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Spotlight: Primetime Is Back

In my opinion TV’s best drama is Fox’s Bones. The character interplay, when not hilarious, is charming or moving. The show’s central motor, the complicated relationship between Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) has developed beautifully over the first two seasons. They incarnate one of the primary tensions in today’s society: the debate between science and religion.

While I can’t say enough about the writing for Bones, Hugh Laurie as Fox’s House is also nothing short of genius. Needless to say, I’ll be spending my Tuesday nights with Rupert Murdoch. The problem, however, is that this will keep me from the lovable crazies on NCIS.

Will Tony, Jeanne and the Director discover that Jeanne’s dad is the Director’s arch-nemesis, the evil arms dealer La Grenouille? NCIS is another crime drama where character interaction is king. While the cast plays it all excellently, Bones wins for philosophical depth in the Tuesday 8:00 slot.

And despite the so-called “procedural” nature of CBS’s three CSIs, there has been significant character development there as well. I’ve been waiting all summer to see if Grissom can save Sara from the Miniature Killer on Vegas. The meeting of the Grissom-Sara story arch with the brilliantly designed Miniature Killer arch made last season a great one.

And if you want to know about Greek/scholastic ethics, just watch CSI: Miami. Horatio is a modern-day version of Aristotle’s “Virtuous Man.” Then turn your attention to NY’s Mac, and look for what makes him different from Horatio and Grissom. You’ll have ample material for those “What makes a real man?” discussions.

I should find time for NBC’s The Office and Scrubs, but besides the fact that they conflict schedule-wise with CSI, the corporate world scares me, and I’ve gotten too far behind on Scrubs. My greatest disappointment with NBC, however, is that Jeff Golblum’s Raines is not returning. Teasing me with a great psychological study, and then canceling it, is another reason to skip NBC’s Thursday.

ABC newcomers like Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone and Women’s Murder Club might all be worth checking out, but since I missed Season 2 of Lost ABC hasn’t interested me. So when I throw in The Simpsons and Family Guy on Sunday, it looks like Fox and CBS will be keeping me busy this fall. (I wonder what I’d do if I ever got stuck at a cocktail party with a bunch of ABC-NBC viewers. Not that I go to cocktail parties, but it would be uncomfortable. Or maybe ABC and NBC don’t have viewers, and I’m just a typical American. That would make me uncomfortable too.)

I said at the beginning that if things were as they should be, the fall lineup would be drastically different than it is. And it’s true. ABC and NBC would have a better selection of shows.

But if things were as they should be, I’d have nothing to watch. When looking at the shows I’ll follow this season, I see: crime drama, crime drama, medical drama, crude cartoon, not-as-crude cartoon (with much better social commentary), etc. If things were as they should be, there’d be no evil, no sickness, no perversion and nothing to critique through satire. Certain parts of my favorite shows might survive—the tension between faith and reason from Bones, the model of perfect virtue in CSI: Miami, the intellectual exploration in Numb3rs. But there’d be no crime scenes to investigate, or investigations for federal bureaus to do.

If things were as they should be, we might not all be perfect, but we’d all be working on it. So maybe a few sitcoms would be left. But they wouldn’t be filled with idiots living meaningless lives like they are now.

Recently I’ve been watching old episodes of the Buffy spinoff, Angel. Like most of the shows I watch, Angel is the product of evil. He’s a vampire. There’s no way he should still be alive after 200-plus years. Normal people would have been long dead.

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But even though he shouldn’t exist, he shouldn’t be killed either. He’s on a mission to redeem himself, and that’s a good thing. He helps the helpless, or however the line goes.

So just because Angel should not exist doesn’t mean he should not exist. He lives as a result of a bad decision, and that is not how things should be. But the way he uses his existence is a good thing. To make him not be, to kill him, would itself be bad.

And the same goes for the other characters I’ll be watching this fall. House shouldn’t be a doctor, because there shouldn’t be any sickness. But that doesn’t mean he should not be a doctor, that he should quit. He’s doing what he should be doing, given the kind of world in which we live.

And Booth and Brennan shouldn’t be solving murders, because there shouldn’t be any murders. But that doesn’t mean they should not solve murders. Given the way our world is, they are doing something worth watching.

And this makes me think of our own lives. How many issues should we not have to deal with, how many episodes should we not have to go through? Yet how many of those would it be wrong to not deal with, to not go through? And how many roles do we have to play that shouldn’t need to be played? Nurse, counselor, police officer, baby sitter, social worker, discipliner? And yet one or more of these roles may be exactly what we should be playing.

Given the world we’ve got, we may not be able to achieve perfection. But God is in the business of redemption. And to redeem is to do what shouldn’t have to be done—to take things that aren’t the way they should be and create something good.

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