What's up with the fascination about the mechanics of death in TV shows?

I think C.S.I. is the #1 scripted show in the world. It and its clones mesmerize millions weekly. Then there’s NCIS, Bones. Of course, modern CGI has made it possible to animate a bullet tearing through tissue, organs and bones. Then there are the autopsy scenes and the showing of someone taking out a liver r whatever.
C.S.I. started the trend but more and more shows latch on and there must be a reason. The audience love it. Maybe it’s a modern freak show (though I’d argue that BigBrother fills that need) or it’s a way for us to excorcise our own fears.

Anyway, it used to be that they showed a guy getting shot or stabbed, but what happened in the morgue was not essential to the plot. Seeing the succes of these shows in many countries /cultures around the world, I wonder what it is that draws the audience? The same curiosity that draws gawkers to a car wreck?

They’re detective shows, and autopsies provide the clues that help catch the killer. (Suddenly I’m reminded of the Monty Python sketch where the killer was found out by the train schedules. Anyway…) Sherlock Holmes solved cases by noticing small details and deducing the true sequence of events, then linking everything together to discover the perpetrator. The same thing happens on the modern shows, only now they can use ‘science’ to find details that would have been beyond the capability of detectives in older shows.

I think the trend started with Quincy, M.E. back in the '70s, with Jack Klugman finding things during autopsies to solve the crime.

Honestly? I think the audience is comprised of people who just love procedural shows that rarely take risks and do not require watching every week.

The exact same audience that would never watch Battlestar Galactica or Firefly.

Yeah, but it’s the showing of such graphic detail that’s new.

I watch both BG and C.S.I.
My above post was to Johnny L.A. btw.

For people who don’t want character driven drama and stories easily wrapped up in 42 minutes, there’s Law&Order and a slew of ther cop shows. I’m thinking about what makes people tune in to what is seemingly quite morbid images.

Just as a nitpick, I’d say that L & O: SVU is very character-driven, just not set up in arcs.

Number of posts before Firefly-related nonsequitur: 3.

I agree that shows like this are the science equivalent of what someone like Sherlock Holmes does, and mysteries have been popular since their inception. It’s just that police technology has changed since then, so mysteries change with it. And yeah, everyone does enjoy a good rubbernecking, so that’s nothing new.

I think CSI is far less gory than a real life autopsy would be.

Yeah, I agree, I think it’s just how the clues to the mysteries have evolved with the times but it’s the same old fascination. Even if you look down on it, shows like that are about restoring order out of chaos in every way. It’s not like looking at a car wreck, it’s the opposite. It’s comforting to see that horror can be explained. Sciency stuff is just a good contrast to gore. It’s the same reason Monk is OCD or Jessica Fletcher wears cozy sweaters. Science and OCD and cups or tea are very orderly and they are a contrast to mutilation, humiliation and death. It’s logic over randomness.

I like mysteries and crime stories sometimes because of that. The person who solves the crime is usually smart and perceptive enough that if they weren’t solving crimes you’d worry for their sanity. Of course you have a fake sense that you’re being smart just by following the logic of the show but that just enhances the comfort you get from it. I used to work in a bookstore and found it funny at first that the smartest people with the most challenging realities liked to read the most silly mysteries. I would have expected them to read difficult, challenging things. But sometimes people’s lives give them enough loose ends to ponder all day and at bedtime they just want everything to make sense. Then it’s all about the contrast between the horror of the crime and the orderly way it all gets explained. CSI is good for that because science explains things. It’s not meant to make you expand your inner horizons at all, it’s meant to put fences on your inner horizons when they are overwhelming. Crime solving shows and books are about how discipline, routine and attention to detail can get you through anything, so the more disgusting and scary the crime, the greater the contrast when it’s being reorganized into a solvable puzzle.

For details like the autopsy samples under microscope slides, that’s just because that’s the way crimes are solved nowadays (or at least, a stylized version of how the more interesting crimes are solved nowadays). For things like the slow-motion close-up of a bullet tearing flesh, I think that the only reason that’s more common nowadays is that now, we can show that. I think that would have been of interest to viewers in any age, and it’s just only now, via computer graphics, that the entertainment industry can deliver it.

These things move in cycles of popularity. In the 50s and 60s, it was western shows. In the 70s and into the 80s, police shows. Then, in the 90s and through to the present, we’ve been getting a glut of medical and legal shows. It’s just how the public’s taste is currently running.

I wonder what’ll be next. I’m hoping pirates.

Well, not so much things as thing - it was always a subdural haematoma.


But to the OP -
they do the same thing on House - the up close & personal shot of the disease ripping its way through the person’s body and destroying whatever vital function they destroy. Of course, then, the person doesn’t die (usually) because House saves them…

Part of it is seeing how things work up close & personal - like the electron microscope slides of years ago. But these are animated (which is also cool) and so you get to see the clue come to be in explicit detail.

Part of the appeal of CSI for me is the patient professional gathering of information.
I know their autopsies are potentially gruesome, but I think they are well handled - I can eat a TV meal whilst watching.
I also like the fact that Gil Grissom, a true nerd with little social ability or power, is the hero.

By contrast, NCIS is all about glamorous actors shouting, waving guns and running to show how tough they are. As I have remarked before, no doubt the NCIS makeup budget is higher than the amount spent on scripts. :rolleyes: