Go ahead, sing along – you know you are already.
“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same, you wanna be where everybody knows your name.”
Be it a car on the road or a bullpen in a federal building, a coffee shop or an apartment or a hideaway underneath a night club there is a long history of shows maintaining a centralized place where at least once an episode (at a minimum) the main cast all gathers and simply is. It’s the safe place. It’s a place where the characters can be real.
These ‘bullpen scenes’ as I have dubbed them are usually my favorite moments of a show – especially the procedural shows I watch. NCIS has usually had some of the crispest, funniest moments in their orange painted bullpen. NCIS: Los Angeles has tried to copy that with their bullpen moments and have had some success, but the writing on this show is not as sharp as NCIS, so there really is no comparison for these moments. Criminal Minds uses their BAU jet as their centralized bullpen, that and the round table for the case reviews. These are the moments that I tune in for most often, the rest of the episode is usually not as interesting as various members focus strictly on the case (yes, as they should) but the team dynamic is shoved to the background most times (yes, also as it should on a procedural).
Arrow has the Arrow Cave – which is getting increasingly crowded, which is also part of the fun, Vampire Diaries seems to have the Salvatore residence, although perhaps not this coming season, and Supernatural of course has the Impala and now the Men of Letters bunker – taking over the glorious motel rooms and sometimes Bobby’s house from seasons in the past. This is where the moments of pure gold are often enjoyed: Diggle calling Oliver out on his constant lying, Oliver confessing to Diggle – over some expensive vodka — that he was not always on the island. On SPN in the MoL bunker there was Dean arranging his room – HIS ROOM – to his liking (complete with picture of Mom) and Sam watching and seeing a different side of Dean; the brothers sharing a Game of Thrones marathon with Charlie; or all the times the brothers shared deep, sorrowful moment either driving in or sitting on or near the Impala (take your pick over 195 episodes).
Cheers had the bar and Friends had the coffee shop, Seinfeld had Jerry’s apartment: all these places were where the main thrust of the story occurred, be it work, relationships, or the nonsense of a show, basically, about nothing.
We have had police stations and hospital offices or wards, there are law offices and forensic labs, abandoned libraries and stored trailers. It really doesn’t matter where the location is, what matters is what happens there – and what happens when it disappears. Without a Trace, to me, is a textbook example of what goes wrong with a show when they abandon this centralized place. Sure, the Missing Persons team still used the bullpen in later seasons; however, it was a rarity that the whole team gathered there at the same time. Starting about Season 4 it became rare and then almost non-existent that the team would all be together at least once an episode. Usually the episodes began with one or two agents investigating the disappearance and then would update other members, but not all at once, at the bullpen. An important dynamic was lost in the process; from then on the team seemed disjointed and any camaraderie was forced. Shame too, they once had some of the best moments.
Every hiatus I take stock of the shows I watch and decide which ones I’ll keep next season and which new ones I’ll give a look at. I try not to increase my viewing – I watch plenty already, so invariably shows ebb and flow on my schedule. I wonder why some shows remain (I’m looking at you Criminal Minds and NCIS:LA) and why some will never ever leave, despite some lackluster days (Supernatural) and why others remain high on my must see schedule (Arrow, Grimm, Person of Interest, Elementary and even NCIS after all these years). I realize that several shows I watch (notably Criminal Minds and NCIS:LA as well as Bones and a few others) remain because I enjoy the team dynamic. As long as those shows have the cast/characters I enjoy spending time with interacting in these ‘bullpen scenes,’ I’ll stick around. Some of those shows I simply DVR and skip the parts I don’t enjoy (such as when too much emphasis is placed on the unsub (CM) or Kensi and Deeks supposed “thing” (boring and unoriginal) is forced in between the case work) and simply watch the team interact at the beginning and the bits intermingled throughout and then the end when the team is unwinding and relating as people do when not focused on a singular task. It’s then when personal guards are lowered, a little humor creeps in and perhaps every now and again a revelation is made.
I also enjoy peeking around the bullpen trying to spot something new, something the set designers added perhaps as a lark, perhaps as something to build upon later. After all, these places are supposed to be real, so there is a purpose to what is there and what isn’t. Criminal Minds has Penelope Garcia with her crazy collection of pens. You may not know this, but many of those pens are sent to the show by fans and then they get put into the scene. I used to follow a blog for that show – it’s now defunct, I think, shame – and there was often a thank you from the actress and a picture to show her opening the box of pens sent by fans. You just never know what is going to capture the attention of the fans and become a thing.
So what’s the purpose of this article? Um, yeah, there really isn’t one except that there is still 11 weeks until hiatus is over for Person of Interest, 13 weeks for Supernatural and 15 weeks – give or take – until Grimm returns. So, while I am enjoying some shows on TNT, A&E and am also currently tuning in to the ridiculously absurd Under the Dome (made it to about 6 or 7 episodes in season 1, so far have completed 2 in Season 2) as well as ticking my way through some DVDs, I just felt the need to waste 1500 words, give or take, and dribble them all over TVFTROU.
As always, thanks for reading…Elle2
If you’re up to it, hit the comments and tell me what ‘bullpens’ you enjoy the most.