TNT’s Murder in the First aired its 3rd episode of Season Three last night. And once again series creators and writers Steven Bochco and Eric Lodal gave us a lackluster and misguided episode complete with another god-awful bait and switch.
You know what I mean by the terms bait & switch don’t you? Strictly speaking, bait and switch is primarily a tactic used by advertisers or in a sales offer to lure you to the store or sales site by making an offer that looks too good to resist, then when you show up, either the offer has been discontinued, or they will say the product has sold out – would you be interested in this instead.
In a television series, a bait and switch basically plays out like this – a problem is created for one or more characters in a specific week. Then, the following week, the so-called serious problem is miraculously or quickly (and unexpectedly) solved. So there’s no more problem.
This season, Murder in the First gave us their first bait and switch issue in week one. Detective Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) is told she has breast cancer. Her doctor told her to ‘get her affairs in order’.
Then early in Episode Two, Hildy is contacted by the same doctor. It seems that at the lab, the biopsy tissues got mixed up. You don’t have cancer. It was just a mistake at the lab.
Not at all. What we have here is a straight forward manipulation. The intent was to get Detectives English (Taye Diggs) and Mulligan in bed together. Which they did. In a simpler term than manipulation it was just a ‘ploy’.
Then later in episode Two, they get a lead on the location of Billy James, the former friend of the slain quarterback Normandy Parker, who has quickly become a lead suspect.
Mulligan and English and a SWAT team don their Kevlar vests, and saddle up to capture this guy. Of course they knock down the door of an apartment and rush in. English heads down a hall way and hears something in a bedroom. This guy is escaping through a window. English gives chase.
Ultimately, the fleeing suspect runs himself into a dead-end, and is cornered. English sees him reach behind him for a weapon. Before the suspect can get off a shot, English puts 4 bullets in the guy’s chest. He’s dead before he hits the ground.
Only the dead guy had no weapon that the police could find.
Now Terry is in the crosshairs of being a policeman who killed an unarmed man. A story line ripped right from the front pages of today’s newspapers across this land.
Then early in Episode Three, after English had been grilled by I.A. and he told them he saw the gun tucked into the waistband of the man’s pants as he was going out the window. And after Detective Mulligan had lied to the I.A. investigators by saying that she too had seen the weapon. She was lying to back up her partner.
Then, a youngish black woman shows up at police HQ with her 10-year-old son. They hand over a handgun. The boy says he found the gun in the area of the tree mural on the wall of a building. The very place where Detective English had rushed past while in pursuit of the fleeing suspect.
Later, the crime unit forensics tests had found the dead guy’s finger prints on the gun’s magazine.
So case closed. The Police Commissioner told the media that Detective English had been cleared. So, so long to Detective English’s problem and Detective Mulligan’s lie. It was that easy.
Of course there is a kicker. The dead guy wasn’t Billy James after all.
So the story of the investigation of the quarterback’s murder is still ongoing. The quarterback is still dead, and the possible shooter, one Billy James is still in the wind.
Of course, he will be captured and hauled in for questioning by the end of Episode Three. And you do know what that will result in, right?
Of course. While the police lay out all the options to the silent Billy James, like get ahead of the curve and tell us who hired you, and make it easy on yourself – tell us who paid you.
All Billy James would say is – I want a lawyer.
But what really rankles me is the story that just won’t go away. That would be DA Mario Siletti’s DUI and Vehicular homicide case. Siletti remained an asshat well into this, the third episode. First he waited for ADA Melissa Danson in the park where she jogged every day. She said – what are you doing stalking me? Which of course he was doing.
Then Siletti managed to corner the State Attorney General to ask for his help. The State AG listened and then told Siletti the case is in the hands of ADA Danson and you will not be getting any preferential treatment.
Still un-chastened, Siletti then walked into the office where former ADA (now Acting DA) Martin Reardon was. This was Siletti’s office once. Again, Siletti asked for some help from the DA, basically asking him to drop the charges. Of course Reardon refused and basically told Siletti to take a hike.
But wait there’s more. Siletti then drove to his sister-in-law’s home, where his wife and son had been living since Mario;s wife had walked out on him. He begged for forgiveness and asked that she (and their son Michael) return home.
Not sure why Bochco and Lodal think we viewers care anything about this story line. It would be one thing if Mario Siletti was a likeable character. But he isn’t. Not even close.
He seems to get more airtime than either English, Hildy Mulligan or even their boss Koto (Ian Anthony Dale).
And no one can explain it. By the way, Siletti’s attorney has to remind his client that he is still waiting for his check. Siletti can;t even be bothered to pay his own attorney – what a guy!
To Bochco and Lodal – fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. My patience is wearing out with this show. The first season, though not perfect, was head and shoulders better than this drivel.
Running from 1972 to 1977, Michael Douglas and Karl Malden starred as two detectives in a Quinn Martin Series called The Streets of San Francisco. That series ran for 119 episodes. While Mr. Lodal is too young to remember that series, Mr. Bochco surely should remember it.
Without some major improvements, Murder in the First won’t last to have even a quarter of that total. Right now, the only things Murder in the First has in common with The Streets of San Francisco are the streets.
How about showing us some intelligent and crafty writing. How about concentrating on the murder case, and how about doing away with these awful bait and switch problems that show up one week and then disappear the next week. I expected more and better writing from you guys
And most of all, give us more time with characters we want to care about and less time with Siletti, the asshat.