A few years ago, I wrote a little statistics piece on just how well New York City’s war on crime on television matched up with the one in reality. It turned out that there were twice as many murders in television Manhattan than in real Manhattan. And that’s not even taking into account the trail of bodies that undoubtedly leads to Ted Mosby.
I don’t like New York City.
Wow! That’s the most hate mail I’ve gotten since that libertarian website linked to my Walking Dead article!
No, let me rephrase by paraphrase, via one of history’s wisest women: I don’t hate New York City, I nothing New York City. I’ve been there, didn’t care for it, and I really did move on with my life.
But the damned city’s faithful adherents infect every aspect of popular culture, droning on with their solemn chant that it’s the most magical wonderful place on Earth. Priests don’t talk about the Vatican half as reverently as New Yorkers gush about their particular set of streets and buildings. I love Stephen King’s Dark Tower, even with a soft spot for the generally loathed ending. Know what I hated? Learning in book 3 or so that New York was literally the nexus of the universe in the story. It was at that point that I may or may not have secretly started rooting for the other side, eventually hoping that the beams would come crashing down and Randall Flagg would ride the Dark Tower down into oblivion like Slim Pickens on a nuke. No such luck.
There’s no point having the argument at length. Faith cannot be argued with and once it settles upon a tenet, the only words are either agreement or blasphemy.
But what I can do is argue that when the inevitable next batch of television procedurals comes around next year, that maybe, just maybe, they’ll set a few of them in other places instead of tossing them all into the Big Apple. And if you mention Los Angeles or Miami, I’ll forward your email address to the libertarians and let them sort you out.
So here are the ten places or times that procedurals should be set in before giving us another New York City one.
1. The South Pole: Six months of darkness. It’s fifty below zero outside, so all the mysteries are of the locked box variety. No one is getting in or out, which complicates anything like arrests. This wonderful little article on being a bartender at the South Pole should be the entry point. There are just enough people down there, that sometimes there needs to be someone in charge of figuring out what’s going on when little things go wrong.
2. Soviet Russia: Now this could be as simple as adopting Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 (which is also getting a movie adaptation at the moment), but the notion of being law enforcement in a totalitarian state could certainly be generalized. There’s a tension between searching for the truth and never being allowed to acknowledge truth as a real ideal that would make for wonderful dark television.
3. Ancient Rome: Personally, I think they could just take every genre, set it in Ancient Rome, and have Vorenus and Pullo do their thing. Added bonus: the complete absence of police of any kind makes the detective savant actually more realistic than in later eras. Sherlock Caesar?
4. Renaissance Italy: Despite a handful of historical dramas set in the period, what I really want is a medical procedural set during the foundation of medicine, during the discoveries of circulation and the internal organs, etc.
5. Post-apocalypse: Defiance doesn’t count. Science fiction has a tradition of the sheriff but it has little in the way of true detectives. Think Asimov meets The Walking Dead.
6. The moon. Outland doesn’t count.
7. Canada. Or just bring back Flashpoint. Whatever’s easier. I’m not picky.