Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Studying the Behaviors of the Criminally Inclined

The new television season has arrived!  Many of our favorite programs have returned, so Amber West and I decided to share a few more Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews to check out two additional CBS hit series – The Good Wife and Criminal Minds

First up – Criminal Minds

Criminal Minds follows a team of highly trained FBI agents who profile criminal behaviors for the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU).   There are tons of police procedural programs on TV today, but none like this. 

The BAU team’s home base is at the famous Quantico, Virginia location; however, they travel around the United States once a city’s local authorities request their presence at the scene of a crime.  The unit studies the unsubs, or unidentified suspects, instead of the crime itself.    

The team is led by Unit Chief Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner (Thomas Gibson, Darma & Greg).   Hotch’s dedication to his job cost him his marriage.  After his ex-wife Haley (played by Meredith Monroe) was murdered by serial killer “The Reaper” (C. Thomas Howell), Hotch gained custody of his son, Jack. Hotch attempts to make amends by being the best father he possibly can; he even coaches the little guy’s soccer team. 

Due to the graphic nature of his job, Hotch rarely smiles and carries the weight of the world on his shoulders; but, despite the difficulty, he will do everything in his power to protect his team.      

Next in line is Senior Supervisory Special Agent Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore, The Young and the Restless).  Excelling at his job, Morgan has been named Acting Unit Chief when Hotch is out.  He was in line to be the next Unit Chief of the New York field office, but he declined the position.   He is strong and fast, and is by far the most physical on the BAU team (he’s pretty to look at too). 

Morgan had a difficult childhood: he witnessed his father’s murder and he was sexually abused by the local boys’ club caretaker.  As an adult, Morgan was framed for murdering a few of his hometown’s local boys, but was later proven innocent by his team.   

Also serving the BAU as a Senior Supervisory Special Agent is David Rossi, played by Joe Mantegna (Joan of Arcadia).  Rossi is credited as one of the founding members of the BAU, but he retired to write books and lecture on criminal analysis.  He returned to the team after Gideon’s untimely departure (see below), and seized the opportunity to solve a cold case that had haunted him for decades. 

Rossi has been married and divorced multiple times, and often jokes that divorce lawyers are the only people in his personal life that he can make happy.            

Special Agent Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster, Friends – remember Kathy?  She dated Joey and Chandler….) joined the team after Elle walked away (see below).  Early on, Prentiss felt she had something to prove being that Hotch and Gideon suspected her mother’s position as a U.S. Ambassador had something to do with her joining the BAU team. 

Prentiss served Interpol for years, where she worked undercover hunting international arms dealer, Ian Doyle.  This past year, Doyle killed her Interpol colleagues one-by-one, blaming them for the death of his only son.  Doyle finally found Emily, hunted her, and killed her.  Or did he? 

Special Agent Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler, Alvin and the Chipmunks motion picture franchise) is probably my favorite member of the team.  Reid is a genius; he graduated high school before he was a teenager; he has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology; he has a Ph.D in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Engineering; and he has an insanely high IQ – all courtesy of his eidetic memory.  Reid reads faster than anyone on the planet (he scans the page with his finger and remembers it verbatim), he remembers everything he sees, but he struggles with certain things that he hears. 

Reid suffers from inexplicable headaches and fears that he has inherited his mother’s schizophrenia.  He is not as physically fit as the rest of his team, which probably led to his being held hostage twice (once by a character portrayal by Luke Perry and another time by James Van Der Beek).     

Special Agent Jenifer “JJ” Jareau, (AJ Cook, Tru Calling) also serves the team as the media liaison.  JJ joined the FBI after attending one of Rossi’s lectures, and she is the only non-profiler on the team.  Because she isn’t a profiler, JJ has a hard time understanding how people can commit such horrible crimes, but she remains professional and battles through each case. 

JJ recently returned to the team after she was forced to take a position at the Pentagon.  Besides Hotch, JJ is the only BAU team member with a child.   

Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia, played by Kirsten Vangsness, serves the team from Quantico.  Garcia joined the team after the FBI caught her hacking into their systems.  Rarely does she accompany the team to crime scenes; instead, she prefers to stay locked inside her computer lair wearing bright eye shadows and lipsticks while  frantically surfing the internet and databases for information to assist the team. 

Garcia is one of the only BAU team members to have an actual romantic relationship (fellow FBI analyst, Kevin Lynch, played by Nicholas Brendon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).   

The BAU team has suffered its share of casualites over the years.  Previous team members include: Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin, Chicago Hope) silently walked away without telling anyone after his former girlfriend was murdered by a serial killer; Elle Greenaway (Lola Glaudini, The Sopranos) left the team after she was shot following an undercover assignment; and Ashley Seaver (Rachel Nichols, Alias) was transferred out to another department, explained by Strauss downsizing the BAU team. 

Recurring characters include: Reid’s schizophrenic mother, Diana Reid (Jane Lynch, Glee); former New Orleans police liaison and father of JJ’s son, William “Will” LaMontagne (Josh Stewart, No Ordinary Family); and  BAU Unit Direct Supervisor, Erin Strauss (Jayne Atkinson, 24).    

The Criminal Minds franchise took an unfavorable dip last year with the one-season-and-done spinoff, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior starring Forest Whitaker and Janeane Garofalo.  I have to admit that the story improved as the season moved forward, and unfortunately it ended with a cliff hanger.  Maybe the Criminal Minds team will do another cross over episode and close out that story line for us?

Regardless, the original remains strong airing new episodes every Wednesday night on CBS and in syndication on A&E and ION.  At almost any given time, one can find an episode of Criminal Minds to enjoy. 

As if my love for the characters isn’t evident by the length of my post, I must give Criminal Minds a GTV rating: it has everything we want and more, especially for this fiction writer.  Criminal Minds is an excellent source of research for understanding a potential protagonist’s actions in murder mysteries.  That’s my excuse for watching so much of it, anyway.  Yes, I’m going to keep telling myself that…     

What do you think? Have you watched Criminal Minds?  Who’s your favorite BAU team member? Were you disappointed with the cancellation of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and check out her review of The Good Wife.  Amber was very adamant during the Tambery Awards production that Julianna Margulies win best actress – and she did!  Congrats, Julianna. 

Come back next week when Amber and I click over to NBC and review two of the channel’s hit programs – Harry’s Law and Law & Order: SVU.

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.  We’re currently working on our September schedule and would love to chat with you!

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (Nyquil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech

Tele-Tuesday – Down Memory Lane: 1996

The 1990s – A Decade known for the massive growth and popularity of the Internet, gaming, and cell phones, also saw tumultuous times including The Gulf War and the Oklahoma City bombing, which created two of the most hated men in U.S. history – Saddam Hussein and Timothy McVeigh.

In the ’90s, the world also experienced perhaps one of the most popular scandals involving United States President Bill Clinton and White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

The ‘90s generation watched as music and television took over the fashion world with women flocking to the salons for the “Rachel” cut, while the men raced to the barber asking for the sideburns of Jason Priestly and Luke Perry.  One of our favorite must-have items of the decade were the plaid and flannel shirts we all purchased by the dozen.

Top entertainers in the ‘90s included: the television ensemble casts of Friends, Seinfeld, Beverly Hills, 90210, ER; the popular grunge bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam; the pop-rock acts such as the Spice Girls; and other musicians like The Offspring, Green Day, and No Doubt.

Movie theaters saw great blockbuster success with the films Titanic, Dances with Wolves, The Silence of the Lambs (an upcoming Boo Factor installment), Home Alone, Pulp Fiction, The Matrix, Independence Day, The Lion King, and Pretty Woman.

Now, let’s shift specifically to 1996. What do I remember about that year?

The city of Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, and amidst all of the swimming, gymnastics, and track and field, Eric Robert Rudolph killed two people and injured over a hundred more when he attacked Centennial Olympic Park with homemade pipe bombs filled with shrapnel.

Despite the tragedy in Atlanta, the United States won 44 gold medals, with a grand total of 101 medals – more than any other country.

What else?  Television programs, of course!

Today, let’s take a look back at some of the great crime dramas of 1996.

Nash Bridges (1996-2001)

Nash Bridges follows two of San Francisco’s elite investigators:  Nash Bridges (Don Johnson) and Joe Dominguez (Cheech Marin).   Bridges has a photographic memory, and battles the difficulties of living with his aging father (James Gammon) and daughter (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe).   As far as the police work, Nash and Dominguez team with Harvey Leek, a Grateful Dead fan (known as a “Dead-Head), and  Evan Cortez, Nash’s daughter’s eventual fiancé.

A Don Johnson television show wouldn’t be complete without his character driving a super-charged sports car, and of course, Nash drove a 1971 Barracuda convertible.

Fun Fact: Johnson’s Miami Vice co-star, Philip Michael Thomas, and Marin’s cinematic co-star, Tommy Chong, guest-starred in a 1997 episode, “Wild Card.”

NYPD Blue (1993-2005)

NYPD Blue aired over a decade on television, a feat that’s rarely accomplished anymore.  Perhaps the series lasted because of the story-telling, or perhaps it was because of the fabulous characters.  I’m going with characters.

Who will ever forget New York City Detective Andy Sipowicz, played by the great Dennis Franz?  Sipowicz may have been plagued by the interchanging partners throughout the seasons (John Kelly played by David Caruso, Bobby Simone played by Jimmy Smits, Danny Sorenson played by Rick Schroder, and John Clark, Jr. played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar), but audiences still tuned in on a weekly basis because they loved Andy and his relationships, something that was very difficult for him.

Sipowicz managed to be one of the most intense detectives on the squad, maybe even in television history, while also raising his young son alone following his wife’s death.

Over the years, the precinct consisted of other fine detectives and district attorneys played by Gordon Clapp, Amy Brenneman, Nicholas Turturro, Garcelle Beauvais, Henry Simmons, Charlotte Ross, James McDaniel, Currie Graham, Esai Morales, and Dana Delaney to name a few.  Undoubtedly, after more than ten years on the tele, NYPD Blue survived because of its spectacular ensemble cast with Dennis Franz taking the lead.

Law & Order (1990-2010)

“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”

Sound familiar? Television viewers heard this narration by Steven Zirnkilton for twenty years on NBC during the opening credits of Law & Order.

Reigning as television royalty for two decades, Law & Order ranks as one of the best police procedural and legal dramas in television history.  The series, now turned into a franchise, has spawned four spinoffs: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, and Law & Order: LA.

The format of Law & Order focused the first thirty minutes of the hour-long program on the detectives solving the crime, and the final thirty minutes on the district attorneys taking their case to court.  Many television and big screen greats have called Law & Order their home at one time or another, including Chris Noth, Richard Brooks, Jerry Orbach, S. Epatha Merkerson, Benjamin Bratt, Jill Hennessy, Sam Waterston, Jesse L. Martin, Angie Harmon, Dianne Wiest, Fred Thompson, Jeremy Sisto, Dennis Farina, and Anthony Anderson.

Abruptly cancelled in 2010, the Law & Order fans can only hope that some network out there in the television universe will one day grant the closure the dedicated fans deserve, with maybe a two-hour made for television movie?

Profiler (1996-2000)

Perhaps the success of Profiler was due to the fact that Dr. Samantha Waters (Ally Walker) was one of the first forensic psychologists on network television.  Up to this point, viewers met a ton of cops, detectives, and private investigators on their favorite TV shows, but Profiler introduced a team of FBI agents that focused on criminal behaviors to find their suspects.

Samantha is haunted throughout the series by “Jack of all Trades”, the serial killer who took the life of her husband.  Her team consists of a detective (Julian McMahon), a computer hacker (Peter Frechette), and a forensic pathologist (Roma Maffia), and is led by Sam’s longtime friend and mentor (played by the great, Robert Davi).

Ally Walker’s character eventually retired, and Jamie Luner joined the cast as a new forensic psychologist in the fourth and final season of the show.

Fun Fact Trivia – What television hit did Julian McMahon and Roma Maffia star in, together again, from 2003-2010?

What do you remember from the 1990s – the politics, the entertainment, or the technology?  What are some of your favorite crime shows from the ‘90s? Did you enjoy any of these 1996 television series? I’d love to hear from you!

Stop by #teletuesday in Twitter so we can chat about these shows and many more!

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