What percentage of the shows on television today involve what we have come to know as law and order, a.k.a the police or the courts? I imagine the number is really high. The average viewer is probably drawn to these shows for a reason, perhaps because the concepts of law and order are metaphors that appeal to the human fascination with justice (and punishment). Two shows that I watched at very different points in my life combine the law and order genre with a school setting, which make them doubly appealing to me.
I attended a boarding school for my sophomore through senior years. One senior privilege was the lounge with what was at that time a giant TV. That year we were all obsessed with show 21 Jump Street, a drama about so-called baby-faced cops who went undercover in local schools. But what attracted me to the show beyond the cheekbones of a young Johnny Depp? I think I enjoyed the way the series portrayed schools as a tough places where young people faced serious challenges – it showed the dark side of schooling. When I look back now, I question the connection that the show seemed to draw between schools and prisons. What does it say about the mainstream media of the late1980s and the early 1990s that a popular series portrayed high schools as hot beds of crime? It is interesting to note that the show took itself seriously, unlike the recent tongue in cheek film version. Here’s a great scene – very referential, a la 21st century.
A more recent show about schools and crime is Veronica Mars. I started watching Veronica Mars the fall I took my general exams in graduate school. I stumbled upon the pilot episode when I was taking a break from studying one night, and I was hooked from the start. Afterall, it combined two of my favorite genres, detective stories and teen drama.
Veronica is a witty outsider whose crusade for social justice goes farther than just joining Amnesty International. She is a private detective who helps the victims at Neptune High while making sure the villains get their due. Think of her as a counter-culture Nancy Drew. I like this scene from the pilot because I think it reveal a great deal about Veronica even as it show that high school can be brutal if no one has your back http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E88Rtuujos