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In Which I Find An Excuse To Devote An Entire Entry To Law & Order: SVU

January 19, 2010

As predicted, I spent a lot of my post-productivity time yesterday curled up with Netflixed episodes of Law & Order: SVU. Now, let me make it clear that this is no idle hobby for me. I’ve been loyally (some might say “rabidly”) following this show for years, often watching hours of it a time with my dad. (Hi, Dad!) It’s gotten to the point where I’m genuinely surprised to come upon an episode I’ve never seen before. I know the whole routine, beginning to end. For example:

–Chief Cragen will always tell the detectives, “My office. Now!” because let’s face it, it’s not that dramatically interesting to tell them, “My office. In ten minutes, or, you know, whenever you finish your coffee.”
The guest star is always guilty. Rare exceptions are made when guest stars are allowed to a) be snarky defense attorneys instead of criminals, b) find their salvations through twist endings that YOU WILL NEVER SEE COMING (except probably you will).
–The A.D.A. (no matter which hot young actress is currently in the role) will always protest “My hands are tied!” and then find a way to prosecute the baddie anyway.
–Elliot Stabler will always be far more angry than the given situation merits. He will also make frequent and awkward references to his quasi-estranged wife, who seems to serve no purpose as a character beyond allowing for shots of Christopher Meloni shirtless.
–Olivia Benson will always become far too emotionally involved in the case, and will also often show signs of becoming far too emotionally involved in Stabler. Not that I can blame her. (See: Meloni, shirtless.)

Never mind that I know all of these things. Never mind that I’ve seen some episodes so many times I remember who the criminal is before the opening credits have even started. I still love this show. When I hear Announcer Man saying, “In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous…” I instantly feel like I’m about to hang out with good friends. Yes, many of the episodes are sad and/or bloody and/or downright terrifying. But overall, weird as it may sound, I find watching them to be cozy and relaxing.

I think it’s exactly the same with books. Familiarity is comforting. Some stereotypes are true. It’s very rare for someone to create something utterly, irrefutably new and unique. Does that mean no one should bother producing new works of art? Of course not. Everyone will (hopefully) add their own spin, their own voice, their own style to what they make. But it’s reassuring to remind myself that, because not much of what I put on the page is likely to be wholly original, what I need to focus on is writing in the best way possible.

After all, I’m trafficking in a lot of familiar tropes: pirates, underdog rebels, fantasy elements, love triangles (or squares, as the case may be). But if I’m constantly worried about whether or not a given thought is The Most Unique Thought This World Has Ever Seen, I’ll get nowhere. I have to tell my story the best way I know how. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing, with occasional breaks to check in with my fictional law-enforcing friends.

And, uh, my real friends. I have real ones, too, I swear. :)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. jschancellor permalink
    January 19, 2010 11:47 pm

    You can’t forget the bartender that always remembers the suspect/missing person/victim as “oh yeah, red shirt girl.” or “Sure, she left here with green hat guy at around 7pm.” And of course there is always the dude unloading crates that can’t bother stopping for two seconds to talk to homicide detectives, so he proceeds to go about business as usual while chatting about body parts or broken parole or…

    Yeah, sooo nice to know that I’m not the only one glued to the tube when that gavel hits. It doesn’t matter if I’ve seen the same episode nine times…I’ll watch it again!!

    • January 19, 2010 11:51 pm

      I kind of want to hug this comment. :) The bartenders with flawless photographic memories are HILARIOUS. And oh, the technology:
      “Can you zoom in on this unrecognizably blurry face and enhance it so it looks exactly like the mug shot of that one serial killer we’ve been tracking?”
      –“No problem!”

      …and I’m a sucker for it anyway. :)

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