When Entertainment Loses Value

When you read a book or watch a scripted TV show, you are often looking for entertainment and escapism. A touch of educational value or morality can add depth as long as it doesn’t take over the story. Recently, we watched a couple of episodes in a TV series we like. Or at least, we had liked it up until now. But it devolved from a fantasy action hero show into a reminder of all the social issues in the news. In these two episodes alone, at least five hot topics were addressed.


These important issues shouldn’t overwhelm the tale and thrust us out of the fantasy. This TV show is supposed to be about a female hero with martial arts abilities and the search for a set of mythical swords. The original Star Trek, for example, was a perfect blend of science fiction and morality. Despite the lessons, it was always highly entertaining.

Somewhere along the way of this new show, the fantasy element took second place. In the most recent episode, the heroine’s boyfriend asked a shady contact for information on the swords, and this person immediately found where one was located. Where’s the fun in that? Our heroes had one adventure of breaking and entering and did research in the library. Otherwise, the answer was handed to them. There was no quest, no riddles to solve, no puzzle. And no escapism. It was like watching the news with the focus on social issues instead of pure entertainment. It that’s what you prefer, go for it.

The mythical element was the main reason I started watching the show. But then they added a fight scene in one of these two episodes on a flimsy excuse. “Fight me,” the heroine told a collector of artifacts. “If I win, you keep the box and the key, and I’ll keep the contents.” That’s a paraphrase of the conversation. But all she had to do was negotiate. Instead, the writers used it as an excuse to show off her martial arts skills. The ploy was so obvious as to be laughable.

This show has forgotten its audience and has turned into a family drama filled with social commentary.  As writers, we are always taught to meet reader expectations. The same goes for TV viewers. Explore one issue per episode if you like but don’t hammer us with several together at once. Then the show loses focus unless this was its purpose from the start.

I’ll give it one more chance. If it doesn’t get back on track with the fantasy elements in the next episode, I’m done. And that would be sad, because I like the characters and the premise and the cast.

I stopped watching the current incarnation of Nancy Drew for this same reason. Instead of a fun, light series of Nancy and her friends solving mysteries, it is a dark, supernatural story with monsters. If you like horror rather than cozy mysteries, it would have appeal, but the genres couldn’t be farther apart.

How about you? Are you disappointed when a favorite show steers off course?


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Mystery Movies

In addition to the classics like Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, here are some of my favorite films in the mystery genre or movies involving writers. A happy ending is a must for my taste. This list does not include the Hallmark Channel mystery movies of which I’m also a fan.
AMERICAN DREAMER with JoBeth Williams and Tom Conti.
This classic tale of intrigue is one of my favorites. A romance novelist wins a contest and a trip to Paris. En route to the awards luncheon, she’s in an accident and suffers a head injury. She wakes up believing herself to be the heroine in her favorite books. A spy caper follows that’s all too real, as she teams up with the author’s handsome son who thinks she’s a nutcase. That is, until someone tries to kill them. http://amzn.to/2qZVEhl
DROWNING MONA with Danny DeVito and Bette Midler.
This funny whodunit in a small town has a cast of wacky characters. Classic example of a cozy. http://amzn.to/2rkArzR
GOSFORD PARK with Helen Mirren and Jeremy Northam.
This is an English drawing room mystery that takes place at a country estate. Aristocrats and servants alike have secrets that slowly unravel during a hunting party weekend. Albeit a bit slow-paced, this film requires repeat viewings to catch the nuances. http://amzn.to/2rklnC8
HER ALIBI with Tom Selleck and Paulina Portzkova.
This hilarious escapade finds mystery novelist Phillip Blackwood falling for a suspected murderess while he searches for inspiration to unlock his writer’s block. Did the mysterious and beautiful foreigner have a hand in the victim’s death? If so, was he foolish to vouch for her alibi and bring her home? And are the accidents that occur after her arrival truly accidents, or is Philip next in line for his guest’s lethal hijinks? http://amzn.to/2qjtafC
MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.
A Manhattan housewife thinks her next door neighbor is a murderer. She enlists her friends to search for clues. Probably my favorite Woody Allen film out of all of them. http://amzn.to/2qZEEIb
MURDER 101 with Pierce Brosnan.
English professor Charles Lattimore assigns his class to plan the perfect murder as a literary exercise. When he’s framed for a woman’s death, he has to find the killer before the detective on the case finds him. Will his students help him solve a real murder, or is one of them guilty? http://amzn.to/2qje0qK
MURDER BY THE BOOK with Robert Hays.
A mystery novelist thinks he’s hallucinating when his hero appears in front of him and talks back. He’s been thinking of changing to a new series and scrapping the sleuth, but now he needs the fellow’s help to solve a real murder. http://amzn.to/2qZrQzF
MY COUSIN VINNY with Joe Pesci, Ralph Macchio, Marisa Tomei, and Fred Gwynne
In this funny courtroom drama, a New York lawyer on his first case defends two fellows in Alabama who are mistakenly accused of murder. Watch for the clues in this hilarious mystery. http://amzn.to/2qnMisB
THE BOY NEXT DOOR with Dina Meyer and Cory Monteith.

A romance writer goes on a retreat to a small town to seek inspiration for her next story. When her next door neighbor is found dead, the chief of police suspects her. Even when her place is ransacked and someone tries to run her off the road, he discounts her theories and refuses to look into the incidents. It’s up to our heroine to prove her innocence and uncover the killer before his next attack turns fatal. http://amzn.to/2qZQXEi
THE BROKENWOOD MYSTERIES with Neill Rea and Fern Sutherland.
I’ve bought the DVDs. Otherwise, you can find this show on the Acorn TV Channel. http://thebrokenwoodmysteries.com/
Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd and Detective Constable Kristin Sims solve mysteries involving a limited number of suspects, most of whom know each other, in a distinct setting and with a definite sense of humor. Emphasis is on the relationships between characters and personal motives rather than forensics. Each episode is a perfect example of a cozy mystery despite the lack of an amateur sleuth. http://amzn.to/2qjcPYl
MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES with Essie Davis and Nathan Page.
The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher solves crimes in 1929 Melbourne, Australia. Essie Davis plays the lead while Nathan Page plays her romantic interest, Detective Inspector Jack Robinson. Warning: Miss Fisher’s spectacular outfits threaten to steal the show. http://amzn.to/2qjwVle
Miss Fisher
MIDSOMER MURDERS with John Nettles and Jane Wymark.
A police detective and his deputy solve murders in small town England. Some people love this show. I couldn’t get into it but it might appeal to you. http://amzn.to/2qSu0Cu
ROSEMARY AND THYME with Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris.

Two ladies in England solve mysteries together. One is a plant pathologist. The other woman is separated from her husband. I haven’t watched too many of these but they caught my interest. http://amzn.to/2qj87ty
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So here you go. If you have some free time this weekend, look up these films and have a good time. Keep watch for Murder on the Orient Express, an upcoming theatrical release and remake of the classic Agatha Christie tale, with Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, and Penelope Cruz in an all-star cast.
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