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Quite the World, Isn't It?

A rare foray into television criticism

The television and I have an agreement: It shows "Law and Order" or "NCIS" reruns with the occasional soccer and football game thrown in, and I agree to watch it. Otherwise we don't spend a whole lot of time together.

But I managed to catch the first two episodes of the new series, "Harry's Law," on NBC, with Kathy Bates, and find it pretty intriguing. The writing is erratic - some scenes stretch credulity to the breaking point - and they have an annoying habit of pushing up cheesy music during emotional peaks, which only serves to lessen the dramatic impact.

But the first episode dove into the problem of drug addiction, from the perspective of the addict and our societal failure to create pro-active programs to help. The second episode touched on the plight of chronically poor elderly people, and our failure to adequately support them.

Not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but a lot better than the cheap moralism of "Law and Order" (even though I watch it), "CSI" and other top-rated TV shows with their typical "catch a perp" approach. "Harry's Law" offers a more nuanced look - at least least in the first two episodes - at some of the key social issues that, for decades now, have influenced the make up and health of our urban and rural communities. Poverty and addiction are isolating things, and in that isolation, desperation grows.

This also has had me ruminating lately on our societal predisposition to treat crime as a problem in our neighborhoods, but as entertainment on our TV screens and in our movie theaters. "Detroit 187" is one of the new ones, and while it;s fun to see Detroit on the screen, I can't help but think there are better ways to get at the city's core than following cops around. What we need is more entertainment holding up teachers, social workers and others who try to build a better society, and fewer programs romanticizing those who break our codes, and those who enforce them.
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