Writing by numbers

Let’s talk about how terribly by-the-numbers BBC’s Death in Paradise is, shall we? It’s not a “fail” per se, more a rant about a decent show that went sour over the last few seasons. It’s a new feature on this site but it’ll still be fun so bear with me.

First things first: one thing that’s really amazing is that the small island of Saint Marie seems to see more murders than most American cities, most of which appear absolutely impossible to solve. Strangely though the police force never grows in numbers even though they should have plenty to do (or isn’t there any other crime on the island?)

The original cast - Image (c) BBC

The original cast – Image (c) BBC

The first two seasons of Death in Paradise were about the same as the later four in terms of general storyline (see below) but they simply offered more for the viewer’s pleasure. A stuck-up, stiff, very British inspector who always wore suits in the caribbean heat and was constantly sweating thanks to that outfit, didn’t like to get wet (on a gorgeous tropical island!) and had severe issues with women. His clashes with the much more laid-back attitude of his colleagues together with his dry wit however was simply very, very funny.

The second inspector - Image (c) BBC

The second inspector – Image (c) BBC

Unfortunately, he got killed at the start of the third season and replaced by the current character who’s exactly the opposite of him – apart from the woman issues. The not-so-new-anymore guy is a bumbling idiot who enjoys wearing casual and occasionally rather colorful outfits, constantly runs into awkward situations with the fairer sex and likes to stumble over his own feet. However, he’s a genius detective who can’t go wrong. The world can be funny sometimes.

With very few exceptions, each episode goes exactly like this:

  • Intro: we are introduced to a group of people. One of them will be found dead before the intro ends. There appears to be some bad vibe between the victim and at least one other person of the group.
  • The crime scene: The police arrives at the scene and they will start their work. It will turn out that there are four to five people – never more than five, certainly never less than four – who had some kind of relationship to the victim. Sometimes it’s work, sometimes romantic, doesn’t matter. All of these people have some kind of rock solid alibi, often provided by each other (which doesn’t make an alibi rock solid, but okay).Of course, none of them wanted the victim any harm, in fact, they loved the victim because reasons. Except for the one guy/gal the victim had some issue with (re: intro), but they won’t say that. Often, the room the body was found in is entirely inaccessible from the outside without being seen. Of course the group of people was together the entire time, no-one left even for a second. The police might find the odd item or two at the crime scene, none of which will make any sense.
  • The police station: the team sets up the murder board, complete with full color mugshots of the entire group (of course, no-one else is even under suspicion). Everyone involved will be named, their background will be stated and so on and so forth. The inspector will assign chores to the team and come to the preliminary conclusion that he has no idea how this crime could have gone down, but it’s pretty clear to him that the killer must be among the group of people.
  • (Optional) The commissioner: depending on how high profile the murder victim was, the commissioner might step in and remind the inspector that he/the mayor/someone else wants this crime solved as soon as possible. This scene is almost always exactly the same to such a degree they could have gone and filmed a dozen of them in advance without anyone even noticing. Of course the inspector agrees to the commissioner’s demands – what else can he do?
  • Reinterviewing the suspects: because the only people who could commit the crime are among the original group of four to five people, the inspector wants to interview them again. At this point, the red herring part of the plot is partially revealed: someone had an issue with the victim, and, after enough pressure, they’ll at least admit to that. However, of course they didn’t want the poor victim dead, they loved him/her!
  • Interlude – some comical elements: usually something revolving around Dwayne and his colleague. Dwanye is always funny so that’s alright. Unfortunately, sometimes the inspector is used as source of entertainment, which sucks because he’s not funny at all, just annoying as hell.
  • The police station, part two: the team comes together before closing time and discusses what has to be discussed. The result is predictable as well: nothing has changed, everyone’s still a suspect, but who was the killer? There also seems to be no motive at all. The inspector is still at a loss, but it’s “late” so let’s close up shop and start over fresh tomorrow, shall we?
  • The next day: usually starts with the post-mortem being completed, usually confirming exactly what we already know (the victim died of something). It’s positively amazing how fast the forensic pathology on the island works; there are never any delays unless the plot demands it (and it rarely ever does).The various background checks are also completed, often enough, either the victim or one of the suspects are flat out broke and one of the others could gain from the death, so there’s motive alright. It usually turns out at least one of the group members lied during questioning, but why? Some photos are shuffled around the murder board.
  • (Optional) The commissioner, again: at this point, if the commissioner made an appearance before, he will show up once more, reminding the inspector of his promise. Doesn’t matter that the investigation barely took a day so far.
  • Interlude – more comical elements: usually something something Dwayne, but in more recent episodes, the “funny” scenes often revolved around the inspector and his inability to talk to women he’s fond of. He’s a moron, we get it. Oh, and sometimes it’s about the commissioner as well, who tends to show up just in time to witness the joke at his expense.
  • The investigation continues: something comes up that wasn’t revealed during the first round of background checks or someone acts suspiciously. However, this doesn’t help in the least, the inspector still has no idea. Until …
  • The last ten minutes: … he suddenly goes into some kind of trance, rambles incoherently while flashback scenes play. He then states he knows who the perpetrator was and how he did it. He assigns the team to retrieve this or that item and get the group of people together for …
  • The final reveal: with everyone in one location, the inspector starts to pull a theory out of thin air. He usually runs down the list of people, asking them if they did it, but since he “knows” the answer already, he doesn’t really bother with any of them until he finally names the killer.Despite the inspector explaining everything in detail, there’s usually no way to understand how the hell he got to the point where he knew who to accuse. In most cases, the killer will defend himself with “there’s no proof for that”. Usually there really isn’t any hard evidence at all, but within seconds, the suspect will crack and admit everything, no matter how far-fetched the theory is the inspector presented.

    Since they admitted to the crime, there’s no real reason for a trial, which would be thrown out anyway with the “proof” the police have. No doubt the suspect will never recant his admission of guild, that’s not how the world works! The suspect is arrested, the end.

    (Optional): There was no murder, it was suicide, but someone from the group was responsible, so they get arrested anyway.

  • (Optional) The commissioner, once more: If the optional scenes occurred, the commissioner will appear one last time and thank the inspector for his great work. The inspector replies that he was just doing his job.
  • But we’re not done yet: often, there’ll be some kind of celebration in Catherine’s bar, the inspector’s house or elsewhere. More recently, this has been skipped/replaced with scenes about the inspector’s inability to talk to women he cares about.

As I said before, this general story outline was used even in the first two seasons, but back then the show at least had genuinely funny moments thanks to the old inspector. The story really doesn’t matter much as long as it’s funny or interesting.

With the current investigator, however, the paint-by-numbers story becomes far too apparent since nothing can really distract from it. Over four seasons, the show runner wasn’t able to improve on the inspector character at all – he’s still the same annoying numpty he was years ago. When the lizard he shares his beach house with becomes one of the more amusing “characters”, it’s time for a total reboot.

Playing video games

SIX recently started on History Channel, and while it’s got decent production values and a good cast incuding Walton Goggins and Barry Sloane, it still looks and feels far too much like they took Call of Duty and made a TV show out of it. Maybe it’s because we Germans simply don’t value our military service personnel as much as we maybe should, but all this heroic brouhaha is a bit annoying. Of course, all these brave, stereotypical soldiers have families and everyone has their own baggage, but it’s all far too shallow and predictable to be of much interest to me. But hey, at least History Channel finally manages to air something else than documentaries about Hitler or UFOs – or Hitler and UFOs – so that’s a start.

Fitting the overall impression of the show being a video game coming to life, the writers also took a page out of the book of reality. Remember when Edward Snowden revealed that terrorists were using multiplayer video games to talk about their evil plans? Well, the SIX scribes thought it would be a cool idea to implement that idea into episode two of their show. Unfortunately, instead of just faking a chat on any given (or fake) MMO, they resorted to … this:

six102-playingvideogames.jpg

Image (c) History Channel

What happens here is as follows: some terrorist dude puts on a wireless headset and talks to another terrorist dude via voice chat in a video game. While they are talking on the voice chat, the exact words appear on the screen as well, as if the game could magically guess what the guys said. It’s pretty clear neither of the terrorists is typing anything, so how does this work? Of course there’s a thing called speech recognition, but why on earth would you bother with stuff like that in a video game, especially one as crappy as the one they use?

So far, so ridiculous, but there’s more! To their merit, they did everything right in the first scene this comes up, which makes their blunder even more damning. In a later scene, one of the operators comes home to find his little son playing Gears of War:

six102-playingactualvideogames

Image (c) History Channel

To wit: two cables running to the TV (power/HDMI), the screen is actually powered on.

six102-playingactualvideogameswithactualcontrollers

Image (c) History Channel

Exhibit 2: the controller is an actual Xbox One controller and – woohoo! – powered on! It’s really hard to see due to the reflection on the glossy surface but in this freeze frame the button is clearly lit. Rosewood set decorators, take note: this is how it’s done!

Or not. Daddy goes to check on his daughter and finds her with a boy. She claims they didn’t do nuthin’ but daddy still finds this behaviour entirely unacceptable and throws the boyfriend out. I wonder what he was doing at that age in his spare time, knitting?

six102-playingdifferentvideogames

Image (c) History Channel

While the boyfriend is escorted out of the house, we pass the TV once more, and all of a sudden there’s an entirely different game to be seen: Sunset Overdrive. And what’s even better, the game is already in progress which is quite a feat given that the player would have to quit Gears of War, find Sunset Overdrive on the console, launch it and start playing, all within about 20 seconds. I highly doubt this is even possible given the sluggish menu of the Xbox One as well as the long load times and endless splash screens most games have.

No, the real reason for this mistake is likely them filming out of sequence again – possibly on different days as well – and not remembering which game they loaded up. Or maybe the kid actor wanted to play something else because Gears of War got boring. You know, kids. They just go and do as they please. More power to them.

Rosilla & Rampant Advertising

Man, I love me some Rosewood! It’s the perfect show to just watch while chilling with fantastic leads with great chemistry and witty banter to boot, all while being totally ridiculous and forgettable. In two words: great fun.

Lately however, the blatant advertising gets more and more in the way of the (still forgettable) script, like in episode 8 of the current second season. As if there weren’t enough ad breaks already, the Rosewood writers made it happen and wrote not one, two or three, but four scenes where Microsoft could peddle their Xbox One game console. That’s all fine with me as long as it is done with some competence, but … well, it’s not. See for yourself.

Oh, and before we start: what’s up with this?

Image (c) FOX

Image (c) FOX

Many – but not all – of the outside shots are incredibly yellow. At times, the show looks like CSI with it’s insanely overdone color correction. I’ve just been to Florida (at the same time where this episode was filmed, by the way) and while there certainly is a lot of sun, the light was never like this.

But, as I said above, it’s not always like that, as another shot from the same episode shows:

Image (c) FOX

Image (c) FOX

Still quite yellow, but the colors look far more natural than in the shot above, showing clearly that someone messed with the colors, and not in a good way. If I want to watch color correction going nuts, I’ll stick to CBS’s shoddy acronym procedurals, thanks.

But I disgress. I wanted to talk about the advertising, right? So here we go. It doesn’t even take 90 seconds for the first Xbox One to appear:

Image (c) FOX

Image (c) FOX

It’s the new Xbox One S model, and it’s turned on. Hooray! The game on display seems to be NBA2K17 which is brand new, although the game’s title is never shown or mentioned which feels a tad odd for an advertisement.

Image (c) FOX

Image (c) FOX

Rosewood is playing, and of course the controller is turned off (the round button in the center isn’t illuminated). Doesn’t bother him as he still manages to shoot a 3 pointer with ease.

About 24 minutes in, the second Xbox One appears – Rosewood bought one for his lab (no, really) for his girlfriend’s kid to play on. The game on display this time? Forza Motorsport 6, which isn’t exactly fresh anymore (Forza Horizon 3 would have been a better choice).

Image (c) FOX

Image (c) FOX

Oh, and that’s not the title screen, that’s just a promo image (color corrected to hell by the way – the car is supposed to be blue, not green). The actual title screen looks like this. And if you look really closely, the Xbox One is clearly turned off – no illuminated button on the right hand side of the console.

Just five minutes later …

Image (c) FOX

Image (c) FOX

Seems they didn’t like Forza 6 too much so they turned to the obvious choice: Gears of War Ultimate Edition. How do I know? Because the box on the table is visible for a split second. At least the console is turned on this time. The kid is playing against (or with?) Pippy in split-screen mode …

Image (c) FOX

Image (c) FOX

… but when Pippy turns away to greet the girl’s mother, the action on the screen continues for both controllers regardless:

Image (c) FOX

Image (c) FOX

Oh, and of course, the controllers aren’t turned on. Again.

Final shot:

Image (c) FOX

Image (c) FOX

Seems about all they do this episode is play their damn Xbox One. Mitchie doesn’t seem to have the slightest idea how to even hold that controller, by the way.

So, what am I complaining about again? To recap:

  • four scenes were shoehorned in to advertise the Xbox One S console
  • of the three games shown, two weren’t mentioned by name
  • the one that was mentioned is ancient by the game industry’s standards
  • one of the games is a third-party release, but in an ironic twist, it was also the most recent game on display

I find it a little odd half-assed that they used the most recent console model only to show next to no new games, especially since Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4 are terrific (oh, and Forza Horizon 3 fully utilizes the new console model’s HDR and 4K technology too!). In an episode aired that close to christmas, it all feels like a criminally squandered opportunity. It’s also all a bit much for a single episode.

Not dead yet!

Nope, not dead yet, although I have nothing new to report at the moment. Instead of watching a ton of terrible TV I finally managed to catch up with The Walking Dead. There are some new shows I am following: Westworld, Timeless, Lethal Weapon – all of them actually don’t suck too much, although Westworld is just dreadfully dull at times. Of course, I also watch the usual suspects like Elementary, but there wasn’t anything fun to find so far.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back as soon as something happens.

Autocorrect is a way of life

While Rush Hour (CBS) occasionally features rather funny writing, it’s main bullet point seems to be the terrible production quality which is on par with the worst NBC shows.  Of course, the show is cheaply made, but some of the more glaring mistakes could have easily been avoided by taking a little extra care (or at least one more look at whatever you’re filming).

This post is about episode 11 in the show’s first (and thanks to early cancellation, last) season. Captain Cole has a date at the LA Concert Hall (also known as Walt Disney Concert Hall), but it doesn’t really go as planned. The guy she dates is a total bore, and for good reason: he’s talking like he wants to advertise something.

Boring date
But it’s not just about looking good. CrossFit is a way of life.

Captain Cole
Huh. Is that a fact?

Boring date
Yeah. Cardio boxing for endurance and tai chi for precision and focus.

Captain Cole
Oh, fantastic.

Fantastic, yeah, considering CrossFit isn’t just a way of life, it’s also a real product, so this dialogue turns out to be actual advertising. And it’s definitely not a coincidence either, since the CrossFit brand is dropped on another CBS show as well – American Gothic (episode 7):

Reporter
So, how married are you exactly?

Allison
Very publicly married with two kids, as you know.

Reporter
And yet you still somehow find the time for… CrossFit, I’m guessing?

No, actually she finds time to fool around with her lesbian lover, but I disgress.

Anyway, of course things go sideways when armed gangsters storm the concert hall and take hostages. Before all that, we get a look at the concert hall’s loading dock where we can spot a very sloppily redressed sign:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Of course it was too expensive to print a new sign instead of just taping over the real phone number. Renting the LA Concert Hall was probably cutting into the budget so much nothing was left to put up a proper sign.

When Cole finds out there’s something going on, she pulls out her gun (on a date? no wonder she’s not dating well!) and her cell and – as luck would have it – she has the LAPD on speed dial:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Unfortunately, her phone doesn’t have service so she can’t actually place the call. She tosses her phone and moves on just to find two guys on the ground along with a purse and another cellphone. After some shooting, she grabs the phone from the ground (why she ditched her own phone in the first place is beyond me) and hides in an unlocked room. Here, she uses the phone she picked up to call the cops, and lo and behold – it has service!

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

What we see is the lock screen of an Android phone (although it looks like it was doctored as there’s no carrier designation in the upper left corner). While there’s definitely a way to call the police or emergency services from the lock screen, I doubt it would show up as “LAPD” just like on her own phone – it just makes no sense, especially after learning later on that the cell belongs to a person who lives in Switzerland. Instead, it would likely say “Emergency Services” or something unspecific like that.

Cole manages to call for help and the cavalry arrives. She’s on the move through the venue, looking for the kidnappers. Suddenly, the phone has no reception any more. Despite being an experienced police woman, she’s standing out in the open where everyone can see her, and that’s exactly what happens: she gets jumped. She manages to knock her attacker unconscious and would be able to go into hiding, but she doesn’t. Instead, she’s kneeling down basically right next to the downed guy and rifles through his duffle bag. Oh well, at least she gets some intel about the kidnappers.

She then sends a short message to Carter’s phone:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Carter (while looking at his phone)
Unknown number.

Carter (reading aloud)
“I’m upstairs. Alone.”

Carter 
Ah, this must be that Latin chick I met at the club last night.

Carter (writing message)
Busy right now. Will hit your sexy ass back later.

Cole
Come on, you worthless piece of…

Carter (reading aloud)
“Carter, you loudmouth jackass.”

Carter
It’s Cole!

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Carter runs to the commander to tell him about this revelation when Cole starts to type another SMS:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

However, thanks to the autocorrect function, the message she actually sends reads:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

That’s not how autocorrect works – she should have seen the wrong words as she was typing the message, and since we could see her screen, it’s clear there was no autocorrect at work here. Not to mention that it’s highly unlikely to get the word “grenade” corrected to “Teddy” and the word “Picture” to “Peanut” – at least the second word is so damn common that it would never be autocorrected even by the worst autocorrect ever. What’s also odd is that the message was supposed to read “Grenades, Picture of … Pickering” yet the word “of” vanished entirely. It’s also noteworthy that her previous SMS didn’t have any issues in that regard despite using words like “jackass” and “loudmouth” which would be equally prone to auto correction.

Of course, Cole gets caught and is used by the kidnappers to communicate their demands to the police outside. The cops send a negotiator to, well, negotiate. As you can see, he’s clearly the only one at the top of the stairs aside from the kidnapper and Cole:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

So why is there someone standing behind him in the reflection?

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Ah, it’s probably nothing (or it’s the steadycam operator, which is more likely).

After much back and forth, the two detectives decide to sneak inside the theater to get to Cole. But the entire building is surrounded by police snipers, so it’s kind of difficult to get inside. Their solution? Dress up like theater guests and just go inside via a stairwell on the back of the venue. I have the feeling police snipers would definitely report two civilians sneaking around the area but maybe the snipers fell asleep, who knows? Even if the snipers knew the detectives played dress-up, they’d still have to report it since order was that nobody gets in or out (especially not Carter and Lee, who have been more or less banned from the area for disobeying orders).

But they do get in via an air duct and quickly stumble upon a kidnapper:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

There’s a clock hanging on the wall. It’s 9:55pm and 20 seconds.

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

After Lee downs the kidnapper, Carter comes out of the air duct and the clock still shows the exact same time – in fact, the seconds don’t move at all during the entire scene. The clock is obviously out of batteries in order to make preserving continuity easier, but since it’s so clearly visible, the effect this achieves is exactly the opposite. The timeline fits, though, as we can see on Carter’s cellphone:

Image (c) CBS

Image (c) CBS

Ah well. Shouldn’t expect too much from these movie adaptations, should you? These mistakes aren’t exactly shocking, but they really show the creators aren’t exactly commited to excellence either.

The tyrant’s choice

I’m not sure why Tyrant is still a thing. The show runs in circles for a while now, even though several key characters have (possibly) died over the last few episodes alone, and there seems to be no real development in terms of character building or story. It’s astounding how the same people could create shows like Hatufim or Homeland and then produce such garbage without ever thinking “no, wait, this ist just awful”.

I spotted this little curiosity in episode 4 of the current third season. As you might have imagined even without watching the show (and trust me, you aren’t missing much!), it’s about the ruling family of fictional Arabic country Abbuddin. Of course, this family lives in a palace, and when it comes to the interior design, there’s nothing cheap here:

Image (c) FX

Image (c) FX

Image (c) FX

Image (c) FX

Image (c) FX

Image (c) FX

Yeah, it’s just as one would expect: expensive carpets, heavy furniture, tasteful interior design all around the palace. You know, these guys don’t just shop their furniture at IKEA!

Image (c) FX

Image (c) FX

Hey, wait a second! That thing feels quite out of place here .. I wonder …

Image (c) IKEA

Image (c) IKEA

Yep, exactly: that’s DOKUMENT, a waste paper basket I happen to own myself.

At just $4.99 (or $3.99 for IKEA Family members) this basket is the obvious choice for every home, no matter if it’s just a single room appartment or a 300 room palace!

Jump in

Despite all the bad press about 50 Cent being broke, his personal TV show Power still goes on. Season 3 has finally started and it seems they managed to secure a little marketing deal. It’s probably for the best since executive producer 50 Cent isn’t going to provide much more than his namesake’s worth of currency if the rumors are true.

In episode 2, James St. Patrick’s kids have a sleepover at Angela’s place, and what’s better to calm a juvenile than video games? That’s right! Angela has got the technology all set up and also provides the game of choice:

Angela
Hey, Tariq, I got you your favorite video game.
You can play it now if you want.
Everything’s set up, I think.

Image (c) Starz

Image (c) Starz

Killer-Instinct-Xbox-One-Box-ArtIt’s only visible for a few frames but that’s a Killer Instinct box – exactly the one pictured on the left, by the way, so the Day One edition. If you look closely, it’s already unwrapped, so maybe she got it used? I don’t know.

Tariq couldn’t possibly be more excited about that gift:

 

Image (c) Starz

Image (c) Starz

He really doesn’t look like he has seen the game ever before because that’s not a look you have on your face if you’re excited about something you love. It’s more the look you have on your face if you’re not sure what the fuck is this thing in my hand but hey, that might just be me (if you give me my favourite video game, I sure as hell wouldn’t read the box because I already know it).

The kid objects:

Tariq
That TV’s way too small.
My mom got a big screen at home.

That’s right, folks! Microsoft wants you to know Xbox One plays best on a BIG SCREEN TV!

Fortunately, before any more discussion about the viability of smaller TVs can ensue, the Xbox boots up – presumably without the game disc inside because we never see the box leave Tariq’s hands – with its (likely) trademark sound. Father and son can Jump in!

Image (c) Starz

Image (c) Starz

It’s (almost) all good – the console is clearly an Xbox One. It’s turned on (wow!). The controllers are not PlayStation or Wii controllers for once (woo!). They aren’t turned on (boo!) but at least the game is indeed Killer Instinct (hooray!). So what am I complaining about?

Oh, just that the Xbox One doesn’t exactly boot up that fast, let alone start a game that’s not installed (which can be assumed since Angela is fishing the game box out of her purse). Even considering the game was already installed, the console would take way longer to jump into action than one second. Sure, the Xbox One has a standby mode, but then you won’t get the boot sound, it just wakes up from hibernation. But of course, since the entire scene is obviously paid for by Microsoft, we can’t possibly wait the entire minute the damn thing usually takes to boot …