I will admit it right here and now—I am addicted to mystery TV. This is a genetic condition. My mother—a longtime TV mystery addict—introduced me to Perry Mason reruns as a child. She now subscribes to TWO special cable TV channels. One features mystery TV shows from around the world. She is always chatting about this intriguing Dutch detective, that handsome Italian detective or an exciting German mystery.
Unlike any other genre, I can binge (or gorge) or simply have old episodes of ‘Criminal Minds’ ‘CSI’ ‘Midsomer Mystery’ ‘Law and Order’ etc. humming in the background, like a deadly soundtrack as I go about my business. Sometimes I study the story structure, sometimes I pick out the inconsistencies (or outright mistakes), and sometimes I just note how series characters develop along certain predictable lines. (The prickly characters become more likeable and the likeable characters often become caricatures of their original incarnations.)
When I sit down and focus on the structure of the story, I’m looking for how & when clues are seeded into the plot and how & when the detective becomes aware of these clues. When books and stories are turned into mystery TV/films by the various worldwide media machines, it’s interesting to see what elements fall away in the paring down of complexity. For instance, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ lost several subplots that I’d enjoyed in the novel.
The many, many, many incarnations of both Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s famous detectives, allows me to see how the original stories are re-imagined for the visual media. The number of characters that become younger and more beautiful, the narrowing of the scope of potential suspects, and the compression of time, are all choices that fascinate me.
So is my addiction an unhealthy pastime or just the consequence of mystery in my DNA?