Every Sunday night for about a year, my mother and I enjoyed competing to solve Murder, She Wrote. Week after week, I emerged from my bedroom after she’d watched the very boring (to me) 60 Minutes just in time to catch the last few minutes of funny grouch Andy Rooney, then I dutifully tracked the clues Jessica Fletcher sniffed out while my mother – no fan of mysteries – would accurately predict the murderer that week, and win our little bets.
Finally, I asked how she always guessed right. “I pick the most famous guest star,” she explained.
The next week, I tried her formula, and still lost. Apparently, Mr. Roper from Three’s Company wasn’t as famous as that guy I kinda recognized from The Muppets Take Manhattan (James Coco; nominated for both an Oscar and a Tony, and winner of an Emmy).
Phooey. I’d bet if Mr. Furley had been on, HE would have been the killer.
(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
“Objection! What does this have to do with Campfire Tales?!”
“I promise, Your Honor, I’ll get there, eventually…”
Judge Blogger shakes her head. “I’ll allow it, but watch yourself, Camp Host Chad.”
* * *
Over the years and through hundreds (thousands?) of solved crimes on episodic shows such as C.S.I. and Castle, I think the “formula” evolved. The most famous guest stars – hired to play innocent until the last dramatic scene where they confess – require juicier stuff to do, so they are now more often the prime suspect (or the victim). Otherwise, they head off to E.R. and Grey’s Anatomy where they get to suffer and die. (Long gone are the days of falling in love on The Love Boat, or fulfilling dreams on Fantasy Island or Highway to Heaven. Just crime and violence, over and over and over.)
The solutions then became the “biggest surprise” to the audience, but how many times can “the opposite of what you expected” continue to surprise?
The series actors, bored with the repetitiveness of mounds of expository dialogue, often ask to be released from their contracts and/or for their characters to be killed off, so they can return to the stage and truly emote. This disruption provides the occasional bombshell for the audience and gives the other regulars something to play for an episode or two. Unfortunately for storytellers, The Walking Dead is likely wearing this trick out.
If there’s a formula now, I’d guess it’s this: The outcome to the plot should reflect and propel the continuing personal arc of the regular character rotated into that episode’s spotlight.
All that said, you are excused, Gentle Reader, if you thought something tragic would happen to me or Cousin Billy after reading Over the River and Through the Wood or I Wish I Had a River, the two blog entries leading to this one. In my attempt to process my own continuing personal arc through the symbolism of fond childhood adventures, I may have gone a bit too far establishing the mystery and dangers of collecting and eating wild blackberries.
I apologize. Will you please forgive me?
I hope so, because I still need to tell you a little more…
“Your Honor! Honestly!”
“Patience, Counselor. I want to see where this is going.”
* * *
The fastest way to reach the forbidden blackberry vines around the river’s bend required we run across the neighbor’s lawn (mildly forbidden) to where their boat canal entered the river; shimmy down the cement bank (painful) into the freezing water without time for acclimation; swim/float as quickly as possible (hampered/helped by extremely bulky life preservers) past the fenced yard on the other side of the canal (without attracting the attention of the snarling, barking Doberman Pinchers behind that fence); around the river’s bend (strictly forbidden); try to maintain a position below the blackberry vines (the current pulling in one direction, and the waves from passing boats pushing us into the thorny bushes); locate reachable, ripe berries (avoiding thorns); eat enough berries to make all the effort worthwhile; then get back (going upstream against all prior challenges) before our absence was noted.
Piece of cake, huh?
Anyway, I will explain what all this means to me next time, I promise.
To Be Continued
(Remember when shows, like Silver Spoons, used to end that way? Such torture to wait a week… I’ll be back sooner for the conclusion.)