Danielg342 April 15, 2021 Share April 15, 2021 I believe the central problem with Criminal Minds is the issue that tends to plague just about every "situational drama" that's an ensemble- the fact that you eventually have too many characters who pretty much all do "the same thing". Let's start with the obvious- when you have something like a cop show or a medical drama or a courtroom drama there's not a whole lot more to the story other than "there's a case and we need to solve it". It's a very narrow kind of story and it's not one that lends itself to many characters since the only thing that the characters need to do is collect the clues, piece them together and arrive at a conclusion. A lot of shows like CM will get around this by assigning different characters different parts of the "clue collection" (e.g., one handles the forensics, one handles the tech stuff, one handles the medical exam, etc.), but there's two problems with that. One, there's not much for these characters to do except provide their two or three minutes of screen time to reveal their clue. After that, they're not needed. Two is a rhetorical question- do we really need more than one character to piece all the clues together and arrive at a conclusion? Maybe you could add a second character here, just so the crime solvers have someone to bounce ideas off of, but that's it. It's a fine format when you simply have a show about a detective or a doctor or a judge or a lawyer because you can just leave the minor characters to their roles and focus the storytelling on where it really matters- how the character solves the situation in the first place. This way you don't need to worry about exploring more than one or two characters. However, if you take that show and insist that everyone in it has an equal part (even when they can't), you're stuck with not just being required to explore all the characters, you're also required to find the time to explore these characters. If you had an infinite amount of episodes, you could do that. If you didn't have only an hour run time to do it, then you could do it. However, network TV is what it is and there's only so much you can do when you have a 42-minute episode and you only get six or 13 or 22 of those episodes to do and you never know until the last minute if the network wants more of them (and how many more of them). Which means, intrinsically, an ensemble procedural on network TV won't be able to explore the characters as much as they should. Streaming services and cable networks can rectify this because they tend to order their episodes in bulk and don't have the same run time constraints the networks do, leaving more room for the writers to expand their stories and build more characters. Still, there's only so much they can do because ultimately even then there's a limit to what the writers can accomplish and how much the audience will sit through. There's only so much time during the day, after all. Ultimately, when an ensemble works, it's because of one of two reasons: The characters have a shared experience and thus a shared narrative. There's a reason why a lot of comedic ensembles are conceived as families or a group of friends that are like a family, because those groups have a natural connection together. You don't see a group of characters that are simply a collection of individuals- they are a collective, period. Sure, they may each have their separate stories, but those stories tend to be interwoven within other stories in the collective. That, or other members of the group will get involved in the stories of others in their group, since the members of the group all naturally care about each other. The format of the show allows for a wide narrative that allows expansive "sub-narratives" to occur. Shows like Game of Thrones and Gotham are not about simple situations but about the wider world and the struggles within that world. Those shows tend to be about nuances and deconstructions and about the conflicts between different kinds of classes of characters, These shows tend to be about a theme and will explore everything about that theme, with each character "picking a side" in that theme. These shows don't tend to have a singular narrative or one point of view- they have several and while they're expected to converge and conflict, they are largely separate to a degree. So I feel that ultimately CM was going to fail, especially as the show wore on. The cast turnover wasn't going to help, because that affects chemistry and further "individualizes" the characters. I also don't really think CM really ever grasped the "team" dynamic. Especially in the later years the agents all just seemed to be "there" and you had no idea why all those characters were needed. More to the point, you wonder why CM was even conceived as an ensemble in the first place. Did the show need anyone more than just Gideon and maybe Hotch? How complicated is the procedure of criminal profiling in total? This wasn't CSI which CM was designed to emulate- creating a profile needs nothing more than just one person or two people gathering the evidence and coming to a conclusion. Why do we need a team of eight as we got to the later seasons? Haven't the showrunners heard of "too many cooks spoil the broth"? Yeah, a non-ensemble CM would mean a show that probably doesn't have Reid or Morgan or Emily or any of the other supporting characters we may have grown to love...but, think about it. If you took them out- or replaced any of them with Gideon or Hotch- would you really miss much? I don't think so. 1 1 Link to comment
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