revised_tv_crime_article_jan_2016_002_.doc

For lotz then action dramas of the late 1990s enact a

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stories of intense and complicated interpersonal relations” alongside the action. For Lotz then “action dramas of the late 1990s enact a hybridization to broaden the appeal of their narratives” (2006, 87). Implicitly, for Lotz these moves accord greater possibilities for women in action, and while this may well be the case, an historical perspective on action television reveals a genre which foregrounds strong bonds of loyalty and friendship between partners and teams operating in dangerous circumstances. Clearly the story arcs to which Lotz refers are more elaborate than those which frame the group and their interactions in a show such NCIS , but nonetheless work-family components and personal back stories are key elements of much action/crime drama. Indeed these elements are relatively elaborate in The Blacklist which combines an episode case of the week (assigned a number within Reddington’s personal blacklist) with developments around the story arc to do with the mysterious Cabal, Elizabeth Keen’s background, and her relationship to Red himself. Action television as a category has relatively low cultural status (coupled no doubt to extremes of violence on one hand, kitsch humour on the other). In this context James Lyons writes: “It is perhaps no coincidence that all the deficiencies cited by critics in relation to Miami Vice were also key attributes of the action-adventure genre, foremost of which was an emphasis on style and spectacle at the expense of ‘literary sophistication’” (2010, 34-5). Although over its run Miami Vice certainly featured some complex storylines – e.g. Sonny’s amnesia – its impact as a show lies primarily with the visual. For Jeremy Butler, Miami Vice is an example of “visually sophisticated” television (2010: 14). 10 As the example of Miami Vice suggests, cultural value in television stems from many factors including thematic and narrative complexity. Such complexity is rather different from the emphasis on spectacle, sensation and surface that typifies action, contributing to the relative neglect of key crime/action series in accounts of the genre. Moreover, the thematic complexity valued in long form television can be contrasted to the relatively simple coding of heroism typical of action/crime television – the patriotic military masculinity of Gibbs in NCIS , for instance. Crime television is an interesting genre in this respect since it includes within its purview series that are high status complex dramas and others which are, by contrast, low status or middle brow ( Castle , with its gentle self-reflexivity and strong romantic and conspiratorial story arcs exemplifies this category). Action elements – notably the chase but also scenes of combat, violence or confrontation - feature in both high and low status instances of crime television so it is not the presence of action per se that determines cultural value. It is also – as in the generic sequence of armed entry into a space of violence or suspicion – excessively familiar and to this extent relatively unremarkable.
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