Seems that in a period where there's so much free-floating anxiety, sleep becomes even more precious than usual. It's the one time you completely shut out the noise and tension of today's world. Of course, there's always the possibility that you'll have bad dreams, but on balance, if you're not a person plagued by frequent nightmares, sleep provides not just rest but much-needed mental escape.
That's why it's important not to overlook a strand of crime narrative that doesn't get discussed enough. I'm talking about the TV mystery or crime show that serves as a soporific. We watch all the TV shows on now and make our passionate recommendations or fierce criticisms (of Bosch, Goliath, Gomorrah, Marcella, Sharp Objects, and on and on and on), but what about the shows that go beyond entertainment and into the realm of strictly utilitarian?
It's late, you want to go to sleep, and you want to watch something in your favorite genre without having to pay much attention. You'd like to watch without caring about whether you fall asleep in the middle. Obviously, the show can't be too interesting or you may not fall asleep. I'm sure most people have their shows they watch for this purpose - whether it's a crime show or any other type of show - but here are a few I'm partial to and the reasons why they work.
Sleep Aid Number One: Law and Order:
This show without question takes the top spot, and for a few reasons. First of all, with all its incarnations and because it's playing on so many networks, you can on any given night almost certainly find some episode on somewhere. And to be honest, Law and Order is so competently done, it rarely fails to hold your interest. But you know the etched-in-stone formula, so you don't get overly engaged in the plot and can let yourself go. You can let yourself fall asleep. Plus, you've probably seen the episode before, so you know what happens anyway. On top of which, if you haven't seen the episode and want to see how it ends but do happen to fall asleep, you don't have to worry about never seeing the ending because that episode will be on somewhere else fairly soon. I do find that I fall asleep most easily to the original Law and Order, with Law and Order: Criminal Intent coming in second for sleep inducement. SVU, it has to be said, is not as simple to nod off to because it more often gets into plot lines that are surprisingly dark and disturbing.
Sleep Aid Number Two: Perry Mason:
Perry Mason, the original black and white show with Raymond Burr as Mason, ran from 1957 through 1966 and has never been out of syndication since. I remember sleeping at my grandmother's as a little kid back in the late sixties and early seventies, and she liked the show. In New York now, it has its runs late at night on some obscure cable channel we get, and I found my wife watching it to help her slide away into sleep.
Let me tell you, it works. In a way, it's the Law and Order of its time. In production value, in acting, in predictable yet interesting enough storytelling, it is solid. And who cares if you don't see the investigation to its end and the courtroom case resolved? You know that Perry, with the help of his private investigator Paul Drake and his secretary Della Reese, will uncover the needed clue that reveals the guilty party and wins Perry the case. Old-fashioned to the core, but it serves as a kind of TV comfort food. Perry is on the case, justice will be served, and you slip away into the arms (as they used to say) of Morpheus.
Sleep Aid Number Three: Murder, She Wrote:
It's hard to argue with a show that has been as successful as this one, so I won't try. I didn't watch Murder, She Wrote when it first aired and I can't claim I set out to watch it in syndication now. (Side note: There's no doubt that Angela Lansbury, her entire career considered, is one of the greats, whether on stage, screen, or TV - you name it). But at some point, as with Perry Mason, I found this show was on often in our house around the time it's time for sleep.
Cabot Cove is one of the strangest places on earth. It's an idyllic New England town with a murder rate that ranks among the highest in the world. And there's the old joke - that the killer each episode really has to be Jessica Fletcher, because wherever in the world she goes, someone dies. Maybe she's only seeming to find culprits. Anyway, all I have to do is watch 10 or 15 minutes of the show's odd combination of somewhat famous semi has-been actors and young nobodies who never got famous, and I feel my eyelids getting heavy, I'm yawning, and...I'm out.
Three crime shows of steller value, and not to be underestimated. They don't grip you; they don't keep you up nights watching, all keyed up from their suspense. Quite the contrary. On pleasant days and rough ones, I turn to these shows to help me fall asleep.
Anybody want to weigh in on shows they use for precisely this purpose?