I've been watching the first disc of the 1957 - 1960 "M Squad" series and, I have to admit, despite the awesomeness of Lee Marvin, it's not keeping my interest. It also made me realize something else about what I need in my entertainment, because why doesn't this show work for me? Very simply: it's too straightforward.
How's that for an odd criticism? Those who know me well, who know my writing, who know my likes and dislikes are probably just nodding and going, "yeah, wanna tell us something new there?" Cop gets case, solves case. Sure there's some twists, people aren't what they seem, people lie and try to lead Frank Ballinger on a merry chase, there's action and shoot outs and some nice fisticuffs... but it hasn't yet engaged me.
I couldn't help comparing "M Squad" to "Peter Gunn," both half hour shows, both made late 50's, both dealing with crime. But "Peter Gunn" sucked me in immediately, particularly the first half of the first season. It wasn't straightforward at all, though on the surface, it's no different from "M Squad": detective takes on case, detective solves case. So what's the difference? "Peter Gunn" swings right away into noir territory and the Land of Grey, where "M Squad" is very black/white so far. It also gives me characters I care about, emotion, and the most important: things at stake for the leads. Peter Gunn, Edie, Mother, and my favorite Lt. Jacoby - they lead lives outside the case that draw me in. They make promises to each other that they can't always keep, or that get interrupted, that make me worry. They make me invest in what happens to them.
And that's what's missing from "M Squad" so far... something at stake. Something that makes me care whether Ballinger succeeds or fails. Something personal. There's nothing that takes it beyond a cop doing his job. Now, really, that's an unfair desire by me for a show like this, because I doubt it was created to be anything other than what it is: a nice straightforward cop show. But that doesn't stop me from being a little disappointed anyway.
On the other hand... Lee Marvin. Watching him brings a grin on my face a mile wide, and really, if he wanted to swagger around reading the phone book, I'm in. So I'll happily keep watching, even if the eps don't quite glue me to the set and maybe, just maybe, it'll develop into something more down the line.