I'm a budding Miami Vice fan, and in 2013 that means that, eventually, your father will give you the complete Crime Story on DVD. A short-lived Michael Mann joint that premiered in 1986, Crime Story was stylish, ambitious and—as soon as it was pitted head-to-head against Moonlighting—doomed to fail. Two things struck me about the show's movie-length pilot. First, "Runaway" is an awesome theme song. Seriously. Take a look:
But I was even more pleasantly surprised by the relationship between Lt. Mike Torello—played by the expertly mustachioed Dennis Farina—and his wife. Namely, they had one. In the first few episodes, they fight about, the screw a bit, and they decide to have a kid. It's honest, everyday stuff—and a nice contrast from the nihilistic battle against crime that occupies the rest of Torello's waking life. Of course, it doesn't last.
Because the TV gods demand sacrifices, the Torello's happy partnership goes on the rocks quickly, and they're broken up by episode ten. This is a shame not just because Dennis Farina has the kind of sad-guy face that makes you want to give him a hug, but because there are nearly no good cop marriages on TV, and I think that's a shame. Let's consider some candidates for happiness:
- Vic Mackey, The Shield. What starts as a surprisingly durable marriage—able to survive the pressures caused by two autistic children and Mackey's incredibly bald head—eventually cracks under the weight of his sadism. I'm surprised it lasted that long.
- Kima Greggs, The Wire. When we meet Kima, she and her longtime girlfriend Cheryl are happy in a very realistic way. Because it's The Wire, that can't last. Over the next five season, they have ups and downs—mostly downs. It's an honest depiction of a relationship dying, but that's not what I want. I want one that's thriving.
- Hank Schrader, Breaking Bad. Hank's marriage has been held together by the strongest adhesive imaginable: a fiendish duct tape of denial and borderline behavior. The marriage endures, but it's certainly not happy.
I realize that being a cop's husband or wife is famously difficult. The irregular hours, constant danger, and likelihood that your loved one will turn into this guy make it difficult to keep a marriage going. But not impossible. I don't know cops, but the law of probability states that somewhere in the United States, there is a cop with a good marriage. Somewhere. One of them.
Put that guy on TV.
I want just one show where the cop's home life is not a major source of conflict. Where difficulties arise and are dealt with like adults. Where nobody goes to bed angry. Basically, I want Tami & Coach, but they solve murders. Only one TV detective that I can think of—and I've been thinking of this for fifteen or twenty minutes!—comes close. Who may it be? Let's play a little guessing game.
He and his wife bicker, but he only rarely gets kicked out of the house. He rides his kids hard, but they respect him—even though they seem to get raped, abducted and (nearly) murdered all the time. He's bald, burly and angry, and he really, really doesn't like men who don't respect women. Ladies and gents, I give you Elliott Stabler:
If that's the happiest cop on TV, I think we can do a little better.