In “Go with the Flow,” Kristin Thompson demonstrates the similarities between film and television. In her analysis of Jurassic Park and The Bob Newhart Show, she proves that both programs rely on the motivations of the characters to drive the show. She writes, “In virtually all cases, the main character in a classical Hollywood film desires something, and that desire provides the forward impetus for the narrative. We can call this figure the goal-oriented protagonist” (21). In most television shows, this is obviously true. Every character has a motivation, a goal, and a series of character traits that likely prevent them from reaching that goal. Good television is made up of all of these things.
The concept of motivation in television interests me when discussing crime shows. When the show focuses around detectives, all of their motivations appear clear. Detectives want solved crimes, justice, and retribution for the dead. While detectives may have different reasons for this motivation, the motivation remains the same and hardly changes from episode to episode. So how do these shows stay interesting?
I think Homicide differs from other crime shows in its way of dealing with motivation. The homicide detectives act differently towards different cases, unlike cops in CSI or Law and Order who see every crime as the same high level of horrendous. In Homicide, Bayless is more invested in the Adena Watson case than the case of Jake, the police dog. His obsession with the Watson case differs from the various investigations into other murders done by other detectives. To me, this makes motivation more interesting. Motivation into single cases differs across the detectives, even though they are all seeking a similar justice. By developing the characters by showing the cases that interest them most, Homicide sets itself apart from other crime shows.