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10 Things to Simultaneously Love and Hate About "Criminal Minds"

February 27, 2015

 

I don't watch cop shows, as a rule.

 

First off, I don't have the time, and second off, I'm a stickler for authenticity.  I can't stand it when I can detect procedural or factual mistakes in a program, because it takes me right out of the story.  Any time I throw my hands up and scream, "Come ON!!", I give up on the show.  

 

Criminal Minds, the CBS program about a group of elite FBI profilers who catch serial killers every week, is a huge exception.  Not because they get everything right--they don't, not by a long shot--but because for some reasons, even the mistakes and fabrications make me love the show more.  For example:

 

1. California Doubles For the Rest of the Country.

Each week the BAU races off to a different part of the U.S. to track evildoers.  Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, wherever.  Frequently they go to California, and I buy that because California is nuts.  But even when they don't, it can be painfully obvious that the scenes were shot in California.  I'm not talking about the establishing shots of each city; that's either stock footage or second unit stuff thrown in as a convincer.  I'm talking about street scenes where the actors are supposed to be in Virginia, but there are street signs visible for La Cienega Boulevard.  They're ostensibly in Ohio, but the foliage is largely palm trees.  They comb the mountains of Nash County, NC...which has no mountains.  I love spotting stuff like this!

 

2. Every Tiny Town Has a Crackerjack Coroner.

Bodies are turning up in East Buttdial, Kansas, so the team rushes there to investigate.  The medical examiner/coroner (usually portrayed by a woman, a minority, or better yet a minority woman) meets them to discuss how the victims died.  Despite the fact that this may be a part of the country where bizarre murders hardly ever happen, the ME is able to give expert and accurate details about the method of the killing.  Never once has the BAU run across an ME who was elected to the position and is totally incompetent for the job, and I'm glad, because if our government can't handle dead people, what can they?

 

3. Instant Response to Crime.

How many times have we heard Garcia or J.J. open a briefing with "This body was discovered an hour ago" or "Ninety minutes ago a child vanished in..."?  Then the crime is connected to other crimes with similar patterns, and the team knows it's a serial unsub.  I love the idea that the instant anything bad happens anywhere, this group of superheroes will drop everything and head to the scene, but let's face it--if a body is discovered, it's going to take the police at least an hour just to reach the scene, secure it, and summon homicide detectives.  Then the request for FBI assistance will take hours to ascend the chain of command. 

 

4. "Wheels Up in 30."

Speaking of rushing to the scene!  I want SOOO MUCH to ride around with my heroes on the Gulfstream jet with the leather seats and the big screen monitors and whatnot!  It's like their very own super-headquarters...which the real BAU does not get.  Check out this Buzzfeed article for more details.

 

5.  "I Want You To Relax.  You're In A Safe Place."

Bull hockey.  The "cognitive interview" is nothing but a story device, meant to replicate hypnosis without actually using hypnosis.  But it's just so coooool that our heroes can say a couple of words like this, and suddenly the witness is BACK IN THE SCENE OF THE CRIME.  I wonder if they use this technique on their families to make them remember to do chores or score well on tests or whatnot?

 

6. Every Day is Casual Friday.

I realize that times have changed, and FBI agents are no longer expected to wear the "uniform" dark suit, white shirt and conservative tie.  Instead, they wear clothing appropriate to the job they have to do.  So it makes sense that Hotchner goes old school, Rossi dresses like the suave rich man he is, and Morgan, Prentiss and Jareau get to wear form-flattering hottie clothes.  But in no sense of the word are Reid's hipster-Mr.-Rogers getup (cardigan and sneakers? really?) or Garcia's manic-pixie-dreamgirl outfits appropriate for this kind of work.  Don't get me wrong, these are two of my favorite characters, but how would you feel if law enforcement showed up dressed like this?

 

7. Just a Flesh Wound.

The BAU crew takes a beating, no doubt about it.  Every member of the team has been seriously injured at some point--shot, stabbed, blown up, poisoned, ass-whupped, car-crashed, helicopter-crashed, tortured, drugged, you name it.  But the bruises don't last; hell, the gunshot wounds and stab wounds don't last more than one episode either, with one notable exception.  In one episode, Hotch gets stabbed multiple times and Reid gets shot in the leg.  Next ep, Hotch is back with no sign of trauma, but Reid hobbles around on a cane for about four more episodes.  That's thanks to real life, in which Matthew Gray Gubler blew out his knee dancing.  That's why I love (and hate) this show--reality has no place here.

 

8. Garcia Does All The Heavy Lifting.

Check it--in almost every episode, the team bangs around the country looking at crime scenes, interrogating witnesses and suspects, chasing bad guys and negotiating tense end-of-show standoffs.  But when the rubber hits the road, who found out the name of the unsub?  Who sifted tons of data, so that our muscle-bound friends in the field didn't have to?  Who supplied the freaking ADDRESS and PHOTO of the unsub?  Who, in fact, changed the unsub into a knownsub?  Nobody but Penelope Garcia and her all-seeing computer, bitches.  Never mind that she's violating all sorts of privacy and confidentiality statutes. She is getting. IT. DONE!!

 

9. The Team Is A Family.

Aside from occasional spats and job offers, the BAU loves each other more than anything and will never leave.  Screw the career, the family is more important.  The hell with my friends, relatives and children, when the pager sounds they're with the real family.  Never mind that in a group of this size at least some of the people would dislike each other, just come here, ya big lug, and hug it out!  

 

10.  The Bad Guy Gets His.  Always.

And there it is.  The biggest reason to love and hate this show.  At the end of each episode, or at the very least at the end of a season, the evildoer is caught dead to rights and suffers one of three fates.  One, he goes to jail forever and ever amen.  Two, he commits suicide rather than be jailed for ever and ever amen.  Or three, he tries to shoot it out and gets killed by the BAU.  No matter how it happens, the bad guy meets his dramatic comeuppance, an occurence all too rare in our world.  Many times offenders go uncaught, and even when they are it's a far cry from receiving just punishment.  But in this fantasy world, no bad guy gets away with it forever, and few make it longer than 45 minutes.  And isn't that what we want out of our heroes?

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