Profile this: Why do I like Criminal Minds?

Earlier this year I wrote a long piece about the show Profiler that used to air on NBC, labeling it as Criminal Minds before its time. In the piece I laid out some thoughts on Minds as it compared to Profiler:

Criminal Minds is a more mature show than Profiler. That could be due to CBS having perfected the criminal drama format. It turns out these shows like suburban model homes, and that’s not a knock on the shows or suburban model homes. Okay maybe a little bit. This Business Insider piece from two years ago explains how they do it (even though it was prompted by a Minds spinoff that didn’t last the season). Each show benefits from the others’ successes, and Profiler never had that benefit on the NBC of the late 1990s. Not to say it would have lasted longer if it had, just that it existed on more of an island than Criminal Minds does today.

Even with that help, I don’t think Criminal Minds is perfect. Minds is set up in a way that removes as much of a viewer’s need to think as it possibly can. Dr. Spencer Reid does most of the hand holding as the team member with an eidetic memory – basically he knows everything. That’s awfully convenient. Every development in the show is revealed through dialogue, usually as a series of questions, discussions and realizations by the BAU team. Very little is actually shown. You can close your eyes and listen to it for an entire episode without missing much of anything. Profiler was more artful than that. I’d love to see a breakdown between the average amount of time in each show without dialogue. My bet would be Profiler comes out on top. And that’s why it’s my favorite of the two. It could also be why it didn’t last half as long as Minds.

I remember mocking Criminal Minds to people who didn’t like the way Lost spread its stories out across entire seasons. “If you don’t like it, Criminal Minds would be happy to have you.” At that point I’d never seen the show and hadn’t gotten into any of CBS’s other criminal procedurals. I saw episodes of CSI and NCIS and wasn’t intrigued by either of them. I’ve since seen NCIS: Los Angeles and believe it to be one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen. So I am comfortable labeling myself as not into the big eye’s primetime staples.

Then one Sunday night I was bored watching Sunday Night Baseball and landed on a Criminal Minds rerun on Ion Television. I don’t remember what the episode was or why it caught my attention. It may have been just curiosity about what Y&R legend Shemar Moore was up to. Whatever the reason, I watched the whole thing. And the next one. And the next one. Pretty soon it was midnight, and I had a new television addiction.

I went to bed under a cloud of confusion. How could I have liked this? I’m not supposed to, I’m a Lost fan. We like deep storylines and complex characters, not this lazy whodunnit crap. I am a sophisticated television viewer, damn it!

It was a rough night.

I kept watching Minds on those Sunday nights when ballgames weren’t entertaining. I started catching it other times that it was on. The more I watched it, the more I found myself drawn to it. No, not just drawn to it, appreciative of it as really well done television. Over time, especially since it became much easier due to DVR and unemployment, I caught almost every episode Ion and A&E show on reruns, meaning up thru season seven. Toward the end of last season – its eighth – I started watching it on its original Wednesday night broadcast.

That is quite an ascension on my television ladder. No show has gone from catching up on reruns to watching live. I need to explore how this show reeled me in, what it does well and – because I have an emotional stock in it – what I’d like to see it do better.

That post will come soon. In the meantime, you can see some of it in my thoughts ahead to this fall’s premiere.

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