Monday, July 18, 2011

The people who run Sleuth have no Cloo

Nah, it's more like Sloth.
When NBCUniversal (now one word instead of two) added Sleuth to its stable of cable channels in 2006, it was an alright idea for a channel: Nick at Nite with guns. For its first couple of years, Sleuth's 24-hour lineup was comprised of reruns of NBCUniversal-owned cop or detective shows like Dragnet, Magnum, P.I., Miami Vice and the always-worth-revisiting Homicide: Life on the Street.

But like so many other channels, of course, Sleuth has strayed from its original purpose. These days, DirecTV channel 308 is an ill-defined dumping ground for reruns of current original shows from its sister station USA (Royal Pains, In Plain Sight)--and Walker, Texas Ranger. With content like Royal Pains, a doctor show, In Plain Sight, a cop show with very little detective work because of its focus on witness protection, and Walker, a cop show with no detective work (and one that's only watchable when Conan O'Brien's around to butt in with snarky and appalled commentary), the name Sleuth doesn't make much sense anymore. Cloo--the new name that Sleuth will assume on a yet-to-be-confirmed future date a la the still-inane 2009 conversion of its other sister station Sci Fi to Syfy--makes even less sense. What's next? NBCUniversal rebranding USA as YouSA? (They also own Telemundo. Maybe they should rename it YouEse.)

Occasionally, Sleuth has done something nice like temporarily revive a show I've longed to see again (Keen Eddie, The Rockford Files) or air a 007 marathon or the surprisingly good 1973 made-for-TV caper movie/unsold anthology show pilot The Alpha Caper, which isn't on DVD and stars Henry Fonda as a forcibly retired parole officer who teams up with the ex-cons he used to watch over--two of whom are played by Leonard Nimoy and Larry Hagman--to hijack a shipment of gold. But otherwise, as a fan of the private eye and caper genres, I've found Sleuth to be a wasted opportunity, regurgitating too many of the same broadcast network procedural reruns that can already be found on USA (House, NCIS).

I bet Fi wouldn't be too thrilled if she found out her boyfriend still refers to her in the Burn Notice intro as his EX-girlfriend.
Unless it's airing a White Collar episode I've never seen before or a Burn Notice rerun with a useful spy tip I need to jot down, Sleuth isn't worth my time. The channel's so cheap it doesn't have any on-air hosts or any original programming that could have given Sleuth a distinctive personality, like how breezy procedurals have become USA's forte or how FX has become synonymous with edgy comedies and gritty and violent but intelligently written dramas (the only original show that Sleuth has produced is a 2006 I Love the '80s-style special about "America's Top Sleuths").

It's owned by NBCUniversal and it's called Sleuth (that is until the name change to Cloo takes place), so why isn't the channel diving into the NBCUniversal library, with its vast history of influential crime shows, and pulling out classic sleuthy properties like Columbo (R.I.P. Peter Falk) or the other NBC Mystery Movie shows? Shouldn't a channel called Sleuth be a little, uh, sleuthier?

Also, as someone who stopped finding Law & Order interesting after an ailing Jerry Orbach left the mothership (although the later pairing of Jesse L. Martin and Jeremy Sisto was a great and too-brief one during the mothership's Law half, as was the duo of Chris Noth and Annabella Sciorra on Criminal Intent), I don't think Sleuth needs to be another repository for Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit reruns (TNT has exclusive rights to reruns of the mothership, which explains its absence on the NBCUniversal channels' schedules). Okay, maybe Criminal Intent is tolerable once every weekday, but a five-hour Goren-thon like the ones Sleuth often does is overkill. Plus, Sleuth is the sixth channel on the dial that currently airs Criminal Intent reruns, after USA, Bravo, Oxygen, WGN and the local MyNetworkTV affiliate. Enough already, man.

As for SVU, I never cared for a show that's like Law & Order for people who enjoy those lame Lifetime women-in-peril TV-movies. Also, it turned Munch, one of my favorite Homicide characters, into a boring extra. That's criminal. I'm glad Christopher Meloni jumped ship because he can now concentrate on unleashing again his much-missed comedic side (a highlight of Wet Hot American Summer and the Harold & Kumar movies).

If I ran Sleuth/Cloo, here's how the schedule would look for what I always thought a crime show channel should be.

The original Law & Order isn't on here because of TNT (another reason to dislike them besides their cancellation of Men of a Certain Age). Wiseguy isn't on here because I assume the most recent syndication package is just like the DVD and iTunes versions of the show, which removed The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin" from the famous "Vinnie and Sonny stare into each other's eyes and wind up as footage for The Celluloid Closet II" sequence due to clearance issues. A butchered Wiseguy is like a piece of bitter melon that winds up in my plate of fish and rice: I don't want it. The Shield is missing because Spike has the rights to it, and as for my all-time favorite The Wire, DirecTV's Audience Network currently has dibs on it. I wouldn't want to acquire Wire reruns anyway because NBCUniversal wouldn't let them air uncensored:

Mr. Steed likes to start off his day with a bubbly glass of denial of his drinking problem.
MONDAY-FRIDAY
6am: Columbo
7:30am: Barney Miller
8am: Psych
9am: Monk
10am: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
11am: The Rockford Files
12pm: "Brilliant But Cancelled" (a revival of an old programming block that was the highlight of NBCUniversal's long-dead Trio channel and has lent its name to a blog at the NBCUniversal-owned Television Without Pity site, the hour would alternate between Terriers, Eyes, Black Tie Affair, Andy Barker, P.I., A Nero Wolfe Mystery, Karen Sisco, Keen Eddie, the Touching Evil remake, Vengeance Unlimited, EZ Streets, Crime Story, Andre Braugher's Thief, Thieves, Day Break, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe and Police Squad!)
1pm: Burn Notice
2pm: I Spy
3pm: The Avengers (I miss A&E's Avengers reruns that used to air at 3pm in the '90s)
4pm: It Takes a Thief
5pm: Mission: Impossible
6pm: Alias (two impeccably scored spy shows back-to-back!)
7pm: "007 at 7" (a broadcast of a 007 movie hosted by Mozzie from White Collar, who points out mistakes in the movie he wouldn't have made if he were Bond)

'A long time ago, we used to be friends...'
10pm: Veronica Mars
11pm: Burn Notice
12am: The Equalizer
1am: Law & Order: Criminal Intent (just so that there'd be that one night where the Equalizer episode featuring a Full Metal Jacket-era Vincent D'Onofrio as a crazed arsonist ends up back-to-back with Criminal Intent)
2am: Homicide: Life on the Street (now what if one night, that D'Onofrio Equalizer guest shot ended up getting followed by a D'Onofrio episode of Criminal Intent and then D'Onofrio's guest appearance on Homicide?--that would be even more awesome: D'Onofrio lights people on fire, and then he apprehends people who would light people on fire, and then he gets run over by a subway train)
3am: Spenser: For Hire (as the A.V. Club comments section once said about this show, Avery Brooks is one bad motherfucker)
4am: Harry O
5am: Mannix

Selma Bouvier has a day-long orgasm while watching this on Saturdays. My apologies for making you picture that.
SATURDAY
(The whole day is devoted to one show. Sleuth's recent all-Saturday marathons of either White Collar, Burn Notice, Psych, In Plain Sight, Covert Affairs, MacGyver or Charlie's Angels actually aren't a wack idea.)

SUNDAY
6am: Movie
8am: Movie
10am: Movie
12pm: Movie
2pm: Movie
4pm: Movie
6pm: Honey West
6:30pm: The Name of the Game

For film geeks, Peter Falk and John Cassavetes may be the Columbo collabo to end all Columbo collabos.
8pm: Columbo
9:30pm: McCloud
11pm: McMillan and Wife
12:30am: Peter Gunn
1:00am: Batman: The Animated Series
1:30am: Duckman
2:00am: Get Smart
2:30am: Sledge Hammer!
3:00am: Car 54, Where Are You?
3:30am: Barney Miller
4:00am: "The 4 O'Clock Movie" (I'd relegate the channel's frequent broadcasts of straight-to-DVD Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme duds to this time slot and get a stand-up or some "Commander USA"-type figure to be the on-air host, so that she or he can make it a less grueling experience to sit through duds like that Van Damme movie that ends with him and Vivica A. Fox sharing one of the strangest-looking prolonged kisses ever filmed)

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