Those of you who regularly read my ranting and raving against what seems like an endless sea of diarrheic television programming might be interested to know that I actually do tend to enjoy a series every once in a while. Optimism: check. The problem with that, of course, is that it really doesn’t take much for a network or a producer to act just the teensiest bit negligent in order to let even a fairly (enjoyably) mediocre television show jump the shark. Foreshadowing: check. Sometimes the bound into the salty sea air over a hungry man-eater might take the form of a complete change of casting. In others, the return of an old cast-member might be satisfactory to warrant one’s inattention.
Now, if the tremulous casting of CBS’ Criminal Minds — a show that’s had more changes in its lineup than the band Menudo — hasn’t turned many of you away by now, then a great big congratulatory cup of java is undoubtedly waiting for you somewhere out there. I can handle a new person every now and again. When Mandy Patinkin said “Screw you guys, I’m goin’ home” (I like to think I’m not paraphrasing, though I could be mistaken there) at the beginning of Season Three, I welcomed newcomer Joe Mantegna with open arms. And then there were those other people that disappeared here and there as well, like Paget Brewster as Emily Prentiss — a character who debuted in Season Two and was (spoiler) killed off near the end of Season Six.
Well, no, actually, she wasn’t. As a matter of fact, the whole dead agent thing was just some lousy story element that most shows normally reserve for when an actress gets pregnant. Such was not the case. Not at all. It seemed more like a sweeps ploy. Yup, just as Criminal Minds: The Seventh Season boots up, it is revealed that our beloved Behavioral Analysis Unit agent was only mostly dead — and promptly returns from her stint in the pit of television despair to resume where she left off, only to depart the series for good (for real this time?) at the end of this season. Sadly, it was at this point wherein I finally started to shake my head.
Sure, I could handle the rather repetitive stories the series threw our way all these years, but there comes that point in time for every multi-celled organism where they finally put their patented leather boot down and question how many times these procedural shows can sell them us the same snake oil before they stop buying altogether.
While Criminal Minds still hasn’t appeared to jumped the shark altogether, it has become a great big case of the same old thing. No one’s getting any younger here, and most of the characters haven’t “matured” very much over the years. Remember Nicholas Brendon’s recurring character of Kevin Lynch, on-and-off boyfriend of techie Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness)? Well, though it’s nice to see him once again in this season (with four appearances under his belt this season), he’s still just as much in the background as ever. In fact, his character even (another spoiler) proposes here, but is in-turn turned down. Shortly thereafter, it’s business as usual for all. And that’s probably what bothers me more than anything: Criminal Minds is still the same ol’ thing, no matter how much they change it.
CBS/Paramount brings us the six-disc set of Criminal Minds: The Seventh Season to DVD with an admirable 1.78:1 widescreen transfer accompanied by an equally-good 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. In terms of bonus materials, all we get here are some deleted scenes and generic behind-the-scenes/making-of items that are probably available on the Internet.
Bottom line: “Move along. There’s nothing for you to see here. Please disperse.”