A lot of effort is expended at Time Goes By bashing media – news and entertainment - for their ageism, and well it should. Kneejerk prejudice against elders is so common, entrenched and often subtle that hardly anyone notices it.
Every now and then, however, someone gets it right and it is exhilarating when it happens.
On Monday night’s episode of The Closer titled “The Round File,” the story concerned a retired police reporter, Mr. Baxter, who confesses to the poisoning murders of seven residents in the nursing home where he lives.
Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson, played by Kyra Sedgwick, is ready to book him when he recants, explaining that the confession was a ruse to get the police department to pay attention to the murders which he had reported in the past and been ignored.
Although the homicide squad doubts there is a previous complaint from Baxter and is suspicious of his recantation, that changes when a file of his past report turns up. As Commander Taylor, played by Robert Gossett, hands over the complaint file to Chief Johnson, the following exchange takes place:
TAYLOR: [The officer who took Baxter’s complaint] Gordon found Baxter uncooperative. In fact, the old guy was more interested in asking questions than answering them. So Detective Gordon dumped his complaint in the round file. You know, Chief, we get this kind of stuff all the time. It’s hard enough staying on top of the crimes we find much less the ones people make up.
JOHNSON: (perusing file) I know exactly what happened. Mr. Baxter is old and difficult and because of that he was just dismissed out of hand. [I know] that’s what happened because that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do to him myself.
Chief Johnson - who could have been speaking for every bureaucrat, healthcare worker, comedian, reporter and thousands of other television shows who regularly condescend to elders - makes an attitude adjustment and with the help of Mr. Baxter's clues, solves the crime.
…And so, for proving that important cultural lessons can be taught without sacrificing a good story, the winner of Time Goes By's award for Best Media Effort to Combat Ageism goes to executive producers Greer Shephard, who also directed, and Michael M. Rubin, and to writer, Michael Alaimo. My only complaint is that there aren’t any other shows for The Closer to compete against for this award.
You can see a short highlight video of the episode here, and you may be able to view the entire show (No. 305) online soon; TNT appears to be posting them a couple of weeks after the original air date.
While I’m passing out kudos, the character of aging detective Lt. Provenza, played by G.W. Bailey, is the best grouchy old guy I’ve seen on television in a long time. Provenza has been there, done that, seen it all and the ongoing portrayal of younger boss/older employee is an example to all the so-called employment experts who think such a relationship is problematic.
Because it is important in fighting ageism to give credit where it is due – particularly in big-time media where it can do the most good - you could drop TNT a line or two, as I have done, letting them know you appreciate this show: tnt AT turner DOT com
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Betsy Devine tells a childhood story of a scary neighbor and A Mother's Loving Lie.]