I saw an episode of the truly egregious “NCIS” last night. Via the wonders of imdb, I found it was this one, with a guest turn by Bob Newhart. (Season 8, Episode 12, “Recruited“).
I’ve seen enough of these – and of other shows like CSI – to know what to expect. Uber-competent and improbably good-looking and impossibly well-funded people get personally involved (one case at a time, no overlap, no messy paperwork, no trials) and by the end of the hour All is Right with the World.
What occurs to me is this. Just at the time that the welfare state stops twitching after being shot to death by Reagan and Thatcher and Blair, just when everyone is told that they are absolutely on their own we are presented with the wish-fulfillment of a Father Figure who will make everything all alright.
The technicians, played by Mark Harmon or William Peterson or whoever (usually there’s a fit older white guy at the centre of these things) are the new priesthood, forensics as their faith, with a carefully multicultural team.
In this episode, in the space of a few days, they help a young gay kid reconcile with his homosexuality (and join the Navy, to go and kill foreigners at his political leaders behest), get Bob Newhart to reconcile to Alzheimers’. And catch the Killer, natch.
The welfare state maybe absent, but the Forensic State, the Punitive State, the Tough Love State is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.
Cold Case (the State is retroactively concerned and competent),
Without a Trace (the State is pro-actively and almost pre-emptively involved even when there’s not even a body).
Bones etc etc etc
Smart, Qualified People Behind the Scenes Keeping America Safe: ‘We Don’t Exist’ Onion, 25 August 2010