Friday, October 21, 2011

At any price?

There are a few TV shows I don't miss - my favourite right now is probably The Big Bang Theory, which is unusual for me because I don't normally go for sitcoms. But this one is just so funny. I used to love House but it's getting repetitive. Incidentally, both shows provide evidence for my theory that overtly atheistic characters on TV must be portrayed as either grumpy old men or weirdo nerds (viz. BeckerBones, Dexter)*. (Futuristic shows are the exception, where religion seems to fall by the wayside on a regular basis.)

One show I tried to watch was The Mentalist. It's about a guy who once earned a living by using his keen sense of observation to pose as a fake psychic, but now uses it to help solve crimes. (This premise has been copied a few times since, e.g. Lie to Me and Unforgettable, and is itself a rip-off of the awesome show Psych, which makes the occasional hilarious meta-reference to The Mentalist.)

From what little I saw of the show, I gather the main character Patrick Jane (Aussie Simon Baker) is another atheist. He's not a nerd, and certainly not a grumpy old man, but he is an eccentric weirdo. This is probably because his wife and child were murdered by a serial killer. And that's why I couldn't stick with the show, despite being in agreement with Jane over the redundancy of the term "fake psychic". But Jane's background is just too much. As a viewer I can't recover from it. I can't watch a character with that sort of torment in his past. I think it's because in this story, the hero can never win.

Anyway, in an early episode I remember he came up against a "psychic" who held seances to contact the dead. At the end of the show, she gently tells Jane that she's talked to his dead wife, who told her his daughter was never scared during the double murder, that she never woke up. I waited for Jane to tell the woman to shove it. Instead, he listened stony-faced and cried when she left the room.

Such a cop-out.

Today I happened to catch a more recent episode and I'm sorry to say the cop-outs continue. A woman consulted Jane ten years ago when she was trying to conceive. He used his "gift" to tell her she would have a son called Connor and it came true - she believes in his powers even when he confesses ten years later. She does finally accept that it was all a trick. He says (from memory), "Sorry about deceiving you." Instead of replying, "Yeah, well, I was eager to believe", she says "Oh, but you gave me hope!"

To rub salt in the wound, after Jane points out to his cop partner that he didn't give her hope, he sold her hope, the cop says "I think hope is worth it at any price."

How nice it would've been to hear Jane retort, "I think truth is worth it at any price."

Oh well. The episode guest-starred Kelli Williams, who I've liked ever since seeing her on Earth 2.

*I've now found two examples of young, attractive TV atheists:
Dr Cameron from House (but she's kind of nerdy)
Britta from Community  (but she's kind of not always likable)

1 comment:

MCPlanck said...

You forgot Daniel and Sam on "Stargate." Daniel was portrayed as an egg-head and openly atheist; but Sam was the perfect woman. True, her atheism was never directly expressed, but there were a couple of classic scenes where people talked about religion and she gave them a blank stare.

Mainstream network TV always, always has the cop-out - they even did it on Becker. Their goal is to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and that means never telling the audience they're wrong. About anything.