Sweet mother of Lucifer, every time I turn around there's another googly-eyed detective with an eccentric habit solving an increasingly ludicrous crime before the hour is up. Is it a law that every network must have a crime drama with a detective who sees ghosts/uses obscure mentalism/possesses some manner of irritating OCD/exhales a lot in dimly lit areas for at least 15% of the show?

Crime shows on TV are as ubiquitous as Billy Mays after midnight. As with every trend, there has to be backlash at some point. Could that tide break on the heads of novelists, too? Will crime fiction in the book world also go the way of the late King of Shouting Until You Buy Something?

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It's a cyclical thing. Sitcoms, crime shows, hospital shows, soapy melodramas, and the variations of each, all take their turns in the spotlight.

Right now it's eccentric detectives. It too shall pass, and crime fiction will live on.
I think the paranormal aspect is the more repetitive part of the genre explosion on TV. The blend with the crime genre seems like a necessary plotting choice, but I think the paranormal emphasis is what sold these shows. From X-files to Buffy to Twilight, the long slog of paranormal television has been a sight to behold. And it's always mysterious. So mysterious. And dangerous. Then, to put a protagonist into that setting, you necessarily have a crime show. But it's all about the spookiness.

So that's what I think is sustaining these shows. That, and the Slap-Chop. Gotta get me some Slap-Chop.
Throw in some water cooler moments, too, Andrew.
let's hope the backlash will eliminate the need to write "quirky" heroes. Most--not all--of the TV shows are all story and a hook, which they have lowered to a gimmick. Crime novels can go deeper and do a better job. I think we inhabit different niches, though interest in ours can be driven by interest in theirs.
Not too much bothered by quirky heroes but very bothered by silly plots. I think that the TV audience is a notch less cerebral than readers, so authors of books will have a little more freedom. Also, the TV scripts are hemmed in by time constraints and the need to continue the series along the same lines and keep stories coming regularly.
Now we need to hear from John F. who writes both.
I really don't mind the mentalist shows. They're kinda savvy. Monk, however, I just want to slap around a few times and tell him to grow up. And the ghost whisperers I simply don't watch. Ever.

The ones I both like, yet really get irritated over, are the CSI variations. Slick productions--too bad technology can't do half the stuff they protray.
This is my third attempt to post a reply. I'm pretty sure the first two were better than this will be, but I guess I'm having computer trouble.

I'm going to say from my brief experience of one TV show that there will always be detective shows. For better or worse, network execs can divorce their personal tastes from the "product" they buy for TV. I haven't found this with books where my editor has some specific personal tastes and looks for books to satisfy them. Sure, he then has to sell the book to the marketing department but TV is driven by the marketing departmet.

That's not to say the TV execs I encountered at CBS didn't care about the product - they really did, it was just in more broad strokes. In TV they're very concerned with finding the right structural format for each show. Does that sound better than "formula?" They know that for the most part TV is 'comfort food.'

I started to look at TV like pop music - or 12 bar blues. Really structured, but still with lots of room to solo. The TV execs are very concerned with making sure it has 12 bars, is in the right key and has the right instrumentation, but they leave the lyrics and the solo up to the writers, showrunner and producer.

So, because they're looking for this kind of broad strokes formula, detective stories are perfect. Once the right "quirky" formula is set, product can be produced.
Oh, geez, "comfort food." And so are mysteries. So are many books, most of all the genre novels. They are what people head for after a long, tough day at work or with the family. Something to take them away, let them escape their real lives. God knows, my books qualify -- for those who like their trips to exotic places while pretending that it's an educational journey.
I know I have always treated mysteries as "comfort food." Some are occasionally just a little bit more. those are worth hanging on to.
I know I have always treated mysteries as "comfort food."

Me too. Maybe that's why we like mysteries that feature food? :) And armchair travel!
Of course, some would say....reading a MURDER MYSTERY is a strange kind of "comfort!"
But, same can be said of any genre, really.
John, you actually might be wrong in the assumption there will always be a detective show. I grew up in an era where there were Westerns every night on every channel. Back then the thoughts were the same. Always would be a Western. Can't find even one these days.
Oh sure, I could be wrong, I often am.

Elmore Leonard said when the market dried up for westerns he started writing crime fiction, so in a way we still have westerns. Or, I should say you still have westerns as they really are a particularly American genre.

But I would say we will probabky have crime fiction as long as we have fiction and crime.
Yes, and John, I agree with your analysis of the slide from Western to Crime genre. In both cases the hero has to resolve the problem using alternately his wit and sometmes brute force. We always love the hero, and so we remain loyal to his genre.

I loved Fargo -- did anyone else enjoy that? A simple buffoon of a criminal, not a mastermind at all, and a pregnant detective full of obvious integrity and intelligence. The story flowed in a purely organic way to its natural conclusion.

There are, however, only so many Fargo-type stories out there. As D.R. said, styles ebb and flow in a cycle. This current dummying down of the genre will pass, I hope.

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