How to Touch the Soul: TV’s Portrayal of Human Emotion

In recent years, I’ve noticed an influx of police procedural dramas hitting the airwaves of American and by proxy, Canadian television.

Many of these shows such as Law & Order and CSI as well as their respective spinoffs might embellish on the forensic procedures used and how every person in the department seems to be responsible for everything, but I find them to be incredibly accurate in terms of the cases and the people involved.

The cases are accurate because they are things that happen all over the world, every day. People are murdered, in an insurmountable number of different ways, robbed, assaulted, betrayed and framed for crimes they didn’t commit. They are probable and yet impossible at the same time.

However, where these shows hit me the most is how they portray emotions, both of the victims’ families and of the detectives and investigators.

One of my all-time favorites, Third Watch, was a master at doing this. In one episode in the first season, a three year boy was killed in a gang shooting, shot by a ten year old trying to prove himself on the street.  Partners on the squad 55-David, Officers Faith Yokas and Maurice Boscorelli (Molly Price and Jason Wiles, respectively) answered the call.

Faith’s anger and pain at seeing kids shooting kids and the disgust she felt both at the ten year old boy’s mother and Caesar, the gang leader who simultaneously started an affair with the boy’s mother and nearly killed the boy; was both heart-rending and real.

Any cop or detective who is a parent as Faith’s character would express passionate anger and disgust over the city and the society in general that we live in, where kids shoot each other just to prove something, because they have nowhere else to turn.

What all these shows, Third Watch in particular, have become are primetime experts in portraying the emotions that cops, doctors, paramedics and investigators go through on the job. We as a society depend on law enforcement to save us, solve our problems and protect us from ourselves and each other so much that we often forget that they are people: sons, daughters, siblings, parents; just the same as the rest of us and all they can do is do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

Take Bosco’s panic attacks after September 11th, due to the fact that he froze when he saw the World Trade Centre towers fall. He blamed himself for not doing his job, when in reality, being faced with such tragedy makes us human first and defines us by our jobs second.

Or Monte ‘Doc’ Parker’s (Michael Beach) breakdown that ended with him being sent to Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital after creating a hostage situation at his old firehouse on King and Arthur, due to his inability to deal with the sudden death of a valued friend, his father’s suicide and Sept. 11th.

And one of my personal favorites, Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) on CSI NY dealing with his wife Claire’s death and then finding out that she had a son she gave up for adoption, Reese, who Mac bonds with. Even outside of the job, it’s shows like this that provide a glimpse into the personal lives of these characters and shows how it affects their jobs every day.

Although these shows embellish certain facts and duties as a part of entertainment, most notably in this fact: that in reality, most cases are never solved; they still remind us that health care workers and law enforcement officials are still human.

In spite of the influx of controversial and often low quality reality shows, there are still shows