The Plumber in Albuquerque
Warning: there will be spoilers here. If you haven't yet seen this week's episode of Body of Proof, walk away and I'll see you next week.
And yes, I did previously have a rant about the show. However, this week was the first in a two-part arc about an outbreak and ever since Ebola, I've had an unholy fascination with rare and gross diseases that involve Level 4 biohazard labs, funky oxygenated suits and the CDC. So naturally, I had to watch it.
Can you see the rant coming on?
The show starts nicely with an apparently now disposable regular cast member waiting at a bar for her boyfriend (another regular cast member). She's being chatted up by some guy at the bar who buys a drink, but just before boyfriend arrives, she totters out of the bar looking feverish and dizzy. She dies having a seizure with sufficiently gross blood and other stuff coming out of her mouth. What with a bunch of other people dying the same way, it quickly becomes apparent that Philadelphia is having an outbreak. Shortly after that, the M.E. (Kate) calls in the CDC, which aggravates Megan because now the CDC is going to take away her toys (i.e., the bodies). Or something. Megan is the main character of the show and is played by Dana Delaney, whom I've loved since China Beach. And by the way, when is China Beach going to come out on DVD?
Somehow Megan managers to persuade the CDC that her team should be part of the investigation. Why she's taking the lead on this kind of advocacy instead of Kate, who is her boss, I don't know. Initially, it is thought that this new, strange disease is spread in aerosol form (i.e., you can stand next to me and give it to me by breathing in my general vicinity), but shortly after that Megan speculates that it is spread by bodily fluids and as long as you haven't come in contact with the blood of the miscellanea courses strewn about, you'll be okay. She says and takes off her helmet. Very dramatic.
Even more dramatic, this happens immediately after Kate has stuck herself with a needle as she was sewing up an incision on a body, not paying attention because she and Meagan are having a fight. I forget what it was about, because they seem to have two fights per episode (and both actors involved do it very well - the fights are usually the most real aspects of each episode). Aside from not believing at all that an experienced M.E. would not pay enough attention when they’re sewing up a very body that is a simmering stew of a highly contagious and unknown illness, it gets even more ridiculous.
Until this point, my mother and I had called each other in each commercial thoroughly enjoying sharing this compelling story. However, after Kate sticks herself, I called mor to say that if we come back from the commercial and she (Kate) doesn't tell anyone, I'm turning off the show. We both knew I was lying, because of course I’d watch all of it. Not surprisingly, however, Kate does not tell anyone. Which is completely believable, right? Because a woman who is skilled and experienced enough to become the M.E. of a major city will naturally choose to not say anything about having engaged in an unwitting blood brother ceremony with one of the deceased. Also completely believably, she continues to not say anything after she develops a fever. Instead, Kate stays at work and continues working. Around other people. While having symptoms of an unknown, highly contagious disease with a high fatality rate. Oh, sure.
And then there is some sort of ridiculata around the method of transmission. It is discovered that this outbreak is a result of a terrorist act, during which someone has infected themselves and is going around spreading the disease. Perhaps by spitting on them? Or maybe the method of transmission has changed, because the experienced and skilled FBI agent in charge of this disaster (who’s naturally a jerk) talks about how all this terrorist has to do stand next to someone and he'll pass the infection to them. This is reiterated by Kate when she collapses dramatically at a press conference right after she goes off script and tells the media pack (and The Entire World) that there's an infected terrorist who will pass the disease to everyone. Again, I'm not quite sure how this is going to happen since the disease spreads through blood and other bodily fluids. I also don't know how the terrorist is still alive given that everyone else who’s had this thing have died quickly (and messily).
Not surprisingly, I am not planning to see part two of this disaster and it has a lot to do with the same reason I ranted about the show before. This show was very obviously originally geared toward an audience of grown women with an IQ larger than their shoe size. And because some sort of committee told ABC that they were uncomfortable with any female character being this prickly and sort of unlikable, they started softening her, tinkering away and now we have a woman who is prickly and abrasive in one scene and knows exactly how to comfort a grieving man in the next. They’ve also given her a makeover which has included plastering a caterpillar on each of her eyelids. I know the current beauty trend is for lashes so long they enter a room 2 minutes before the woman herself, but I can't see anything else on her face. They make it hard to focus.
My biggest quibble, however, was the inconsistency in the science. Let me rephrase this: my biggest quibble was the willy-nilly approach to scientific consistency in this episode and how it reflects the writers/producers/network’s assumption that every person who watches this show wouldn’t notice. Which brings me to the plumber in Albuquerque.
A long time ago, I read Linda Ellerbee's memoir And So It Goes: Adventures in Television. I've actually read it several times, as her mix of smart and smartass is just up my alley. In the book she describes doing an evening magazine show and how they did their best to present smart and in-depth coverage of issues making news. It stood out from the rest because the Powers That Be usually insisted that any news show should be able to appeal to "the plumber in Albuquerque," meaning it should be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. It turns out that plumbers in New Mexico are a lot smarter than The Powers That Be give them credit for and the show was a success for a while.
And that is the part about much entertainment that drives me crazy. This assumption that we're all stupid and can't follow along with something smart. This is disproved again and again when really smart stuff is given the chance to make it big (The Big Bang Theory, anyone?) and yet, they persist in assuming that viewers can't follow simple science.
So, it's official. They have removed everything that once made Body of Proof worth watching and are now gearing it to people who switch off their brains when they sit down in front of the TV. Not that there's anything wrong with that in general, but it is very much wrong when they mangle it like this. And this week, ratings were up. Which I’d like to attribute to the icky outbreak, rather than the ridiculous mishmash they've made of the show.
And since I have now felt compelled to twice rant about the show in public, another thing is official. I will never watch it again regardless of how much I love Dana Delaney.