The Time Criminal Minds Insulted All Of St. Paul

The genesis for this post began a year ago during an episode of Criminal Minds featuring some inconsistencies that only an #avgeek would probably spot. Like most of my blog ideas, it fell by the wayside. Then another one popped up during last fall’s premiere of Supergirl (CBS) and this post got real.

It’s a beast putting a 42-minute drama together. Such a chore that they can only shoot about 7 minutes of show per day. In one of my posts on the Warner Bros. VIP studio tour I described how laborious it can be to shoot a simple exchange of dialogue between two characters, and it helps understand why shooting goes so slow. With all that work it’s easy to see how little things like what I’m about to show slip by.

So don’t mistake this post as criticism. What follows are a couple of things I’ve noticed that are completely inconsequential but amusing. At least to me.

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Supergirl saves an airplane…

…that probably couldn’t fly anyway. The first thing to get out of the way here is that I do understand this is a scene involving a flying woman, which is impossible according to the current understandings of any number of scientific disciplines. But it’s hard to consider that a goof when she’s the main character.

What got me here is what’s highlighted in the screencap below. This single-level quad-jet (most analogous to the Airbus A340) has its horizontal stabilizers mounted to the fuselage (lower arrow). Pretty common for aircraft with wing-mounted engines.

Now look to the upper arrow. The stabilizers there are mounted on the tail fin.
That’s what we call a T-tail, for obvious reasons. T-tails are typically found on planes with engines mounted on the rear of the fuselage.“You’re losing me, airplane nerd.” Here’s the thing: Planes have a T-tail or a stabilizer mounted on the fuselage, not both. Both would be…weird…and seriously screw with the aerodynamics of an aircraft. That’s why they don’t exist.

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Criminal Minds insults all of St. Paul

In Season 8, Episode 17 of Criminal Minds the BAU took a case that brought it to the Minneapolis suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. St. Paul has its own skyline (which I think is better than that of Minneapolis, for what it’s worth), but you’d never know it according to this piece of art hanging in the St. Paul Police Department.

St. Paul is known for having a delicate ego, so we would caution its residents to not get too bent out of shape about this. The folks at Criminal Minds have to make a new police department set every seven days so let’s cut them some slack.

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Okobohgeez, X-Files

I was just settling into the X-Files in Season 1, Episode 4 when Mulder and Scully followed a case to the northwest Iowa town of Okoboji. I’m pretty familiar with Okoboji, or “the lakes” as we call it back home. It’s a chain of towns and lakes about half an hour from where I grew up. Okoboji sits in a flat land, the nearest hill of any kind is the Ocheyedan Mound, which towers 1,650 feet above sea level. Here’s a photo.

So imagine my bemusement when the agents’ car rolls past the sign for Lake Okobogee. Or when tall mountains blanketed with coniferous trees loom behind them. The filming location was actual Buntzen Lake in British Columbia, where X-Files filmed.

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Let’s overlook the fact that the episode was about a young boy named Kevin who was having government transmissions beamed into his brain. In northwest Iowa.

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Criminal Minds drives #avgeeks crazy

I saved the inspiration behind this post for last, and I’m going to brag about it. You read this far, bear with me. The episode opens outside a 747 that’s supposed to be halfway between Pittsburgh and Phoenix, which it wouldn’t be because no airline is going to fly a 747 between those domestic markets (airlines don’t fly scheduled 747 service on any domestic routes). Because it’s mid-flight, the plane is supposed to be at its cruising altitude, but the video they show is of a plane shortly after takeoff. Its landing gear are retracting in the first few frames – a dead giveaway that the plane is not at 37,000 feet. You can also see the flaps extended, as they might to help get the 747 in the air.

The second #avgeek goof comes from the interior shots. The 747 is a twin-aisle aircraft, but the interior shots are shot on a single-aisle set. Oooh, that’s a big goof! #eyeroll

Last one, I promise. When Dr. Reid hangs the aircraft blueprint on the wall it clearly says 727 Structural Schematic. The 727 and 747 are vastly different planes. The most striking difference would be the 727’s lack of the distinctive hump the 747 is known for. Another obvious unsimilarity would be that the 747 has four wing-mounted engines while the 727 has two engines mounted on the rear fuselage and one in the tail.

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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.

Thinking ahead: Criminal Minds

This will be my first season watching Criminal Minds in-season having only seen it on Ion and A&E reruns. I made the decision to watch last year’s season finale because 1) I knew it is the kind of show you can jump into mid-stream without feeling lost (pun…intended); and 2) I heard they were going to kill off one of the team. Unfortunately that turned out to be a bit of an oversell as it was Strauss who bit the bullet at the hands of Hans Solo. Not really what I was expecting and, frankly, kind of a cop out. I generally do not subscribe to the theory that killing off a character is gimmicky but in this case it clearly was exactly that.

Because Crim is a procedural there isn’t much to think about before the season. If there is one thing I would like to see it is that the writers would crimp into Garcia’s data mining abilities. She is every bit the electronic snooper that Harold Finch is on Person of Interest but her methods are simply a means to an end for Criminal Minds. I want to see this for two reasons. First, the more I watch the show the more “hand of God” her work seems. Her ability to pull up exactly the right person through the most exacting and bizarre search parameters is often too much to be believable.

Here is an example. In season seven, episode 11 Hotch asks Garcia to find everyone in a region with an IQ higher than 120. Then she is cross referencing Zodiac Killer researchers with high-level chess players. I mean, come on.

How they might throttle her back can be found in the second reason: The NSA spying revelations resulting from Edward Snoden’s stealing and subsequent leaking of government documents. Garcia only acts when the BAU is chasing an unsub as opposed to the NSA’s blanket surveillance but the limitless pools of data she is able to tap into and the relative ease with which she does it make an easy comparison. I would love to see a case where her work incorrectly identifies an unsub and leads to her being sidelined or severely crippled in what she is able to do. How the team does its work without her would be interesting to see. Except for when she was shot (by Longmire’s Bailey Chase, no less) she has been one of the show’s most constant characters, right up there with her dark chocolate, Derek Morgan. Let’s shake it up a little.

Profiler: Before its time?

It must have been a strange feeling for Robert Davi when he made a guest appearance on the CBS crime drama Criminal Minds. Davi played the role of Detective Eric Kurz in the final episode of season five and the premiere of season six. It was only 10 years earlier that he closed the book on Agent Bailey Malone.

Agent Malone was Aaron Hotchner before there was Aaron Hotchner, just like Malone’s show Profiler was Criminal Minds before there was Criminal Minds. Starting in 1997, Profiler ran for four seasons on NBC’s Saturday night schedule. It followed the story of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force and Dr. Samantha Waters, its profiler (Ally Walker). Malone, Detective John Grant (Nip/Tuck’s Julian McMahon), George Fraley (Peter Frechette) and Dr. Grace Alvarez (Roma Maffia) followed Waters’ profiling instinct across the country to track and stop violent killers.

The VCTF had its stern leader in Malone, detective muscle in Grant and even CBS’ patented computer wiz in Fraley. Dr. Alvarez filled the forensics role. Sound familiar? They were Hotchner’s Behavioral Analysis Unit by a different name. Each member of Profiler’s team kept its duties more specialized than Hotchner’s BAU where all the characters seem almost equally adept at all the skills they need to track their “unsubs.”

Profiler’s story had an additional serial element that Criminal Minds mostly avoids. Its week-to-week stories took place on top of Dr. Waters’ personal life marked by an extreme tragedy: The death of her husband at the hands of a serial killer known only as “Jack.” Sam is haunted by the continual torture-hold Jack keeps her in as he weaves in and out of the show’s first three seasons until the VCTF ultimately apprehends him. It would be as if Foyet haunted Hotch for the entirety of Minds. Walker then left the show and it floundered quickly, lasting only one more season. Interestingly enough, Walker’s replacement was played by Madison Riley, who had a guest appearance on Criminal Minds in 2013.

Had it aired today, Profiler may have enjoyed a more successful fate. Broadcast television is a different place now than it was in the late 1990s. A look at last season’s top ratings compared to those of 1997 shows how much things have changed.

2011-12 Total Viewership

  1. NCIS 19.2 million
  2. American Idol (Wed) 17.7 million
  3. Dancing with the Stars (fall perf) 17.6 million
  4. Dancing with the Stars (spring perf) 17 million
  5. American Idol (Thurs) 16.6 million
  6. NCIS: Los Angeles 15.5 million
  7. Dancing with the Stars (fall results) 15.4 million
  8. The Big Bang Theory 14.9 million
  9. Dancing with the Stars (spring results) 14.7 million
  10. Two and a Half Men 14.6 million

See the rest.

Now the top broadcast shows of the 1996-97 television season

  1. ER 20.6 million
  2. Seinfeld 19.9 million
  3. Suddenly Susan 16.5 million
  4. Friends 16.3 million
  5. The Naked Truth 16.3 million
  6. Fired Up 16.6 million
  7. Monday Night Football 15.5 million
  8. The Single Guy 13.7 million
  9. Home Improvement 13.6 million
  10. Touched by an Angel 12.9 million

See the next 20 here.

Most glaringly, six of last year’s top shows were of the reality genre, which didn’t exist in  1997. Sitcoms accounted for similar bulk in 1997 taking up 70 percent of the list.

How would Profiler have ranked? Its 1996-97 viewership of 7.4 million put it 82nd. The same viewership last year would have vaulted it 30 spots higher, near the likes of Glee, House, Revenge and Scandal – all of which survived. Nearby shows like Terra Nova, NYC 22 and Missing weren’t so lucky. Following seasons saw Profiler jump to 9-10 million viewers, on par with Undercover Boss, How I Met Your Mother, Greys Anatomy, CSI: NY and The Amazing Race. Those shows survive easily.

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 favourite of the two. It could also be why it didn’t last half as long as Minds.

Davi appeared in two of what I think are Criminal Minds’ darkest episodes as a serial killer murdered families and left only one survivor to remember the horrors. As he looked around the set, I wonder if Davi saw Profiler as a show that came before its time?