Suburban murder mystery

Cast of Secrets and Lies.

The cast of Secrets and Lies is stuck in the suburbs with a murder mystery.

This post contains spoilers.

Secrets and Lies should have existed a decade ago.

Once upon a time, blogosphere snark was so prevalent that Serious Journalists had to write op-eds to criticize its prevalence as cheap and lazy journalism–as it sometimes certainly was. I started to consistently blog during the Internet Age of Snark and sure, I miss it sometimes. I was one of those sixteen year old bloggers who feigned maturity through snark because that was what all the cool twentysomething pop culture bloggers were doing; little did I know, behind that snark, there was a lot of cynicism about being an young adult and living in a recession and, if I want to get psychoanalytical, all that low-hanging snark was merely a defense mechanism.

But as the economy has gotten better, the dismissal of snark has allowed for more serious analysis about pop culture–not to say overt snark doesn’t exist, but it now exists in very specific, niche places. We’re in 2015 and it’s a pro-sap, post-snark pop culture universe–or at least, a less brutal battlefield contra recession 2005 because today, Television Without Pity and Videogum are long gone, Gawker writer Emily Gould is dating/potentially married to Keith Gessen, the author of a book titled All the Sad Young Literary Men (sure) and who was once a subject of one of Gould’s own snark-ticles.

And, the most obvious sign of the times–there is only one mainstream television blogger who recaps Secrets and Lies (Michelle Newman of Entertainment Weekly, who deserves a raise) with the kind of snark it deserves. Oh, how the world has changed!

We’re inching close to the day when we will live in a world where there are more Internet articles defending Kim Kardashian than criticizing her–and you know, maybe that’s the way it always should have been. The blog denizens have become sentimentalists, protectors, and even champions of the public figures they used to mock because they are a much happier people now, and dare I say it–perhaps bloggers are even a genuine people now.

But man, does Secrets and Lies deserve to be mocked with snarky derision circa 2005. It’s a treasure chest of material for Television Without Pity or Videogum, and the show could have subsequently gotten higher Nielsen ratings as a result of whatever recaps those sites could have concocted for viewer reading the morning after.

Based on an Australian series of the same name, Secrets and Lies, a 10-episode anthology series that just finished its run on ABC, a murder mystery series with the unsettling gloss of a daytime soap. It stars two movie stars, or former movie stars, if you will–Ryan Phillippe and Juliette Lewis–who, unfortunately, don’t have the pluck to rise above a comically terrible script.

Philippe stars as Ben Crawford, a suburban husband, father of two, and house painter, who goes jogging one morning, only to find the dead body of a neighbor’s six-year old son. Lewis’ Detective Andrea Cornell is put on the case and she instantly suspects that Ben could be the killer. And, of course, Ben’s defense is weak as he struggles to recall what happened the night before he discovered the body; all he can remember is that he got into a fight with his estranged wife (KaDee Strickland) and went out for a night of drinks with his best friend Dave (Dan Fogler), but beyond that, he’s got nothing.

Instead of instantly trying to retrace his steps (he does eventually do it, though), Ben spends most of the show accusing his neighbors of murdering his neighbor’s son who he discovers at the end of the first episode is his biological son from an one-night stand he had with his neighbor six years ago. So Ben actually spends most of the show barging into people’s homes, declaring that they’ve killed his son, only to discover they really haven’t, and that he’s not a very good detective after all. Other than accusing people of killing his son, Ben spends his downtime wrongly accusing his best friend of molesting his teenage daughter, the detective for putting her own daughter in jail, and his wife of cheating on him. So Ben’s a pretty busy guy–being a prime murder suspect in his biological son’s death is almost besides the point.

There are a plethora of issues about this show, the most unbelievable being that the police department was apparently able to determine the exact murder weapon from the victim’s wounds–in fact, they were able to conclude that it was a flashlight of a specific make and model. And also, it’s a show about a guy who may have murdered his own biological son after all, but couldn’t remember because he blacked out.

But as much as I would like to make fun of the show, the tenth episode of this show continues to haunt me. It’s been a few weeks, and I still can’t get over the exceptional twist–not so much that it was particularly unexpected, but just the way it unfolded. I haven’t seen the Australian series, which the show was reportedly loyally based on, but geez, I wished that tenth episode was the fifth episode and the suspense could have been Det. Cornell proving that Ben didn’t do it after all. The last half hour of this series is brilliant because of a young actress’ bold, nuanced performance. All I’m saying is, Bella Shouse–she’s one to watch out for.

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