Friday , April 12 2024
This is your brain on bad television. . .

Threat Matrix

I have an acquaintance, an old school leftist who once taught college English, who used to wax wroth about the old Mission: Impossible series. He’d wonder out loud – on more than one occasion – whether the show wasn’t part of some complicit agreement between the U.S. Govt. and Big Media to persuade the country that Dirty Tricks covert ops were noble and necessary because their targets were All Bad. “Mission: Impossible led to Watergate,” he’d assert unequivocally. All I could offer in response was I was too busy watching Barbara Bain to notice.
I wonder what Bob would make of Threat Matrix.
Centered on a Homeland Security force, with combined experts from the FBI, CIA and NSA, the ABC series is a deadly serious terrorist chase. Each week our steadfast and indiscernible hero(in)es (so faceless I don’t even feel the urge to visit the show’s website and learn their names) go after a new cell of baddies, while their balding chief delivers pronouncements at wrap-up press conferences that sound like they could’ve written by Tom Ridge’s speechwriters. Two weeks into the series, and we’ve seen our gang eliminate a suicide bomber sleeper agent by grabbing and locking him in what looks like a reinforced port-a-potty just as he’s about to blow (wouldn’t you hate to be clean-up guy on that one?) and watched a drug dealer blow himself up after he realizes his meth lab deals have been funding another cell of would-be bombers. If I was still in fifth grade, I bet I’d love this show because they sure know how to Blow Things Up Real Good.
Our Homeland Team is gifted with the kind of Clancy Lite satellite spy equipment so sharp it can count the blackheads on a terrorist’s nose, so naturally they’re able to catch the bad guys with all due speed. Me, I vacillate between thinking this approach feeds into the audience’s sense of overwrought paranoia or ultimately denudes our 21st century sense of menace. (How dangerous can these guys be, after all, if they can be thwarted weekly?) True, the security mavens on Fox’s 24 managed to defeat a terrorist menace within a day, but since that process was spread over a full season, it successfully communicated how intensive and grueling the job can be.
But for those who’ve bemoaned the continued existence of so-called liberal entertainments like The West Wing, this show should offer much relief. At the end of the drug dealer episode, our balding chief (boy, do I miss Edward Platt!) delivers a diatribe on how Drugs=Terrorism with such ham-fisted seriousness that I half expected him to smash an egg on the podium. “We’re fighting a war of dependence,” he states, “which unfortunately makes victims of us all.” After watching this rote attempt to cash in on the Terror War, I felt victimized, alright, but not by drugs. . .

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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