Archives for posts with tag: USA

It always amazes me how many different legal dramas and police procedurals America can produce. Here in the UK we either have ‘cosy crime’, ‘troubled DI/DCI solves crime of the week’ or ‘small community shocked to the core’. And we barely set foot in a courtroom.

But in America you are spoilt for choice. Navy cops, forensic teams, courtroom dramas, amateur detectives, you name it, America does it. You want a social commentary? They do that. Or do you just want to see cool explosions and high-stake car chases? They do that too.

Now we have Bull, set in the world jury psychology. Dr Bull runs a team specialising in manipulating juries into reaching decisions he clients want, all while lawyers are sceptical of his ability. It helps that, so far of the episodes I’ve seen, that he is on the good guys side, so any mind-bending is well deserved. Forcing people to recognise their gender bias or asking idiosyncratic questions are just some of his techniques.

He has a team supporting him – the computer hacker, the gay-yet-tough stylist, the smart-mouthed ex-lawyer and others. So far we only have a bit of their backgrounds dribbling out. No doubt there are some big emotional stories to be played out over the episodes, but I do hope these remain I side show.

I say that because the enjoyment of this show, for me at least, is the pseudo-science talks. I say pseudo-science, this could all be real science, but I don’t know. Anyway, it fascinates me how breaking down some biographical details of the jurors and building a profile of them is so influential. It is both brilliant and creepy how predictable we are if someone can just get a few bits of information on us.

It does sit slightly oddly between two stools though. The extra-ordinary nature of the cases means that it could easily fall into bubble-gum territory. Yet they do seem to have a social conscience about them that means that there is more to the plots than simply defending the innocent. I’m not saying it’s as deep as The Good Wife, but thinking it is just a bit of fluff is unfair.

Overall, I would say this is a solid show and a pleasing enough way to pass an hour. I find myself liking it more and more and having my cynicism eroded. And that is by no means a bad thing.

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A while back I wrote about the first season of House of Cards. I was not impressed by it. I found the cynicism of the characters wearying and it was heaping yet more reasons for me to be concerned about the then forthcoming US election. Frank Underwood represented the worst of the career politicians that plague us both sides of the Atlantic. Success was for his ego, not the good of the country.

Since then, I have polished off the second season and got halfway through the third, and my view has altered somewhat. No doubt the drama of the real-life election being absent has helped, but I also feel I understand Frank and Claire more.

Take one of the smaller arcs from season 2 – the rise and fall of Freddie at the hands of Raymond Tusk. He is one of Frank’s few friends, and his destruction allows Frank to have a motivation that is more than about himself. From that point on, no matter how despicable he acts, we know Frank has an ability to be human. This buys him enough of your support to be more anti-hero than villain.

Likewise, season 3 has seen Claire’s character become more fleshed out. True, there were always more reasons to sympathise with her anyway – she seemed to use her ability to calculate against others more for good, and she is a rape survivor. But this season is the one where she truly stops just being a wife. She wants to make her mark on the world. Frank is driven by power, Claire by legacy. The most recent episode I viewed saw her hurt affected by the suicide of a gay activist. She throws politics overboard and shows an anger at injustice that is more than skin deep.

Of course there are other wheels turning. Heather Dunbar is on the rise as an opponent to Frank and we have Stamper aiding her cause. Then there’s the tracking down of Rachel through Gavin Orsay, although I am missing his scene-stealing guinea pig. One of the things I have come to like about Netflix’s shows is they aren’t afraid to ignore a major plotline for an episode, knowing their audience will patiently wait for it to return to the centre ground.

The one that is piquing me most at the moment though is Frank writing his autobiography. This, more than anything else, tells us who he is. He has come from nothing, and used ruthless ambition and eye for an opportunity, plus old-fashioned hard work, to get to the top. You still don’t like the man, you are never meant to, but you are forced to admire his journey. Maybe I can stick with this show after all.