then raped.”
Jason Gideon : “Ah, yes, like Ted Bundy did in 1977 to Claire Booth Smith outside of the University of Michigan whilst juggling three bottles of Dr. Pepper. 1977 was also the year Star Wars came out. Oh, and the Oriole is the state bird of Maryland.”
Cop Character : “I see…”
While this is obviously me spoofing the show, there are some exchanges that are almost as ridiculous, and it’s these moments that spoil an otherwise thoroughly entertaining and uncharacteristically dark series. If the writers would just give the audience the benefit of the doubt (or at least reel in a bit of the details so that the characters didn’t sound like they were reciting a memorized segment of a crime encyclopedia), the dialogue could still be smart and not sound nearly as clunky. Still, even this doesn’t keep me from watching the series regularly, and, if the ratings are any indication, millions of viewers don’t have much of a problem with it, either.
Paramount releases the complete first season of Criminal Minds, featuring twenty two episodes spread out over six discs, three short featurettes, and, sadly, just two commentary tracks (both for the same episode; “Unknown Format”).