....LMB: "Touching Evil"....

June 15, 2004

One of the hallmarks of the LMB site is my tradition of announcing that I'm going to do something, and then not doing it.

I announced that last week was going to be "pop culture week" on the site, where I would write about various films and books and whatnot, politically and otherwise. Didn't happen.

So only a week late, I'm getting started. This one ain't so political.

Touching Evil is a newish cop drama on the USA Network. I like to say that it takes place in an "alternate reality San Francisco", because their version of the city is like 80% serial killers. And every week, the members of a special serial killer-catching police force get inside the head of a different serial killer and catch them. That sounds a bit common, of course, but it has several differences from the average cop drama.

The first difference is the show's gimmick. The main character was a brilliant detective who was shot in the head, put into a coma, and has only recently returned to work. He's come back with brain damage, which has ruined many of his social skills and have set his emotions to Intense mode most of the time. We see the extremity of his life and job, and watch him express the grief, fury, and joy it creates. He's a passionate, pained, goofy, loving, unpredictable fellow. Which again, sounds generic, but it works.

The second enjoyable aspect of the show is its tone and atmosphere. The show's music is muffled, melancholy and dreamy, all kinda stolen from the Nine Inch Nails song "A Warm Place" (which in itself was pretty much a theft of David Bowie's song "Crystal Japan"). This music matches nicely with the sequences that go between the main story. These scenes are beautiful time lapse images of San Francisco: glaciers of fog storming the bay with a quickness; city streets streaked with speeding tail lights; sunlight rising and falling on the Golden Gate. In my opinion, all this serves to emphasize the show's inherent sadness, and makes the viewer a bit more introspective and susceptible to the show's moodiness.

And finally, you have the show's characters and their interactions. As the episodes progress, you realize that this is not a crack unit of hard-boiled cops: these are a group of walking wounded. Slowly and carefully, you learn that each of these people is suffering a terrible loss, and has no clue how to cope. So they try to bury it all with cold exteriors, emotional distance and obsessions with their job. With the edition of they hyper-sensitive new detective, these icy barriers soften and fracture, and you catch glimpses of the pain and raw anguish, but also of tenderness, and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, these damaged souls could help each other start to heal.

I might be reading a lot into this, but that's just where I am right now.

Of course, the show has plenty of flaws: plots that sometimes don't quite work, abrupt conflicts or breakthroughs, twists and misdirections that are a tad transparent. And there's no guarantee just yet that it'll even be renewed for a second season. All I know is that as it stands, the show clicks with me, and maybe it'll keep on clicking.

Posted by Jake at 11:55 PM | TrackBack (0)

As a San Francisco resident, it's annoying to watch an episode of 'Touching Evil' and hear them say "The body was found in the Richmond District" (my old neighborhood) and then they cut to a location that doesn't even remotely resemble San Francisco. I assume the series is filmed in Vancouver, like so many other lower-budget shows.

I used to live in New York City and there are any number of TV shows and even movies that purport to be set in NYC but aren't filmed there, so this is nothing new, but still, it's a little annoying.

That said, the show is on my TiVo list.

Posted by: fiat lux at June 16, 2004 09:20 AM


The mere fact that you are watching commercial television is quite distressing. Wasting your intellect and gifted writing ability on critiques of its programs, even moreso. The docile, brainwashed and obese American population is the net effect of capitalism's mind-controlling box. I'm frankly surprised at you.

I can only presume that you are friends with someone associated with the program and are being a pal by helping to promote it, or else have lived in Hell-A for so long now that you are succumbing to the new 'virtual' reality - re: the world as television knows it.

I can imagine being told to 'chill out- its just a TV show' - but the fact that every show and every ad has something to do with cops, security, safety, protection, etc. just feeds into this whole twisted fear-and-consumption-society that is reproducing itself to the point that the Golden State once again has a Republican actor as its leader.

Not to mention the sick, anti-woman porno/snuff fantasy subject matter that is usually about scantily-clad female victims of violence - obviously meant to titilate viewers. Even though actual victims of serial killers in the US amount to only a tiny, tiny fraction of a percentage of overall crime victims, the topic is always in the forefront of prime-time fare.

There's a reason it's called 'programming'.

Resistance is Futile. You Will be Assimilated.

Posted by: DC at June 16, 2004 10:10 AM

I much prefer the original British version of "Touching Evil," as I do the original British version of "Cracker." However, the American version of "Touching Evil" is far, far better than the American version of "Cracker." But I give all the Americans involved a lot of credit for even attempting to transplant these shows.

Posted by: Miss Authoritiva at June 16, 2004 11:06 AM

Miss Authoritiva stole my thunder - I really like the British version, but I admit I haven't had the heart to watch the American version.
Mainly cause I'm sure the American actor doesn't have the piercing blue eyes of his British counterpart...

Posted by: falseego at June 17, 2004 11:58 PM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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Mission: Mongolia

Jake's first attempt at homemade Mongolican barbecue:


What went right: correctly guessing several key seasonings- lemon, ginger, soy, garlic, chili.

What went wrong: still missing some ingredients, and possibly had one wrong, rice vinegar. Way too much lemon and chili.

Result: not entirely edible.

Plan for future: try to get people at Great Khan's restaurant to tell me what's in the damn sauce.

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