Expunge cleverness

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eyeb...@interpath.com

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Jan 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM1/6/96
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I felt cheated by the Hangman theme in the first half of the Sniper
episode. Very few killers, serial or otherwise, go about doing their
thing with elaborate ritual that inevitably leads to their capture by a
cop engaged more in crossword puzzle solving mentation than real detection
of human foible. This is an Agatha Christie sort of thing that has no
place in a show like H:LOTS. Innumerable movies and bad books are at
fault here.

And, it wasn't even clever. It seemed wholly arbitrary, spelling
Baltimore backwards and all. There was no window into the mind of the
shooter to give us any kind of hint as to why he was so obsessed with the
game in the first place (unlike the guy earlier who was obsessed with
pens). It seemed like a script-writer's copout and better suited to
"Magnum, PI" or something.

Cleverness is easy, when you're in a rush. Solid, organic depiction of
real human motive is hard. But we *expect* hard.

The second shooter glimpsed at the end of the episode indicates that part
2 may be better. I assume this person is a copycat, with the motive of
self-glorification. If this new shooter starts playing Hangman (which he
or she couldn't have known about), or if it turns out this was the "real"
shooter all along and that the suicided father was all a big coincidence,
I'll snipe my TV.

However, that said, there was a lot of what makes H:LOTS H:LOTS here.
Ignore the dumb redball crime. Howard is believably settling into a
position of authority and her interaction with Meldrick beautifully
indicates how both characters are adjusting, and not easily. Both actors
are demonstrating great nuance and command of some subtly written
material, and letting their characters slowly change as time passes.

Russert's clash with authority and possible downfall is bringing her
character to life. It will be intriguing to see if she falls far enough
to end up under Kay's authority. There is great potential in prickly
relationshipping between thse two.

Bayliss/Secor is being handed one stunning scene after another and is
rising to the occasion. His soul-searching is clouded by his back
medication, and being the focus of the case screws him up further. He's
walking a thin edge and both actor and writers are being very careful with
him.

In a show with very little Andre to speak of, the emphasis on Kay, Russert
& Bayliss demonstrates (as if it needed to be) that this show is by no
means a vehicle for Andre's considerable talents. It is one of the few
true ensembles on TV today.

FYI, I have a crappy news reader and may not see the reactions of others,
or reactions to myself (if any) for quite a while. As I write, Jan. 6, I
am only now glimpsing a lot of great stuff posted on Dec. 30! So if I
seem to ignore or restate obvious stuff by others, it ain't my fault! I
probably won't see a lot of your stuff for another week to ten days.

eyebrown
a snail on the info highway

Henry Walter Nunes

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Jan 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM1/7/96
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eyeb...@interpath.com wrote:

: And, it wasn't even clever. It seemed wholly arbitrary, spelling


: Baltimore backwards and all. There was no window into the mind of the
: shooter to give us any kind of hint as to why he was so obsessed with the
: game in the first place (unlike the guy earlier who was obsessed with
: pens). It seemed like a script-writer's copout and better suited to
: "Magnum, PI" or something.

: Cleverness is easy, when you're in a rush. Solid, organic depiction of
: real human motive is hard. But we *expect* hard.

Well, when thinking about the show this way, remember what G told
Kellerman earlier this season: don't get bogged down on "why" someone
would kill another.

Looking at the clues here, it's clear that the guy (as Kellerman would
put it) was nuts. For some reason he was infatuated by a game.
According to his wife, it clearly caused him enough stress that it
interupted some of his basic functions (eating, drinking). From his
wife, it's clear that at one time he had a substance abuse problem,
maybe he graduated from alcohol to something stronger. That's all we
know, and that's all the cops needed to know to catch him.

And of course, if he is under all this stress because he's bad at
Wheel Of Fortune, good at guns, then to relieve the stress he does
what he's been trianed to do, take out people at 500 yards. As
Bayliss took so much time to explain, shooting is a very relaxing
activity.

So, all the game of Hangman does is throw the detectives off the case.
They spent so much time trying to match letters to victems and places
and investigate every hangman game on every playground that they just
ran in circles. What cracked the case was good old detective work:
analyze the chalk, get receipts for the chalk, analyze the
handwriting.

: The second shooter glimpsed at the end of the episode indicates that part


: 2 may be better. I assume this person is a copycat, with the motive of
: self-glorification.

I think the guy's a copycat, too. The only thing that points to the
guy maybe being in the game is that it looks as if he takes his shots
at around 8:00AM, the next scheduled shooting. Also, he seems to be a
pretty crack shot, too. But besides that, nothing seems to fit. He
didn't play hangman before shooting (I don't think the role the game
played in the investigation was made public). While the first guy was
using an H&K set that costs a couple thousand, the second guy was
using some carbine/hunting rifle with a value of a couple
hundred... the scope costs more than the rifle. The second guy was
dressed much younger, with Nikes and a hooded sweater. And he seemed
real calm before shooting as he just glided up the stairs. If this is
a copy cat, it will be real hard to solve this one... good thing
Bayliss isn't near a Homicide Dept. phone.


hwn.

eyeb...@interpath.com

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Jan 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM1/7/96
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low...@aol.com said:

>First of all, please don't degrade "Magnum P.I." by including it in with
>your discussion of this particular episode of H:LOTS. At least Magnum
>P.I. knew exactly what it was when it was on and did its job for its
>target audience very well. Clearly, Magnum P.I. was not a drama of the
>normal caliber of H:LOTS.

I wasn't really degrading M:PI as such, just using it as an example. I do
truly appreciate clever mystery plots. I just don't think they belong on
H:LOTS. I can enjoy a classic Connery Bond flick, and also enjoy a Le
Carre novel with different parts of my mind. But I'd be upset if Le Carre
utilized a cartoony Bond riff, and equally upset if the Bond movie veered
into moral ambiquities that detracted from the gee-whiz of the fantasy.

>This episode just sucked. I'm sorry, there is no other word for it.
>Magnum never let us down, because it never gave us any expectations, just
>entertainment. This H:LOTS just let me down.

Well, as I said, I only partially agree. The story sucked, but I still
think that much of the activity around the edges was great.

>Second, Russert's performance as a Capt. and actress is dismal. She is
>clearly the most boring uninteresting character on the set.

This is, IMO, not the fault of the actrees but the fault of the writers.
Her looming downfall indicates that this is changing. I believe that her
controlled confusion and fury when informed of her eminent demotion was
some pretty good acting and a nice taste of what (I hope) the future has
in store for her.

>Third, I was disturbed by Bayliss popping the "muscle relaxents" as if
>they were candy. But what is even more disturbing was Munch drooling over
>the remainder and refill potential. He practically talked Bayliss out of
>the prescription just so he could go "relax". His line "Noone shares
>their drugs anymore", please. Bayliss just gives them up to him.
>Shouldn't the message be that you shouldn't take others prescriptions.
>This exchange would have been fine on a normal show with normal people,
>but this is H:LOTS and police officers. There was just too much to laugh
>at here.

So they're human beings. The very things they said and did that upset you
were the things that most impressed me. It's a courageous act to allow
these characters (on a prime-time TV show, no less!) to exhibit these
sorts of human frailties. It would be too easy to make them competent
supercops, and every mention of a drug be structured to deliver a
"message." If Munch later on has a bad experience with Bayliss's pill
bottle, then the message is not only implicit but more vivid than any
amount of stern moralizing. Besides, Munch, from day one, has had an
ambivalent attitude toward drugs. He had a pretty rowdy time in the 60s
(remember the episode with the photo exhibit that included a nude Munch?),
and his current attitude has elements of nostalgia and regret for lost
youth--the verty line that bothered you spoke volumes about this point.
It's much more than a simple desire to get high.

As for Bayliss, have you ever spent a long period of time in heavy pain?
I have. I sympathize with his love/hate for his pills big time. I, too,
found that the pill bottle became the center of my existence after a
while, and it was an act of will to not take one. Not due to addiction,
but due to desire for the pain to go away. Perhaps you are an Iron Man
who thinks everyone should simply buck up and take it. Maybe that's the
"right" way to think. But as one who appreciates good drama, I enjoy the
characters' weaknesses more than their strengths.

>Fourth, this episode was just hurried. It reminded me of what I dislike
>about much of T.V., the neccesity to "wrap up" the episode in the alloted
>time; minus time allotments for commercials of course. We wouldn't want
>Russert to miss her daughter's recital just to help solve a menial sniper
>murderer loose in the city.

I aboslutely agree with you on this point. They should have junked the
second shooter and the hangman game and spread out all that we saw over
two episodes.

>By the way ... "One sided epiphets" .... there was plenty of realism here
>in the handling of the case once white people were killed.

Sure was, and I thought the show did a nice job of pointing out the racial
inequity without making a big deal out of it. A couple of barbed comments
from Meldrick.

eyebrown

Lowejim

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Jan 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM1/7/96
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First of all, please don't degrade "Magnum P.I." by including it in with
your discussion of this particular episode of H:LOTS. At least Magnum
P.I. knew exactly what it was when it was on and did its job for its
target audience very well. Clearly, Magnum P.I. was not a drama of the
normal caliber of H:LOTS.

This episode just sucked. I'm sorry, there is no other word for it.

Magnum never let us down, because it never gave us any expectations, just
entertainment. This H:LOTS just let me down.

Second, Russert's performance as a Capt. and actress is dismal. She is
clearly the most boring uninteresting character on the set. All of her
performances just leave me waiting for them to be over to get on to
something interesting.

Third, I was disturbed by Bayliss popping the "muscle relaxents" as if
they were candy. But what is even more disturbing was Munch drooling over
the remainder and refill potential. He practically talked Bayliss out of
the prescription just so he could go "relax". His line "Noone shares
their drugs anymore", please. Bayliss just gives them up to him.
Shouldn't the message be that you shouldn't take others prescriptions.
This exchange would have been fine on a normal show with normal people,
but this is H:LOTS and police officers. There was just too much to laugh
at here.

Fourth, this episode was just hurried. It reminded me of what I dislike


about much of T.V., the neccesity to "wrap up" the episode in the alloted
time; minus time allotments for commercials of course. We wouldn't want
Russert to miss her daughter's recital just to help solve a menial sniper
murderer loose in the city.

Finally, I won't even go into the final scenes of Bayliss, by this time
hopped up on relaxents, Russert, that bad man commisioner, and the rest of
the ho hum dribble.

By the way ... "One sided epiphets" .... there was plenty of realism here
in the handling of the case once white people were killed.

Dissapointed, but looking foward to next week.

Timothy Ni

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Jan 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM1/8/96
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> low...@aol.com (Lowejim) writes:

> Third, I was disturbed by Bayliss popping the "muscle relaxents" as if
> they were candy. But what is even more disturbing was Munch drooling over
> the remainder and refill potential. He practically talked Bayliss out of
> the prescription just so he could go "relax". His line "Noone shares
> their drugs anymore", please. Bayliss just gives them up to him.
> Shouldn't the message be that you shouldn't take others prescriptions.
> This exchange would have been fine on a normal show with normal people,
> but this is H:LOTS and police officers. There was just too much to laugh
> at here.

I'll agree with your other points (deleted to help save endangered
bandwidth), but for your third point I'd have to disagree. Remember
that Munch's character has alluded to an industrious past with drugs.

Anyone remember that classic episode a long time ago? He was convinced
that some big rich American family (forget which one, a famous one
though) was behind the illegalization of marijuana. Anyone remember
the episode I'm talking about? Back when the show was about
dialogue?

If you want a message about "just say no", I think you're looking in
the wrong place. I'm sure Steve Urkle or whoever is on ABC opposite
Homicide will give you what you're looking for.


Cathlene Brady

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Jan 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM1/9/96
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I don't usually do this, but I'm going to hazard a few guesses about what
happens in part 2 of sniper. (Since everybody else is doing it ... maybe
I'll be a winner)
Pembleton will have an important role in solving the case. As you all
kept pointing out, he's the one who says hangman is played by two people.
Sure it's an ensemble show,
but his profile last week was a little TOO low. And the new shooter is
person number two.

Which brings me to something that needs answering. Hangman is played by
two people because one person knows the answer and the other doesn't.
The drawing of the hangman is done by the person who knows the answer.
So how come the guy had hangman drawings on the walls of his study? I
would be surprised and disappointed if Sniper 2 doesn't answer that.

Hmm now that I think of it, how did guy know that B was the answer? If
he'd been working on the problem so long, he could have tried every
letter of the alphabet on his own.


Cathy
Who thought that the Russert character was fine, but can't figure out
what it is about her that guys like.


landbeck john

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Jan 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM1/10/96
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On 7 Jan 1996, Lowejim wrote:

> Second, Russert's performance as a Capt. and actress is dismal. She is
> clearly the most boring uninteresting character on the set. All of her
> performances just leave me waiting for them to be over to get on to
> something interesting.
>

I don't understand why everyone is so vehement for their dislike
of Isabella Hoffman, and for the character she plays. The fact is,
Russert was promoted beyond the level she was really capable of
performing; Barnfather _was_ right in that. There is no way she should
have let Bayliss negotiate with such a loon, and frankly, she's lucky the
guy was suicidal and not homicidal; it could have been a lot worse, is a
confrontation had sprung from Bayliss' questions, and the QRT had been
forced to shoot him. It's a sad reality, that the public has made such a
sport of second-guessing the police.
And Russert's character is actually pretty boring, in the sense
that her life is really undramatic. No exciting relationships, no tense
situations; just the burden of being a single-mother, and lost in a maze
of bureaucracy. But Hoffman is _good_ in the role, and IMO, her
character has made an excellent foil for G's style of leadership, and
Barnfathers. Just because your heart doesn't race when she's on the
screen, the way it does when Pembleton is in the box, doesn't mean that
she's a lousy actress, or a bad character.


> Fourth, this episode was just hurried. It reminded me of what I dislike
> about much of T.V., the neccesity to "wrap up" the episode in the alloted
> time; minus time allotments for commercials of course. We wouldn't want
> Russert to miss her daughter's recital just to help solve a menial sniper
> murderer loose in the city.
>

Well, I disagree here. The whole piano recital sub-plot seemed
like just a way of showing that while it was a real whammy for her to
get demoted like that, there were familial benefits, too.

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