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Both ‘CSI:Vegas’ and ‘The Shield’ are popular “crime dramas”, however there are many differences between the two which broadens the scope of what we view as being acceptable in this genre. ‘CSI:Vegas’ is seen as an innovative cutting edge crime drama as it focuses on the forensic side of crime to solve cases as well as keeping within conventional crime drama techniques, whereas ‘The Shield’ breaks this conventional formula and concentrates on a group of corrupt cops who make us question their morals and intentions throughout each episode.
The settings of each of these crime dramas are both effective but contrast each other. ‘CSI:Vegas’ is inevitably set in Las Vegas which offers a wealth of opportunity for extreme characters and storylines and no boundaries for what could take place. Being a city of hotels and “getaways” there are multiple people that could be involved in each episode without constraint. As well as this advantage, Las Vegas is associate with glamour, money and gambling which often brings crime and fraudulence with it so not only can episodes be dramatic because of the setting, but also realistic.
To communicate how important setting is, the establishing shot is of Las Vegas, an urban daytime shot to remind audiences of what Vegas connotes or represents for them; the wealth, power and adventure mixed with the harsh plains of the desert that surrounds it, therefore they are isolated. ‘The Shield’ displays crime from a different aspect and is set on “the streets”. This immediately shows danger, as we are seen as not being safe on the streets as opposed to a police station or office where there is control and order.
Outside anything could happen and similar to ‘CSI:Vegas’ there is opportunity for crime and disruption. The title sequence of ‘CSI:Vegas’ has a high technology influence in it to reflect the forensics in the program and there are images of laboratory equipment or what you would expect to find for example fingerprints, minute findings with lighting and the hue of each image is green or blue to connote the ambulance or police relations to the show. The first shot we see of the characters is from their backs in a silhouette form.
This presents them to us as a team, and they are also posed close together which shows their unity in their work. Further on we see each character individually during the title sequence as they are introduced, in order of importance, plus their star value from the program is introduced, and each character is concentrating on inspecting ‘evidence’ with a flashlight. There are white flashes between each shot as well for dramatic impact and are similar to the flashing of a camera or light when looking through facts.
The ending clips are faster and build of the tension and speed of the program. Some of the clips are aggressive and violent to show the nature of some aggression behaviour throughout the show. ‘The Shield’s title sequence is a lot shorter, and the motif of the police shield is used as a centerpiece on the screen. However the motif is broken and shattered in places, as well as the font face that has been used for the title, this is to reflect the ‘broken rules’ and distorted moral paradigm within the program.
To go with the title sequences, the sonic codes are also significant. For ‘CSI:Vegas’ music by ‘The Who’ is used as this appeals to the target audience as it’s from the 60’s and 70’s and they will be familiar with it. Furthermore the “who are you” lyrics used could be seen as the question they are asking each episode to find the criminal or murderer in question. For ‘The Shield’ the music is a lot more urban aggressive and industrialised, to fit with the rather brutal tone of the show and the fast action that takes place throughout.
An advantage for ‘The Shield’ and receiving an audience is that the storyline is continuous so viewers will keep coming back each week to watch the next part, whereas ‘CSI:Vegas’ also has the advantage of each episode being individual so that new viewers can watch each week and not be confused or have to catch up on what has happened. Therefore the prologue must be used to draw an audience in and intrigue them enough to make them watch, At the beginning of ‘The Shield’ what has happened previously is shown in jump shots with a mix of narrative to remind the audience.
The last shot of the ‘previously’ sequence is of a ‘film noir’ style in an abandoned alley and we are unsure whether the characters are criminals or the police. This is a classic example of the state of flux that ‘The Shield’ brings to us, it makes us ask who are they, and the representations of the police and criminals are blurred. The binary oppositions that have formerly been used in crime dramas of police being good and criminals being bad are no longer strong and the rules of law we usually live by are being distorted here with the idea of corrupt police.
The characters set in each program are also set to help the audience understand the conventions of each program. For example, in ‘CSI:Vegas’ the main character is stereotypically one that appeals to all, and is trustworthy and ‘Grimshaw’ here follows that stereotype, the second is the attractive female who will bring an amount of sex appeal to the show, along with a policeman and others they are characters that we trust and after a few episodes feel as if we know them well, or even like them.
Within ‘The Shield’ the characters integrity is questionable and the audience don’t necessarily have clear boundaries of whom they can trust, even in the police force there are characters that are seen as “bad” or deceitful and dishonest in their jobs. One of the main characters in ‘The Shield’ is played by Glenn Close who is a well known cinema actress with a lot of star value to add to the show, this is a role that would not be seen played by a cinema actress in the UK but TV and film or seen as equal in the US.
The visual codes used in ‘The Shield’ also break rules; there is a hand held style of camera work with fast panning and cuts. This creates the idea of surveillance and authenticity for the audience to help them engross in the story and action taking place. Plus the jump cuts and fast movement is a challenge for the audience and requires them to piece together each part of the story and keep track.
The camera techniques in ‘CSI:Vegas’ are more common of crime drama, the camera usually follows the narrative and it’s easier for the audience to understand, there is usually only use of fast panning at the height or climax of the show instead of throughout. Both programs show a distortion of the camera view when showing flashbacks or someone is remembering something; this shows their memory is not completely clear so we cannot trust the credibility of it. This technique is also used when no one was at the scene of the crime but the pieces of what happened are being put together or described in the narrative.
Overall both shows are representative of crime drama, however ‘The Shield’ appears to be breaking codes and conventions such as characters and mis-en-scene that are being used. This has been done to attract a different kind of audience to the regular crime dramas. ‘CSI:Vegas’ is more reminiscent of what you would expect in terms of storylines, setting and crime, however it is one of the only crime dramas that focus on the forensics so like ‘The Shield’ it is deviating from the norm in some way.