Firstly, I love NCIS and Hawaii Five-0, so don’t take this post as me having a go at these types of shows. I’ve just noticed that over the last few years, ‘crime stopping’ shows like CSI, NCIS, and Hawaii Five-0 have gained immense popularity, and I think I may have figured out one of the reasons why. I reckon that shows like this have had an boost in success alongside the increase of violence and the presence of the threat of terrorism in the real world. Let me explain why:
Shows like CSI and Hawaii Five-0 show grisly murders, but no sooner than the blood spatters have hit the walls are the team of investigators on the case and half-way to solving the crime. They pretty much ALWAYS get the bad guy, and usually when they don’t it’s one of those one-off stories where it turns out to be a suicide. I think the only times the bad guy gets away is when it’s a two-part story, or leading up to/in the finale. Most of the time though, within the hour the villain is safely locked away and you feel better about yourself and completely emotionally detach from the murder you witnessed no more than an hour prior.
NCIS is very much the same, but in response to military/terrorist threats against the navy. The crimes are solved thanks to the combined efforts of the varying personalities of the team, with a healthy dose of sexual tension thrown in between several of the characters (Tony/Ziva, I’m looking at you! Side note: OMG I can’t believe she’s leaving. Sad times.), to lighten the mood.
The constant showing of these shows has the gradual effect of desensitizing the idea of murder and terrorism, which I think is a clever way of making us accept that both of these are very much prevalent in the real world, almost to the point where I would claim we’re romanticizing it?
The idea of a terrorist threat doesn’t sound so well, terrorizing when we picture Gibbs and his team setting out to put the pieces together and solve the mystery before time runs out. The minute we finish witnessing a murder on Hawaii Five-0, we don’t grieve for the victim, merely thank them for their time and mentally move on to trying to guess the murderer before the protagonists do. The murdered become blank characters whose lives we only care about for the sake of working out who killed them.
I mean, these shows are so popular that they have sister-shows that are pretty much identical, like NCIS: LA and CSI: Miami. The formula is so tried and tested that even changing the location and almost nothing else (same sexual tension between Deeks and Kensi, same ‘types’ in the CSI group) leads to another hit series!
I think that the success of these shows feeds off a morbid curiosity we as a culture have adopted, through the constant destruction and sadness we see on the news, our grief covered up by the fact that perky Abby is going to have that breakthrough halfway through the show and everything is going to be okay.