Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What I learn watching television

Too often we view television as simple, mindless entertainment. These posts will be an attempt to at least wade waste deep into issues that can occasionally arise during prime viewing hours. Whether a simple question about something stupid, to a moral dilemma that seemingly has no right or wrong answer, if we're intrigued by something we see, we'll bring it up. Comments are welcome.

So I was watching the L&O station last night, also sometimes referred to as TNT, and happened to catch an episode of the original Law & Order. I freely admit I enjoy the show and all of its spin-offs (I think I would rank Criminal Intent #1, followed by the original, followed by SVU), and frequently find myself watching 2-3 episodes in a row, if nothing else tickles my fancy.

Anyway, this episode dealt with the police stumbling upon evidence of a murder while investigating a suspect for another murder. The catch (and there's always a catch)? Someone had already been tried and convicted for the murder. So the episode dealt with the legal hoops everyone had to jump through to rectify the situation. In the end, McCoy came through and all was good. 

But the hoops that everyone did jump through is what was so troubling about the episode. The episode showed just how difficult it is to release an innocent man out of prison - and that's without any of the emotions and politics that shouldn't be part of the process. I mean, there's a point in the show where the decision is left up to a panel of judges, and a strict, legal argument has to be made and decided upon, even when it is clear a mistake has been made. 

I understand that our legal system has to appear absolute; but at this point in time, it has been shown that an absolute system is impossible. There is no black and white anywhere, it's just varying shades of grey. 

I also understand that this is a television show, and not real. I want to make sure I clarify that, so no one thinks I'm taking this too seriously (though I'm sure we're past that point). I just find it odd that people working in law will sometimes allow innocence to rot away, because of pride. Above all else, law should protect the innocent, not have the potential to punish them. 

Just so we don't get to sanctimonious here at The Popcorn Trick, I also happened to catch an episode of Ninja Warrior, and want to say if you haven't seen it yet, you should. While Wipeout, the show on ABC, appears to be a minor hit, it doesn't hold a candle to Ninja Warrior, definitely the blueprint the producers are loosely following. 

Ninja Warrior works as entertainment for a number of reasons; but I think one of the most important ones is because Japan as a culture takes it so seriously. It's an accomplishment to finish stages on Ninja Warrior. It is hard, incredibly hard, and people train to compete. In 19 seasons, only 2 people have successfully finished all 4 stages. Every season it gets harder as well, so that it remains a challenge to all competitors. Could you imagine that approach on American soil? It would fail within a month. We like our gratification instantly, and that includes challenging feats. In America, I would bet we would make the course easier, to ensure success. It's the exact opposite of what the Japanese do, and that's why it works, at least for me. Anyway, check it out if you can.

Here's the run of the most recent winner, Makoto Nagano:

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