How I Instantly Identified the Killer in Three Straight Will Trent Episodes Due to a Network TV Problem
Today, I complain about how a problem that network TV shows have to deal with led me to instantly identify the killer in THREE STRAIGHT episodes of the otherwise really good new crime drama, Will Trent.
This is Disgrace Distract and Bother Me, a feature where I just point out minor things that annoy me in pop culture. Basically, think of it like the lowest level of criticism, then Remember to Forget is the middle, where it’s like, “Okay, this is bad, but not, like, offensively bad” and finally, Things That Turned Out Bad is for, “This is seriously messed up.”
SPOILERS ABOUT WILL TRENT AHEAD!
ABC has a great new crime drama on its hand in Will Trent, the TV adaptation of the bestselling series of Will Trent novels by Karin Slaughter. I very much recommend it. The characters are complex and interesting and the actors are really good.
A downside, though, is a problem that lots of network crime shows have to deal with, which is namely that due to time crunches (shows lose more and more time every year as networks demand more time for commercials) and budget concerns, if a character is actually given time to appear and have dialogue (and thus get paid to do it) without an express reason for them to be there, then you know they’re likely involved in the crime.
For THREE STRAIGHT EPISODES of Will Trent, there were characters introduced who have lines when the economy of the story didn’t REQUIRE them to have lines. In other words, characters that were there that didn’t absolutely HAVE to be there, and obviously, having watched enough TV shows, I assumed that they were the killers before having ANY REASON TO THINK THEY WERE THE KILLER, and sure enough, they were the main bad guys in THREE EPISODES IN A ROW.
In Episode 3, a guy is visiting his father who is suffering from dementia. He had no direct plot purpose, so I assumed that, despite there being no reason for him to be the killer, then that he had to be the killer and, sure enough, he was the killer.
In Episode 4, a guy shows up to seemingly comfort his parents after they hit a man with their car. It was just an “extra” character, so I knew he had to be the killer and, sure enough, he was (he was working WITH his mother and step-father, who intentionally hit the guy with their car, but still).
In Episode 5, a celebrity’s wife is shot while trying to keep a guy from stealing her husband’s jewelry, and after the cops are on the scene, the guy’s manager shows up and gets a few lines and, well, obviously, this dude has to be the killer (and he was. Not literally the guy who shot the wife, but he hired the guy to kill the celebrity, and the wife got in the way).
That’s three episodes in a row where I know, just due to the budgets and time constraints of network TV, that there is no such thing as “character” guest stars anymore. No one is there only to add local flavor (occasionally shows will use guest stars to get exposition across wile adding local flavor, so that’s useful, but again, you can tell when those characters are delivering important exposition. If they’re not, they’re “extra” and probably the killer). If someone shows up and has dialogue for seemingly no reason, it’s GOING to be because they’re the killer (or tied to the killer or whatever).
It’s not really something that you can change due to the facts being the facts (shows don’t have time to flesh episodes out and can’t afford to pay guest stars to flesh it out), but boy, it’s still a shame.
Feel free to e-mail me at my all-new, much shorter e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, for suggestions for pet peeves of your own. They might match mine, and I’ll run them!
5 thoughts on “How I Instantly Identified the Killer in Three Straight Will Trent Episodes Due to a Network TV Problem”
Great point. And often it’s simply the most famous guest star who’s the killer, which likely goes back even before Columbo.
Good catch and yes, I like that show too. The CSI shows have a tell where someone who’s close to the victim, relative, co-worker, old friend etc. is interviewed very early in the show. Then they disappear. The cops/techs do their thing and then around 50-55 minutes in, damn if that guy didn’t commit the crime! As Martin Gray just mentioned, if you recognize the actor it’s almost guaranteed that they committed the crime. It’s not easy writing and making a TV series, fresh every week.
Martin has a point: I knew as soon as the Rock turned up in an unremarkable supporting role in the Get Smart movie that he’d be the head of KAOS.
The book “The Great Movie Serials” makes the same point about its subject: if you have an actor who plays villains playing a janitor or a kindly scientist, he’ll be behind the mask of Captain Mephisto or the Scorpion or whoever.
This is every scooby doo episode. Just saying.
I first noticed this on CSI: NY when Edward Furlong showed up as a guest at a party where someone was murdered. There are clues to the murder based on a series of t-shirts that are part of an online game. (I think. It’s convoluted, and I haven’t seen the episode in a while.) At first, he seems like he’s assisting the police and explaining the shirts and game, but they kept coming back to him, so it became obvious that he was more involved than just knowing some things that inspired the murder.