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Category Archives: television

Re-Enacting is a Crime

I am quite addicted to true crime shows on television. My favorite is Snapped, but I also enjoy the quality documentaries like 20/20, 48 Hours, and On The Case with Paula Zahn.

What I am not so fond of  are what I call the re-enactment-fests.  The narrator tells the story, interspersed with commentary by true-crime writers, investigators and sometimes even the participants in the drama.  During the narration, actors portray the story, with or without dialogue.

Now, to me, re-enactments are always cheesy.  In theory they can be helpful, for example showing a complicated action that is difficult to picture from mere description.  In reality, things are often re-enacted that I can perfectly well imagine and would in fact prefer to.  Snapped is a terrible offender in this respect:  sometimes they will talk about how this woman is talking to the police and they show somebody’s mouth saying words.  I KNOW what talking to the police looks like!  I don’t need to see it!

Still, I don’t consider Snapped a re-enactment-fest.  A real re-enactment-fest shows you the ENTIRE story with actors.  Snapped: Killer Couples is a re-enactment-fest.  There are many others.  Sometimes I watch them to laugh at them.  Sometimes I will come across one that shows a case I have seen in a “real” show.  Then I watch it and roll my eyes at how much prettier the re-enactors are than the original participants.

Right now I cannot find a true crime show on the television.  So I will publish this blog post talking about them.  It is, after all, Wuss-out Wednesday.




Cheesy TV

Here is a new feature I recently came up with: Cheesy TV. Regular readers know how I love to write about cheesy movies. Well, they are not always easy to come by. However, I am discovering a whole world of cheese on cable television.

I have a long-standing addiction to true crime shows. I prefer a real documentary where they cover the facts of the case. I despise re-enactments. I find they are always cheesy and usually unnecessary. However, as re-enactment fests take over my true crime channels, I occasionally tune in to one. And I find they sometimes have a charm all their own. The dialogue in the re-enactments, which is often supposed to play like they’re being overheard, is laughable. The acting is of the scenery chewing variety. And when they show a photo of the actual people, you see the casting director had a very flattering idea of their attractiveness.

I almost feel I should include a spoiler alert, because this episode did not turn out as I expected. However, I also feel I can treat a true crime show, however cheesy, differently from now I treat a cheesy movie. I will also point out that I was paying my usual desultory attention to this one. They may actually have said who was going to end up dead and I missed it.

I will preface this essay by saying: Nobody deserves to be murdered. I suppose there are those who will dispute that statement, but I am not going there today. I would like to talk about a murder victim who, I feel, could have avoided the situation in which the murder took place. I intend to comment on this, and on the cheesy nature of the program which presented the case. I fear sounding insensitive, since an actual person did, in fact, die. Sorry about that.

OK, on with the write-up. Steven and I watched one of the cheesier crime shows on Investigation Discovery: Deadly Affairs. This one is narrated by the divine Susan Lucci, which I feel make it a cut above the rest.

Lucci presents to us a guy who has a girlfriend who is really a guy. They are off again/on again, because the guy is a serial cheater. Then they go on again and move to this cowboy town where the guy insists his lover live as a man and they keep their love affair a secret.

Soon the Guy is having an affair with a hot single mother. At first she doesn’t mind that he has a boyfriend, then she does, so he sends the boyfriend packing.

As soon as the Girl moves in, she discovers the Guy is a control freak. After many public screaming matches (all we see is a fairly hilarious fight about him telling her what order to hang her clothes in), they break up. The Guy can’t stand being alone, so he gets the Boyfriend back by telling him he can live as a woman and they can get married.

However, the Girl did not think they were permanently broken up, and she is not happy with this development. She follows them around, announcing in a loud voice that the fiance is really a man. She even has the nerve to crash their wedding. Naturally the Guy starts having sex with her again. Any slimy hound dog serial cheater would. But he makes no move to get rid of his new wife. Tensions escalate.

Of course I’ve been thinking all this time that Boyfriend/Wife is going to get it, probably from the Girl, because the narration keeps talking about jealousy. Imagine my surprise.

The Girl is out drinking one night and gets all maudlin talking about how she wants to “make amends.” Those are the exact words, used several times. If only she can see the Guy without his Boyfriend/Wife, she can “make amends.” So she goes over to their house at two in the morning.

Hello! Who goes over to somebody’s house at two in the morning and expects the wife NOT to be there? And if you really want to “make amends,” it is a better plan to wait till a decent hour of broad daylight and, for example, SEND FLOWERS! Maybe write a nice note. A conciliatory phone call.

The story is that the Boyfriend/Wife beats the poor Girl to death while the husband is sound asleep upstairs. Did you buy that? I didn’t. I don’t know what went down, and I don’t think the producers of this show did, either. I think they picked the version they liked best, and I’m kind of glad they did, because it certainly gave me something to write about.

I can believe the Girl SAID she wanted to make amends, but I don’t believe that is really what she had in mind. And I sure as hell don’t believe that the horn dog that started it all slept through a beat-down of that magnitude.

Really, when I think about it, it is a very sad story. That Girl did not deserve to be murdered and buried in the desert (oh yeah, I left that part out) (the post is getting a little long). I think what she needed to do to begin with was to find a classier guy to set her sights on. Same goes for the Boyfriend/Wife, although I lost a whole lot of sympathy for him when I found out he was a murderer.

But it is a fun show to watch. Susan Lucci pops up a couple of times looking delicious in an evening gown, about to go out on the town with a hottie who, presumably, does not plan to murder her. Lacking cheesy movies and sometimes time to watch a whole movie, I will continue to embrace cheesy television.

But I Don’t Really Like Serial Killers

Some time ago I blogged about getting a book by M. William Phelps through interlibrary loan. that was a well-deserved shout out (I love that expression) to the Mid-York Library System. Today I’d like to give a shout out to M. William Phelps.

I first encountered Phelps on an episode of one of my favorite crime shows, Snapped. he had written a book on the case being covered and was giving background. In addition to finding his comments informative, I noticed he was fairly gorgeous. Oh, I know, the informative part is the most important thing, but I can enjoy the scenery while I’m at it, can’t I?

I discovered M. William Phelps has a Facebook page. That was where I learned about his new series on Investigation Discovery (one of my favorite cable channels), Dark Minds. I’m always ready to check out another crime show. Dark Minds is on past my bed time (I definitely need my beauty rest), so I have been DVRing them to enjoy at my leisure.

The show is about serial killers. I must confess that serial killers are not my favorite kind of murderer. I like a nice, personal murder for a good reason, like greed or jealousy. Something anybody could understand. I don’t mind hearing about real serial killers, though, as long as it’s a well put together show. Just as an aside, I’m bored by the fictional ones, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Phelps concentrates on unsolved murders. By investigating and publicizing, he tries to heat up cold cases. What Dark Minds has that other cold case shows do not is 13. 13 is an incarcerated serial killer who through remorse or self-aggrandizement works with an FBI agent tracking other serial killers. The agent talks to 13 over a speaker phone with Phelps present. We don’t see 13’s face or even hear his real voice. It’s a little creepy, and the viewer gets a delicious sense of getting real inside information, especially when we see the shots of the corridors of the maximum security prison.

I have to confess, I’m not enamored of 13. He must be in control at all times. When he’s done he says, “That’s all” and breaks the connection. No options. In one episode, Phelps expressed his frustration to the FBI agent. I was glad to know I was not the only one. Some of 13’s insights I’ve heard before from FBI profilers and others. For example, why did the killings stop? The killer died or moved or is in prison for another crime. Still, 13 has a perspective that few of us (I hope) share.

Normally when I DVR a show I like, I watch several episodes in a marathon. I don’t do that with Dark Minds. I find it too disturbing. But it is a compelling show, and I intend to catch every episode.

The book I read, Too Young to Kill (Pinnacle Books, Kensington Publishing Corp., 2011), is not about a serial killer but a sad story about a teenager killed by two other teens. It is thoroughly researched, including background on teen subculture that can’t have been easy to come by. Phelps also brings you right into the emotional experience of the victims’ parents. It is a gripping, moving story.

Phelps knows about the suffering of victims’ families from personal experience. His sister-in-law was murdered and the case is still unsolved. This puts him in the same category as two other of my most admired people, John Walsh and Dominick Dunne (at least, Dunne’s daughter’s murder was solved; I don’t know about Walsh’s son’s). All three suffered tragic losses at the hands of criminals and all three became passionate victims’ advocates. They turned their sorrow into service to others. I can’t think of a better thing to say about anybody. It also makes me think. I have blessedly never suffered such a tragedy. Do I have to wait for something terrible to happen before I try to help others? I hope not, and I’m looking for things I can do to help. In the meantime, I’m enjoying reading Phelps’ books and watching his TV show.

Cooking with Crime

I was going to title this “Cooking with Cindy,” but I thought two hard Cs sounded better. I was going to add that crime is more interesting than Cindy, but quite frankly, that is not always the case.

Saturday I did not get out of the house to do fun Mohawk Valley things. In my defense, I was not free till the afternoon and by then was tired and low on ambition (this after a bad-ass if unblogworthy morning). Well, I think I am allowed to watch crime shows and crochet on a Saturday afternoon (or almost any other time; it is one of my favorite things to do). I decided to also write in the TV Journal, because writing is always a good thing to do.

I found a feature called Weekend Mysteries on HLN. The first show was Body of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayna Hinman. I had seen shows featuring Dayna Hinman, she is a famous profiler. Today’s episode featured a wealthy Texan. Did he die of natural causes, suicide or murder at the hands of his gold-digger wife?

Of course I also needed to start cooking. Steven was hard at work, and I had promised him a good supper. I started by pouring myself a glass of Chardonnay, so I could cook with wine, then peeling and garlic-pressing several cloves of garlic. I set the timer so they could breathe for 15 minutes (a friend sent me a link explaining that; it has to do with cancer fighting compounds). This also gave me an excuse to watch 15 minutes more of the show.

It was a disappointing case, but I don’t like to give away the ending in case you like to catch it sometime.

The next show was called The Investigators, and the case had also been covered on Snapped. I love those! A husband is gunned down on the beach during a romantic stroll with his newly-reconciled wife. Surely the grieving widow could have nothing to do with it.

During commercials I made it back out to the kitchen. I put the garlic in the blender with olive and canola oil and some basil out of a tube I had found in the produce section (I can’t wait till summer and fresh basil out of my container garden). I tossed some onion in this mixture and put it in a 350 degree oven. Later I added eggplant and much later fresh mushrooms. I normally do this in a 400 degree oven but thought I would try the effects of baking over roasting. It was quite successful.

We had the mixture over angel hair pasta, which I had also tossed in the basil/garlic oil. I put grated Parmesan on mine. Steven had dilly bread from the Ilion Farmer’s Market with his (ooh, so I do have a local connection after all. Yay!) (actually, if you want another local connection, I drank my wine out of a glass obtained at a fundraiser for the Herkimer Crusaders).

During cooking and eating, I also viewed a couple episodes of Sins and Secrets, one of which was also seen on Snapped. Mixed in with all this, I also got some crochet done. Crime, cooking, crochet, three of my favorite things. Not a bad Saturday in the Mohawk Valley.

Trudging Through Tuesday

It really was not that bad of a day, but I felt like being alliterative.

I wrote three different blog posts while I was at work today: one before starting work at 7 a.m., one during the 9 a.m. break and a third at the 2 p.m. break (I called my husband during lunch; it was his day off). Actually, none of the posts was complete, and the third was really short, because I was busy making silly jokes with my co-workers. Be that as it may, none of those posts pleased me.

I got home from work in time for my one of my favorite crime shows, City Confidential. Today’s city was Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I’d really like to check out some of these cities, and not just because of the murders that took place there. After City Confidential, I got interested in an episode of Notorious. They were showing a case I had seen profiled on another show, Power, Privilege and Justice, I think.

Before you go thinking I’m all morbid, loving these crime shows, let me assure you these shows are classy entertainment. The coverage is in-depth and informative, and there are no cheesy reenactments. I hate cheesy reenactments, and very few reenactments are not cheesy. The shows were not graphic either, as evidenced by the fact that we ate dinner during the second.

Throughout my TV watching, my dog Tabby kept coming up to me and gazing at me with appealing brown eyes. I knew what she wanted, so after Notorious I put my bra and sneakers back on and got out her leash. I only could have skipped City Confidential and walked her when it was still light out, but we can’t always look that far ahead.

Tabby pulled me as she often does toward the Historic Four Corners. I could see the Herkimer County Courthouse two blocks away. I remembered how when we had first moved into Herkimer, I would go running and get a little confused in the streets beyond Washington. Eventually I would look up and see the courthouse and know which direction to head.

We turned down Main Street and walked by a few open businesses and some sadly closed ones. Tabby looked speculatively at a small family getting out of a car, no doubt thinking they’d like to pet a cute dog. Unfortunately they crossed the street without giving her a glance. I heard the father telling the little boy to hold his mother’s hand.

Tabby wanted to go through the little park by Basloe Library, but I made her go down one more block, feeling I needed a little more exercise. When we approached Meyers Park, I remembered it is closed from dusk to dawn, according to the sign. Of course we have walked through the park in the dark many times. Tonight, however, we walked around the perimeter. For one thing, that sidewalk was more clear.

I saw some red lights in the distance and thought, “Christmas!” It was only a Swann truck. Good eats, but pricey. I especially like the Racetrack cones, but I’m on the South Beach Diet. We walked by St. Francis de Sales Church. The light in front of the statue of St. Francis made a big shadow of St. Francis’ head on the church wall.

We had a few minor disagreements on our walk. Tabby wanted to sniff more times and for longer than I felt like standing around, and when we got closer to home she wanted to jay walk. Dogs don’t know from crosswalks. Still, it was a pleasant enough walk. A little colder than I like. I pulled my fingers into the hand part of my gloves and made fists. I took a hot shower when I got home, which made my hands hurt. They’re feeling better now, and I see I’ve managed to type over 600 words. Not bad for not using any of the three posts I wrote earlier.

And now, speaking of classy crime shows, I think I’ll go watch World’s Dumbest Criminals.

The TV Journal

I’m thinking of starting a feature called Mid-Week Nonsense. Kind of an acknowledgement that Friday is not the only day that I get a little silly.

This by way of introduction to today’s topic: Steve’s and my TV Journal. You see, yesterday when I wrote “I had coffee instead,” I meant to write “I had coffee and wrote in the TV Journal.” But I thought that some readers might be unfamiliar with the TV Journal. Then I thought, “I could write a whole post on the TV Journal!” Then I went back to writing yesterday’s post.

The TV Journal came into being back in 2001 because I thought we were watching too much television. I said, “We’re going to buy a notebook and write down everything we watch.” I figured it would be kind of like a food journal, which some dieters swear by although I have never been able to stick to. I thought that after a week or so of noticing that all we watched were Friends re-runs and E! True Hollywood Story, we’d either turn off the TV or maybe class up our viewing habits.

Well, that didn’t happen. What happened was, we started to enjoy writing about what we were watching. We wrote plot summaries and commentary. We noted headlines on the news. I scribbled recipes from Mr. Food. It was fun! Soon we were also writing down what we did in addition to watching television.

At this point in the narrative, sometimes somebody says, “So it’s a journal,” in a dismissive tone of voice, like they’re tired of hearing the story and I’m kind of stupid for being so fascinated by it. If that is your reaction, you might like to stop reading now, because I am going to continue to expound on the TV Journal.

Another reaction I got once was, “Wow. Glad I have a life.” What an asshole thing to say! Anyways, it wasn’t true. I’d been listening to that guy gripe all weekend. He had no life.

Sometimes I think the TV Journal could one day be a primary source for historians. Steven wrote some rather pungent commentary on that slimy politician who was involved in the Chandra Levy tragedy. And there are pages and pages of what went on September 11, 2001. So the TV Journal has its serious moments as well.

It’s is also a way to communicate, especially when Steven and I work different hours. I can come home and read what he was up to, what he was thinking about, etc. It’s almost like writing an ongoing letter to each other. Other family members have added their two cents to the Journal when they’ve been at our house. It is usually readily available on one of our coffee tables.

Sometimes we slack off of writing in the TV Journal, but we always go back to it. And now that I have explained about it in the blog, I needn’t be shy of mentioning it. So don’t be surprised if on the next Lame Post Friday you read, “All I felt like doing was watching World’s Dumbest and writing in the TV Journal!”

Snapped Judgements

I know, this blog is supposed to be about the Mohawk Valley. I get out and patronize a local business, attend a local event or visit a local attraction and write about it as best I can. A couple of times a week I count local walks or runs. And of course there’s the weekly Lame Post, about which the least said the better. Even two posts in which I wrote about watching monster movies on TCM (hey, why aren’t they showing scary movies for Halloween month?) I tried to inject some local color.

That long-winded paragraph is by way of being an apology of sorts because today I’m going to write about my favorite TV show: Snapped.

Snapped is a documentary crime show on Oxygen (or is it called OH! now? I can’t keep track of these cable stations). They profile women who kill. They cover a pretty broad spectrum: abused wives who kill in self defense, ladies who are too religious to get a divorce (don’t get me started), ordinary wives who just want the insurance (with or without a double indemnity clause. Double Indemnity is one of my favorite movies). It isn’t all wives; sometimes it’s a daughter killing her parents or step-parents. Usually because she thinks she Juliet and didn’t read the play so doesn’t realize Juliet kills herself. Sometimes the woman is found innocent, sometimes guilty. Often they have the woman herself appear, proclaiming her innocence, and I sit there say, “You totally did it!”

What I don’t like is when they have cheesy reenactments. Reenactments are almost always cheesy. Most of the time they are not needed. Just tell me they argued. I don’t need to see two actors gesticulating at each other. I know what an argument is. The only time a reenactment is helpful is when it is something hard to picture. For example, the lady who demonstrated for the cops how she tripped on a book while putting away her husband’s gun, causing her to accidentally shoot him while he napped on the couch. Actually, that may have been a videotape the cops made of her explanation. If I was a cop, I would want to videotape such a thing.

My favorite way to watch Snapped is one episode after another, which is the way Oxygen usually shows them. My only problem is, I’ve seen them all (except for the “So New” episodes they keep promising me), sometimes several times. Still, it’s my guilty pleasure. I must indulge.

So here is something you can enjoy: in and out of the Mohawk Valley. Check you local listings.