As a mystery writer, I'm a big fan of police procedurals and related programs: The Law & Order fanchise (I like SVU the best). The Mentalist. Medium. Monk. Bones (Last season's finale was a cheat--Temperance and Seeley kissing, but only in his coma-induced delusion--but I hear we'll get the real deal this season).
I'm also a fan of Criminal Minds, although I wish that, once in a while, Thomas Gibson would lose his ever grim expression (hard to believe he was the male lead in the sitcom Dharma and Greg). Nuance, please. And too often I feel there's something slick and a little artificial in the crisp way the main characters disseminate data, in rotation, about the "unsub" (unnamed suspect) they're hunting. But I'm quibbling.
Post CSI, audiences have come to expect in-your-face grittiness, and it seems that everyone is upping the gore factor. Even Monk has increased the violence, surprising for a program that is more of a comedy and character study. (I'm sorry that this is its final season but am intrigued by promos that tell us we'll finally learn, with Monk, who killed his wife Trudy.) So I know I'm in for brutal scenes in Criminal Minds, a show about FBI profilers of serial killers.
The last episode I saw, "Hopeless," disturbed me. We're watching a pack of ruthless, sadistic killers who are watching, on a laptop, the videotape one of the killers took of the gleeful carnage they inflicted on four innocent, helpless people. We see the vicious blows again and again. And again. We are voyeurs, repulsed and frightened by what we are seeing. We can turn the channel, but we don't. (I did shut my eyes.)
"Why are you doing this?" one of the female victims cries after her husband has been bludgeoned to death.
"Why not?" is the droll answer.
In later scenes, with other victims, the camera fades to black, and the horrors are left to our imaginations. Why not with this opening scene? Why did we have to be shown the brutal attack, frame by frame? And why repeatedly?
I suppose the answer may be, "Why not?"
Or, to ensure ratings survival, are programs determined to out-gore the competitors? Audience share is the Holy Grail. Audiences want gritter, gorier, bloodier.
Maybe it is "hopeless."