Jumping the Shark: Criminal Minds

Let’s review. I’m an old guy. I mostly watch crime dramas on TV, which is typical for my age group. I’ve watched them all and have seen my share of programs come and go, but Criminal Minds has been one of my favorites for a very long time. It’s sad to see articles like this one from a Zimbio list of TV shows that are likely to get cancelled next year:

While the first 13 seasons of Criminal Minds received an average of 23 episodes per season, Season 14 garnered a mere 15-episode order. The long-running CBS drama will soon reach its 300th episode. All of that means nothing if ratings are down. Season 14 debuted to 4.45 million viewers, easily making it the lowest watched episode of the entire series. After suffering the loss of major characters like Aaron Hotchner and Derek Morgan, perhaps it’s time to write the final chapter for Criminal Minds.

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a couple of years, because the show has had a serious chemistry problem since Thomas Gibson (Agent Aaron Hotchner) was booted for kicking a producer on the set. When that was followed by Shemar Moore (Darek Morgan) leaving to star in his own drama (SWAT — it’s awful), it flipped the chemistry and removed all the dominant macho male characters.

There’s an old saying in television that it’s not who goes who impacts the program; it’s who comes in as replacements. It’s the one thing that producers can control, and the producers of Criminal Minds blew it completely with the new agents. The show used to be built around these strong male characters, but that’s all been replaced with mush, and despite the efforts of the remaining cast members, you can’t fix a chemistry problem with just good acting. Chemistry in a crime drama influences everything and especially the writing.

They’ve injected macho into Dr. Spencer Reid’s character. Doesn’t work at all. They put Emily Prentiss in charge of the unit, but as strong as she is, she simply cannot replace the loss of Hotchner and Morgan. Producers brought in Adam Rodriquez and Damon Gupton to fill the macho void, but it doesn’t work, because Rodriquez oozes empathy, and Gupton is, at best, warm milk. This creates an impossible task for the writers, because they’ve got to know it isn’t working.

They’ve also botched the character of David Rossi and turned him into a bit player instead of the former founder of the BAU who was brought to the team after the departure of the original Criminal Minds guru Manny Patinkin (Jason Gideon) after two seasons. Patinkin’s character was deep and dark, and that set the tone for the original scripts. I honestly can’t watch some of the first two seasons, because the shows we’re just too dark. So Patinkin up and quit over creative differences. They brought in a clone, Joe Mantegna, to play David Rossi, said to be Jason Gideon’s partner in the creation of the FBI’s profiling unit years earlier. The chemistry of the cast after hiring Mantegna was, in my view, just right, in fact, perfect. It was this cast that led the show to its position atop the crime drama genre. Sadly, that’s all gone.

Even the show’s oddball personification of love, the adorable Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia, has been negatively impacted by the loss of the Darek Morgan character. Without her lusty and charming relationship — as a submissive female — to Shemar Moore’s rock solid dominant in Agent Morgan, her character now flaps in the breeze of nothingness. We know that his loss is her loss, and none of the current cast members is able to fill that void, and so, it’s just gone. It’s eliminated the tension of their loving “babygirl” relationship.

Thomas Gibson, the story goes, was very difficult on the set: demanding and angry when he disagreed with production. Here’s how Wikipedia describes his departure.

On August 11, 2016, Gibson was suspended after appearing in two episodes of the twelfth season of Criminal Minds, following an on-set altercation with a writer-producer; he apologized for the confrontation in a statement, claiming the dispute arose from creative differences in an episode he was directing (Gibson had previously directed six episodes of Criminal Minds since 2013, along with two last season episodes of Dharma & Greg in 2001). Gibson had a prior altercation with an assistant director and underwent anger-management counseling.

You know what they say about hindsight, but the truth is that temperamental artists are a part of the creative process and a wide berth is very often a necessity. No matter how ugly this kicking incident was, it wasn’t worth destroying a top-ranked television drama, but that’s exactly what has happened. CBS blew it with one of its top products, and, as a fan, it’s really agitating and unbelievably sad to watch the whole thing just crumble.

But that’s the way it goes with television.

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