Pauseandblog: Perception

SC_004I’ve been watching a TV show called perception, which in many ways is just another in the long line of buddy cop shows that have come along in the past three years. You’ve no doubt seen at least one odd pairing of police, FBI or CSI and their helpful, off the books consultant.  Although Monk and Castle and The Mentalist may be among the most famous, both cable and network TV have been pairing odd experts with law officials to solve crimes for years.

Having both expert and novice work together in TV land gives them a reason to have to explain the stuff we might not understand otherwise.

On Bravo’s Perception, the expert helping the FBI is an Ivy League professor of psychology, but also a schizophrenic, and the delusions and voices he hears, usually help him solve the case. It’s an odd three way dynamic with an imaginary muse.

In this series, there is almost always an opening scene or two where the good doctor is in class teaching a lesson, coincidentally similar to the case he’s consulting on, or about to be.

The premise reminds me of how the sitcom Seinfeld originally opened and ended with Jerry doing his stand up routine at the top of the show and an extra punchline at the end, which were supposed to indicate to us, the answer to that age-old question every comic writer gets; “where do you get your material?”

I enjoy these sequences on Perception because it’s a field I’m fascinated with; the brain. His mini classroom lessons are actually educational. In today’s lecture, he begins by asking a student; “What have you done with your hair?”. He continues; ” It doesn’t matter how your day is going, often all it takes is one off hand comment to ruin it.”

This is so true, and one of the qualities I’m working on in my life.  Joy can be crushed so easily by another, with simple words, often not even intentionally. A question can begin a doubt loop that breaks your confidence and exposes it as a lie. I have this problem, and I also have been known to ask the kinds of questions that cause this grief in others.

Of course, it is almost always just in our head, and reframing can dissolve the negative thoughts. It just takes practice.

The next phrase he utters is what made me pause the TV and blog. “That’s because our brains are hard wired to remember the negative interactions better than the positive…”

Can this be true? I had to un-pause, and re-play the scene just a bit more to learn. The rest of the clip got more technical as he talks about unhappiness being a choice. This hits home with me, and my own personal writings and theories have been saying this.  I didn’t realize it was chemically and instinctively an uphill battle. I just though it was me.

In some ways, having physiology to blame means it’s not my fault.

Thank you Perception. Your scene may have changed my life.

Jeff Goebel
Mental Icarus


Pauseandblog: The Dead Body Reveal

TV inspires me to pause and blog often. I used to enjoy watching TV with someone, so we could pause and chat, but now that I live alone this is my compromise. I share with my blog.

Today I watched the opening pre-title scene of a recent NCIS episode.

(Yes, maybe that makes me old, if you believe the online chatter than NCIS is this generations’ Murder She Wrote, watched only by seniors.)

I’ve been a fan of the ensemble characters since season 1, but this blog he nothing to do with the show. It’s more about the genre of the DB reveal.

Far too many shows on TV these days open the show by revealing a dead body. Almost every show in the late prime time television spot opens almost every episode by revealing a dead body, for which the characters then have an hour or two at most to solve.

These opening sequences have a wide variety, and most frequently the scene has nothing to do with the rest of the show. It stands alone, as one or two random people, living their everyday unrelated lives, just happen apon, dig up, witness or otherwise discover a dead body somewhere. As actors, they get the privilege of a speaking role credit, despite having less than a minute on screen time. It’s a great first role for anyone.

My mind likes to think of the off camera work behind the scenes and I’ve often wondered about these opening reveal scenes. Most shows mix it up and have at least one or two episodes a season without an opening dead body reveal, but for the most part it is a murder show staple. I use the term “murder show”,  while others probably consider softer wording, like crime drama, cop show or detective show procedural. The commonality is that they’re all solving murders in one way or another.  Prime time has a lot of death. Everyone is killing everyone.

The massive demand for random and unrelated body reveal scenes must be difficult to keep writing, week after week, show after show. I ponder; do directors and writers buy and sell those scene scripts separate from the show? It seems like a perfect opportunity to separate the entire scene from the rest of the production. An amazing opportunity to give guest directors a chance, or pay back favours by casting your brothers daughter. Whenever I see a fresh new face in a DB reveal opener, I wonder if it was a gift role. I wonder if some writer wrote that reveal and sold it. I wonder a lot of things.

For writers, I have to believe they would welcome creative ideas for this part. It’s totally less important than the show plot, and could easily be farmed out or even freelance purchased.

I think it might even be a neat marketing ploy during sweeps week to have a more famous name director do the opening reveal scenes, perhaps for a whole evening or week of reveals, or maybe theme them in stunt casting and shared scenarios.

Can you imagine Tom Hanks being directed by Woody Allen discovering a teenager who was pushed in front of a train on next week’s episode of NCIS.

I probably should have come up with more youthful examples to try to regain my stance that I am not a senior citizen. Oh well.

In the preview I watched tonight that inspired all this, I saw a distracted man texting while driving, drive over his dead body before the credit roll. A meaningful public service announcement built into the DB reveal. That’s great. They’re finding a way to make them less useless. A DB reveal that teaches us about life.

I wonder if the driver of the car was somebody’s nephew.

Jeff Goebel