Monday, October 31, 2011


In the last few years, Anthony Neil Smith has emerged as one of the most unique and unpredictable voices in dark, twisted crime fiction. His books include PSYCHOSOMATIC, HOGDOGGIN', CHOKE ON YOUR LIES, YELLOW MEDICINE, and THE DRUMMER. His newest, ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, will be one of the first releases from the brand-new publisher, Blasted Heath.

His books are beautifully sleazy sometimes, with expertly constructed, labyrinthine plots, and I can tell you without hesitation that he is one of the finest writers on the scene these days. I'm very honored to have him here at Psycho-Noir.

Please welcome ANTHONY NEIL SMITH, with a few choice words about the boob tube...


Here’s the thing: I get bored with movies. While I love good, stylish, over-the-top directors and such, I get so bored with the stuff I’m “supposed” to like as a crime fan. I don’t know why. I just...get so bored.

But not so much with good TV. I love TV. Not just crime stuff, but nearly all of it. I really cringe whenever I hear some snob from the literary set sniff and say, “I neh-vah watch TV. We don’t even oooown one.” Fuck you, you disconnected, self-congratulatory fuck.

I watch crap reality shows. I watch all the good stuff like Louie and Archer and The Wire. I watch cooking shows. I watch sitcoms like The Middle and Modern Family (you’re supposed to like Family, but the other is off-limits, apparently). And I watch some crime shows. But the deal is that the best crime shows are few, far between, and the most popular ones suck.

I actually thought Criminal Minds was not-half-bad the three or four times I watched it, but I don’t need to see every episode. There’s no need to follow the character arcs. There’s no real cohesive story, just cases of the week. Same with CSINCISLAL&O.

And while I really loved The Wire (another snob fave), I actually preferred The Shield, which was thrilling, pulpy, and when it was all done, it felt like a real fucking novel. The last ep was perhaps the finest ending to a series I’ve ever, ever, ever seen. Perfectly pitched.

Also, let’s just say The Wire had two really amazing seasons (Three and Four), but, I loved those two seasons.

(You know what else I love to watch that’s not “crimey”? The Amazing Race.)

Some other shows that never worked for me: Torchwood, Terriers, Chicago Code, NYPD Blue, on and on and on...

The best crime television series of all time: Cracker. And let’s all forget that they tried an American version of that, please. Robbie Coltrane’s portrayal of “Fitz” is one of the best things ever put on TV, bar none. A far genius like Nero Wolfe (hey, sounds familiar), Fitz has a bad marriage (cheats a lot), bad habits (smokes, gambles, drinks, lies) and is smart enough to know he’s in the wrong but still justify his behavior in infuriatingly complex yet logical ways. He can make his wife feel like she’s the one responsible for his awfulness. He can talk a timid policewoman into bed because, well, he knows how to push the right mental buttons. He only takes police work to make some extra dough, but then becomes an animal. He loves the chase. He loves baiting the cops. He’s the real modern Sherlock Holmes (not that prissy high-tech new BBC series)—smarter than everyone around him, and still a huge mess. I’ve never seen a better TV show. And it’s a tough one to re-watch because of that. I like the memories I have of it. No need to go back and mess around with them by having another run.

Really, as a guy who loves novels—reading and writing them—more than any other form of entertainment, it seems to me the closest equivalent to that experience is a really good TV series. Why the hell do people think a feature film can do justice to all those fucking pages? The pacing is all wrong. The characters are never deep enough. The story has to be hacked to the lowest common denominator. Why not adapt more novels as TV series and leave the features to screenwriters who understand that they’re kind of going for the feel of a short story or novella instead? At least, that’s my two cents.

Other shows you won’t believe I like: Kitchen Nightmares, Hoarders, Work of Art (The Search for the Next Great Artist), Good Morning America, Top Gear (UK), Teen Mom, Judge Judy...

Don’t judge me.


  1. That's all great but I'd like to know how Anthony Neil really feels. lol! I like TV too. I'm addicted to 48 Hr. Mystery and I watch reality TV; Family Jewels, The X Factor, and yes even The Bachelor! Unlike movies, TV appeals to my short attention span.

  2. Julia - You're like my wife, she digs all those 48 hour mystery shows (They honestly creep me out, so I steer clear of them.)

    Neil - God love you, you grumpy bastard. I'd love to have the time to watch more TV, because there's a ton of shows out there that seem kick ass, but are on when the kiddo is still up or are on during writing times and I always forget to record them.

  3. X Factor, I Almost Got Away With It, Pawn Stars, Hardcore Pawn, House Hunters, House Hunters International, Boardwalk Empire, Selling New York ("It's so money"), Pan Am, American Idol, Mad Men, the TCM travelogue shorts, Color Splash, and Ken Burns' Prohibition.

  4. Good on you. Cracker may well be my favorite telly program, though. I thought the US version was alright. It wasn't CRACKER but it was what it was.

    I still haven't got through season one The Wire. I'm sure I should and maybe I will.

    I haven't heard of most of those programs but I'm pretty up on Polish soap operas.

    I don't watch reality shows because I don't like real people. Never have and I'm not going to start now.

  5. I do not watch much tv because I have too many books to read. I flip around channels during lunch and screw around on the computer in the evenings when I don't want to read. I do have a few shows set to auto-record:
    Always Sunny in Philadelphia
    Walking Dead
    Wilfred (when it was on)
    Beavis and Butthead
    Top Gear

    I think most reality shows are boring.

  6. That was a great post. I'm with you 100 % on "The Shield" as well as your take on "The Wire". Also liked "The Brotherhood", but who knows WTF happened to that show, anybody? Def not a fan of the "reality" shows though, oh well. "Gangland" and "American Greed" are decent, most times.

  7. I'm with you. Deeply love Cracker and The Shield and... The Middle.

    No quicker way to weed out the douches in a room than to start a conversation about TV.