Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Ol' Bait And Switch

Okay, I admit it, I fell for it ... again. In my personal television lexicon the "Bait and Switch" is when a show or a network promises something and then delivers in such a way that you feel cheated and used when the show is over. Cross-overs between shows are frequently examples of the Bait and Switch, and the Third Watch part of last night's Third Watch/Medical Investigation crossover is a prime example. And like a big all-day sucker I bought into it. I watched them both.

My personal history with Third Watch is a bit muddied. I watched the pilot while I had a severe headache. It might even have been a migraine but I'm not sure. A personal rule now is "don't decide on a show when you've got a migraine" (on the other hand, if the show or movie gives you a migraine, that's usually a bad sign - Highlander II always gives me a migraine). At the time though I decided to pass on Third Watch. I thought the concept about New York cops and firefighters might have had potential but I disliked just about all of the characters. Besides the show was on Monday nights at the time and I'd have to tape it because I bowl Monday nights, and why tape something you hate. I caught a few episodes around the end of the first season and the show seemed a bit better (no migraines) but not enough to give it tape time.

Then came the attacks on the World Trade Center. Third Watch did some of the best episodes of any TV show surrounding that tragedy including the two hour "In Their Own Words" which was a two hour non-fiction episode consisting of New York Police and Fire personnel who had survived the attacks and heir families describing the events. The only regular cast member in that episode was Molly Price and she was there legitimately - she is married to a New York firefighter in real life. This episode won a Peabody Award. The episode "September Tenth" was excellent as well. I didn't stick with the show though. By the time I watched my next episode - the Bait and Switch crossover with ER - the show was becoming increasingly about the cops and not particularly the cop on the street. Symbolic of this was the episode in which one of the major firefighter characters was literally blown to pieces in an explosion (as I recall the scene, all they found was her feet, still in her boots). By 2004 almost all of the fire department personnel were gone and the show had become one of those grim and gritty police dramas with occasional appearances from the paramedics.

The episode I saw last night isn't the sort of thing that would get me watching on a regular basis. The "A" plot centred on the murder of a major drug dealer in the police precinct house by a 12 year-old boy and the rise of a new drug lord that was clearly part of an ongoing line and not for the viewers who just wanted to be completists on the upcoming Medical Investigation episode. The "B" plot focused on the investigation of the murder of a jeweler who was a friend of one of the street cops. There was also the usual soap opera style relationship conflicts, although not at ER This is what brought in the team from Medical Investigation, but only the two main actors, Neal McDonough and Kelli Williams. I didn't put a strop watch on it of course but if they ten minutes of screen time in the episode I'd only be surprised that they were on for that long. Their storyline never developed much beyond the "Hi, I'm Dr Connor and this is my partner Dr. Durant" stage. Some crossover particularly when you saw what the producers of Medical Investigation did with the cast members from Third Watch. The character of Carlos, played by Anthony Ruivivar, was one of the patients and although you could be almost certain that he wasn't going to die, given some of the stunts that have been pulled off on Third Watch in the past, it wasn't quite a dead lock cinch. The character who was given The biggest role was Molly Price from Third Watch. The character of Detective Faith Yokas fit so effortlessly into the Medical Investigation cast that I almost expected Connor to give her an open job offer for whenever she got tired of being on the NYPD.

Direct crossovers between shows usually occur in one of three circumstances. The first is when shows share a producer, as happened when Third Watch and ER crossed over. Both shows are produced by John Wells, so I suppose it might be possible that we'll be seeing a Third Watch/West Wing crossover. Another example is when shows are on the same night, but this usually constitutes an "event". One of the most memorable was when all of the NBC comedies on one Saturday night crossed over with each other. This included Empty Nest, Nurses, and Golden Girls. The third type of crossover is when one show crosses over with another so that viewers from a popular show will watch one that is less popular show despite not having a night or a producer in common. The most famous examples of that were the occasions when the highly popular Law & Order crossed over with the less well rated, but critically popular Homicide: Life On The Street. Many time the cross-over is motivated by two, or even all three of these reason. While I think that the cross-over between Third Watch and Medical Investigation was originally motivated by being on the same night, it is also true that Medical Investigation started the season strong but declined against CSI: Miami ratings and the new show Numb3rs to the point that NBC will be moving Law & Order: Trial by Jury into that time slot. There's no word as to what will happen to Medical Investigation which is unfortunate because I rather liked it. I certainly like it better than what I saw of Third Watch last night.

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