revised_tv_crime_article_jan_2016_002_.doc

Yet in thinking about the development and textual

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Yet in thinking about the development and textual characteristics of such an extensive entity as crime television it is also productive – vital even - to consider connections and patterns. This is in part my aim in coupling action crime and forensic crime television in this essay, to elaborate a particular instance of the genre through the interplay of these modes and to consider the implications for approaches to television genre. 8 My entry point for doing so is CBS staple NCIS , a long-running military cop show with strong action and forensic crime elements. I also refer to The Blacklist , NBC’s FBI-based investigative series which incorporates violent crime, data-driven operations and frequent scenes of action. Action as a Mode of Crime Television – Historical and Formal Perspectives Crime genres share a concern with the subject matter of crime, its enactment, effects and – typically – its containment. If crime has been persistently understood as a sort of content, framed as meaningful in relation to social perspectives on violence, policing and law, the absence of defining types of content goes some way to explaining the relative lack of attention paid within critical writings to action television. Rather than suggesting particular elements of content, action offers a way of presenting material - a mode which emphasises urgency and movement. Exploring action-oriented crime television in this article thus provides an opportunity not only to look at a neglected aspect of crime drama but also to open up some of these wider generic questions. There are two distinct dimensions of my approach to the interface of crime and action television. The first is historical, involving an insistence that action has long been a feature of television crime programming. The second is broadly aesthetic, involving an attempt to consider the specificity of action/crime television. Needless to say, the two are not 3
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unconnected so that thinking about the historical development of what can be termed action- oriented crime television, or, more simply action/crime, in turn helps an exploration of the particular formal strategies currently employed within this mode of crime television. In the process the argument also aims to gives greater attention to action television as a category. Indeed in their account of the production context for action television Bill Osgerby and Anna Gough-Yates point to a process whereby crime shows such as The Untouchables (1959-63) displaced the earlier prominence of the Western (2001,16). Most obviously this is the case in the action sequences that feature so routinely in the genre, from pursuit on foot or in vehicles to scenes of physical combat and confrontation, gunplay and explosions. To shift briefly to a different medium and historical frame, within early cinema the chase film emerged with and through the development of montage, in the process elaborating a distinctive form of action narrative in which cross-cutting is exploited as a formal strategy for conveying accelerating tension. Crime is the chase film’s characteristic pretext.
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