Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The delicious horror of the daily crime fix

For someone who is not at all into TV, even to know what show airs on what channel, at what time, is some sort of an unheard of event. The Hindi and Bangla channels are still a completely unseen land to me, and I continue to have absolutely no clue whatsoever of the goings on, on those planets. Nor do I wish to know. However, for the past year or so, I do find myself getting the occasional “crime fix” as a dear friend puts it.

So what is this crime fix then? Well, a large number of intelligent people – especially in India – seem to have become regular viewers, even addicts, of the regular crime shows on the English language satellite channels. And, as a result, the prime time slots on most of the channels are given over to these programs. This, in turn, means that I manage to catch at least an hour of these programs – on most days.

For me, of course, it is simply a matter of convenience. Mornings are news news news till about 9 or 9.30am. 9.30 to about 11.30am is usually spent in things like household chores, work related filing, and such. 11.30 I leave to get the little one from her school, and the rest of the day is mad. Any TV that is watched between work, food, games, homework, mum and baby projects, and more, is always of the animated variety. Her day winds up by about 7.30 pm, and it is only then that any question arises of anyone else watching TV.

One could, I suppose, watch some trashy saas bahu serial during the day, with the child sitting there open jawed and absorbing all the nastiness and tear jerking, like many mothers do. But I cannot tolerate that crap, nor can I imagine exposing my child to  regular doses of such consistently unethical, nasty, backstabbing, evil behavior, not to mention the horrible gender and community stereotypes. So, cartoons it is. And there are restrictions there as well. No child of mine is ever going to sit and watch shinchan, and monkey knows that in this house, with this mum, “no” means no. many others are on the off limits list, or on the occasionally only list. I could also watch any of the violent or gory crime series or movies
So, essentially, it is after about 8 pm that the adults finally get down to any kind of TV viewing, and that’s just fine with us. Between 8 and 9 is when the joint production of dinner is usually created, and we generally pay scant attention to the idiot box, because we have the whole day to catch up on with each other. So, it is during dinner, and in that narrow time slot of 9 to 10 pm, that we get down to some semi serious television intake, and…guess what!... it coincides with a crime show! Not a “real crime reenactment” kind of bullshit, mind you, but a thriller type show with the storyline based on crime solving activities.

Come to think of it, most of the shows I have even remotely liked in the past few years have been of this type. From CSI and NCIS to Criminal Minds, The Mentalist, White Collar, etc, most of them fit into the crime thriller genre. And no, this fascination does not carry over to the really badly made, over explained, “treat the viewer as if she is an idiot” kind of Hindi series like CID. The shows I like are the English ones, and no, its not entirely because of my English type-ness. Sure I think in English and am most comfortable in English, but no one can deny that these programs are much better made than any Hindi one can ever hope to be. They are tighter, sharper, more succinct. The science is much more current, and they don’t spend minutes at a time trying to explain every single detail of it to you. They assume that you have the brains to figure a few things out without having them spelled out for you.

Although it’s not regular, or consistent, we have kind of fallen into the habit of the 9 pm crime show and begun to call it our nightly crime fix. Last week, for one reason or another, we missed quite a few of them, and I found myself feeling vaguely uncomfortable, even contemplating catching the rerun the next day. I didn’t, of course, but it made me think about what it was about the crime fix that had me craving for it. Of course there is the morbid curiosity that is such a human trait, the thing that makes people slow down and try to get a glimpse of an accident (although I cant ever imagine doing that). Then there is the delicious fear of watching a horror film in the safety of one’s home (which I, as a horror addict, am so very familiar with). But, to me at least, it seemed to be a bit more than just that.

There seems to be an element of the talisman in the whole phenomenon. Watching the worst of the worst happen to someone else, someone imaginary, seems to somehow subconsciously convince one that it cannot happen to “me”. Its like some kind of magical catharsis that not only eases and purges those feelings of horror and pathos, but also protects the watcher against the same happening to them. That’s the only way I can explain the addiction, with a healthy sprinkling of the normal human negative traits thrown in, the morbidity, the delight in gore and pain, and yes – the subconscious reveling in the triumph of good over evil (after all the bad guys are always caught) which fits nicely with the way we imagine the world is, or should be. 

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