Birth and Rebirth

Good Old Television

[PERSONAL NOTE: What a wonderful cascade of birthday greetings from you yesterday. What can I say but thank you all. It was a lovely day made extra-special by all of you. Thank you so much.]

category_bug_journal2.gif Until a friend pointed it out several months ago, I had not realized I am a fan of police procedurals – cop shows - on television. I've been watching them since Dragnet and I'm fairly indiscriminate about my choices. Often I don't watch a show until it is in reruns, but sooner or later I see most of them.

I couldn't tell you what I like about them unless it's the orderliness. Problems solved in 44 minutes which is a relief from the messiness of real life where some things go unresolved for years, even forever. Law and Order fools me now and then when the prosecution fails leaving the bad guy on the loose. But the structure of the show never changes: crime, investigation, court, judgment.

My current favorite is N.C.I.S.. Someone accused me of having a crush on Mark Harmon, but he's not my type. I'd be more likely to fall for David McCallum, who plays the medical examiner Ducky. Years ago, he played Illya Kuryakin in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. spy series and there was a nice, little inside joke in one N.C.I.S. episode where someone can't place who Ducky reminds him of. “Illya Kuryakin,” says the other character.

Of course, that went right over the heads of any young viewers. You need to be old enough to have watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to get it.

An added value of N.C.I.S. is the multi-generational cast who are given equal screen time. There are the three young agents in their 30s, the young forensic scientist Abby, their leader Jethro Gibbs, in his 50s, and Ducky who is old enough to be the young agents' grandfather. Plus, Ducky's aging mother, who is quite dotty, nuts even, and imperial in her early stages of dementia, is a recurring character. Four generations.

In recent years, those who give advice about succeeding in the workplace, write about difficulties between young and old, often making it seem that conflicts are inevitable and hard to overcome. But week after week, the N.C.I.S. writers portray the generations working well together, displaying their differences through misunderstandings, arguments, jokes and, in the end, respect. These are better lessons – taking dramatic license into consideration - than what the employment “experts” give us.

Still, there are few enough elders in anything but out-of-date, stereotyped roles on television. Recently, Peter Tibbles, who lives in Melbourne, turned me on to a British cop show, New Tricks (as in old dogs, etc.), about three old men – well, let Peter tell you as he did in a recent email:

“The premise is that they get three retired detectives to investigate old crimes. Ho-hum usually, but this is excellent. The three are played by Alun Armstrong, Dennis Waterman and James Bolam. Amanda Redman (no spring chicken herself) plays their governor and Susan Jameson has a continuing role (as Alun Armstrong's character's wife). As these are old crimes, they always have excellent elder actors in various roles.”

The program is in its fifth season in Britain and Australia and it has never been broadcast in the United States. But hey, we live in the internet age where you can find almost anything online if you look far enough.

The Internet Movie Database lists the particulars and 68 readers give it a (deserved) 9-out-of-10 rating. And here is the BBC webpage about the series. Much has been made of the opening theme song, titled It's All Right, which apparently is hard to find. However, YouTube has it, introducing the characters [42 seconds]:

But wait - there's more. Although they are a bit difficult to locate, YouTube has several full episodes broken up into 10-minute segments which is where I've spent a good deal of time for the past few days.

So if you are interested in some really good cop drama with a soupcon of comedy starring some fine actors who are our age, here are the first two segments of a New Tricks episode titled, “A Face for Radio” [10:28 minutes]:

“A Face for Radio” - Part 2 [10:16 minutes]

You can find the rest of the episode by following these links. Each segment is about 10 minutes long:

New Tricks, A Face for Radio – Part 3
New Tricks, A Face for Radio – Part 4
New Tricks, A Face for Radio – Part 5
New Tricks, A Face for Radio – Part 6 (end)

Now if you are hooked, there are four more episodes posted at YouTube. It's tricky to search for them, so here are links to the first segment of each episode. You'll find the succeeding segments of each show below the view screen on the right under “Related Videos.”

Magic Majestic
Loyalties and Royalties
Couldn't Organize One
Mad Dogs

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carol Gardner is dreaming again, this time titled Tomorrow, Just You Wait and See.]


Thanks for the heads-up about "New Tricks." I will watch the episodes the first chance I have today.

It is indeed true that the portrayal of many (if not most) elders on television is not of the caliber of N.C.I.S. The old are portrayed stereotypically as crotchety, inflexible, and half-demented. Now, wouldn't it be refreshing if there were an American show like "New Tricks?"

I long ago became disgusted with television and stopped watching almost entirely. I'll check out N.C.I.S. though. Promise I won't hold you accountable for my reactions!

NCIS is one of my very favorite shows and therefore one of the three regular shows that I watch. Thanks for the heads up about "New Tricks". Maybe the series will be produced on DVDs the way Foyle's War and Rumple of the Bailey have been.

I, too, enjoy some cop shows, and also the movies that so graphically portray the struggle of good against evil--Clint Eastwood's westerns and Batman Begins, for starters.

Will definitely check out N.C.I.S. and New Tricks. Have been watching less and less TV as much of the programming is inane or downright tawdry.

NCIS, one of my most favorites, too. Occasionally our local PBS station will rerun New Tricks but it doesn't do much for me. However, I agree that Foyle's War is really quite good. Even tho' Boston Legal got downright raunchy at times, they had some good shows with a variety of age groups, but of course that too is gone. Dee

I love NCIS and yeah, I have a crush in Mark Harmon. Then again, I really enjoy the entire cast. It's a great show!!!!! I get a kick out of David McCallum, too -- what far cry from Ilya Kuriakin!

I just like cop shows. Law & Order reruns are a fav, too -- especially the ones with Jerry Orbach.

Been watching "New Tricks" on WLIW PBS for some time now. Stupendous!
Susan Jameson is actually married to James Bolam in "real life."
And when the show started they had a singer do the theme song which wasn't too thrilling. Then they gave it to one of the principal actor, Dennis Waterman, and the song took off. Now it has zip!
Couldn't recommend it enough.

Most of the shows we watch are cop shows but usually the quirky ones. We never got hooked on NCIS or the various Law and Order shows. But we love the original CSI (never picked up the Miami and NY versions--'ballsier and bloodier' just don't make it here). Bones, Criminal Minds, Numbers, Castle, and the Mentalist have become great favorites along with The Closer and Eleventh Hour (which is more of a scifi/mystery cross.)

I'm hooked on British cop shows, and my current favorite is Midsomer Murders. Haven't tried Foyle's War yet, but it's in my Netflix queue (after I've exhausted all the episodes of Rumpole, Poirot, Inspector Morse and Cracker).

I've usually found the American shows don't have enough atmosphere and quirky characters to hold my interest for long. Never seen NCIS, and the only Law and Orders I watched consistently were the ones with Dennis Farina, to whom I'm related.

I enjoy shows like that, but I have never watched NCIS or the English program. Do you watch or like Monk? I, for one, will really miss it.


I watched Monk once and had to turn it off halfway through. All his neuroses made me nervous.

N.C.I.S is my favorite show followed by Castle. I have caught a few episodes of 24 Hours on Fox and find it so fast paced that I can't keep up, but it is a good show.

Like Kay, I love Mark Harmon - always have no matter what movie or TV show he's in.

Happy Birthday. I'm a day late, as always, but I hope you had a fun day.

I, too love NCIS. I like all three Law and Order programs and Criminal Minds and The Closer. I thought Criminal Minds was better when Mandy Patinkin was one of the main characters, but it's still good.

Since I'm a Navy veteran, I got interested in then hooked on JAG (Judge Advocate General), starring David James Elliot, and saw every episode in its 11-year run, even many of the reruns. When JAG ended, I started watching NCIS because, since it's a spin-off from JAG, the network made the transition by having some of the NCIS team appear in the last few episodes of JAG. Now I'm hooked on NCIS. If we're lucky, it'll last as long as JAG.

Hi, dropped by and read your post. my husband and I stopped watching TV (except tvland and movies) because the shows got lamer and lamer but NCIS sounds like a good one plus I didn't know David McCullum was still around! The British show sounds good but my computer is not doing the videos today.I'll try later on :)

THANK YOU for the information on New Tricks! I'm a huge fan of mysteries, especially British mysteries ... both in books and on TV. And am also a fan of police procedure TV shows, American or British.
I didn't get much work done today just watching the segments you directed us to on You Tube. What Fun !!
Looks like we fans are going to have to jump all over PBS and/or BBC America and get one or the other to hurry and carry this show.

I really like N.C.I.S., too, although I DO have a crush on Mark Harmon. :) I'm glad they show it here in Sweden!

Oh, an addict of NCIS, I'm sure I will be glued to these too. We just need them here. Can we buy them on disc yet?

Not one of the PBS stations to which I have access carries New Tricks! I fell in love with the series while visiting my son for several weeks. Thank you so much for calling attention to the YouTube offerings!

Thanks for this Ronnie. The series completely passed me by originally as I didn't fancy it with Dennis Waterman in it. Have just spent this morning catching up with two or three episodes and they're really good. I'll be glued to the next series, if they make one.

Meanwhile, we're enjoying "Lewis", the spin-off from Morse, where Lewis is now the senior detective and his side kick is as cerebral and learned as Morse was. Great stuff.

1. Happy Belated Birthday - Ronni. (sorry to be late) (been sick with God knows what and even did three days in hospital) oye that is a subject for another blog
2. Thanks for the heads up on New Tricks...Syd learned to fold laundry from Monk - lol lol and he loves NCIS and CSI
3. I sometimes watch the Waking the Dead espidodes on PBS plus of course my love affair with Charles Dickens and Net Flix BBC Masterpiece Theatre.
Happy Birthday To You - la la la

More belated greetings Ronni - I haven't been doing much blog browsing lately so missed it.

On New Tricks, this sort of Cold Case unit does apparently exist in the UK using retired police officers. Apparently Ian Rankin has considered putting his Inspector Rebus into one in future novels.

You may also find Dalziel and Pascoe and A Touch of Frost worth watching - both have lead roles taken by much older men than the usual. Warren Clarke as Dalziel does occasionally descend into the grotesque, but there have been some interesting story lines.

In Frost the lead is taken by David Jason, better known on UK TV as Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, but who has also played Rincewind in an adaptation of The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett.

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