Thursday, April 14, 2011

A little paternal gloating

I have to admit that I am quite partial to TV police and detective series. When I was a kid, I was hooked on “Z Cars” and “Dixon of Dock Green”. I graduated on to “The Sweeny” and American cop series such as “Starsky and Hutch” and the seminal “Hill Street Blues”. Later in life, I would become addicted to “NYPD Blue”. But it was always the British series such as “Cracker” and “Prime Suspect” that I would wait for. They came in short bursts rather than long series leaving you with a taste for more. They would develop one story over a number of weeks keeping you guessing till the last moment in the best Agatha Christie tradition.
Because of this, I often wonder why I keep watching the “Law and Order” franchise which is repeated over and over on Israeli TV. Each episode features a case which is done and dusted in forty-five minutes; a storyline which, if done on British TV, would have supplied enough material to last three to four episodes with character development and plot twists galore. This is definitely television for people suffering from ADHD.
My favourite series of the franchise is, without a doubt, “Law and Order; Special Victims Unit.” I find the acting less wooden than the other spinoffs and the characters do have a certain charm to them. In addition, the cases centre on sexual assault and child abuse as opposed to your regular common-or-garden murder. (Read into this what you will.)
I suppose that it was unfortunate that this evening, I happened to watching an episode of this programme which featured a particularly nasty serial rapist when my 14 and a half year-old daughter was out with a friend, a girl from her class. She had told me that she was going to a movie; a “chick flick” was how she put it.
Suddenly my brain went into gear. When did the film start? How was she getting back? I phoned her and posed these questions. Apparently, it was starting at 9.45 and she’d come back by bus.
 I went back to “Law and Order”, but a couple of minutes later, I began to feel uneasy perhaps as a result of said programme. I phoned her again. Who was she coming home with and when was the last bus, I wanted to know.
She began to sound agitated. She would ask the bus driver, she told me. A minute later she phoned back and told me that the last bus was at 12 and that her friend would wait with her till the bus came but she’d be coming back on her own.
A couple of minutes later, I phoned back. The delay was not only due to a particularly gripping moment on the programme, but also because I was weighing up whether or not to lay down the law. The wife, you see, was out of town at the opera with the car. I wouldn’t be able to pick up my daughter if she got stuck in town after the last bus. However, I didn’t want to come over as an over-protective father whose sole purpose in life was to be a killjoy to his children. Commonsense won the day though and I told her that she would probably miss the last bus back and anyway I didn’t really want her travelling back alone at that time of night. She had suggested sleeping at her friend’s before and I said that if she wanted to see the film that is what she should do.
For some reason, (go figure teenage girls) she said that she would rather come home without seeing the film. “Are you sure?” I said breathing a silent sigh of relief. “Yes,” she said. ‘’I’m coming home.”
I jumped off the sofa and punched the air. I had dealt with a potentially volatile situation on my own without the aid of the wife or a safety-net. Of course, there was the chance that she would arrive home and have a massive hissy-fit calling me an over-bearing, oppressive father or something. But when she walked through the door at about 10.00 she was surprisingly calm. As a gesture of appreciation for her reasonableness, I surrendered the TV to her and let her watch “American Idol” as I ran for cover to my computer.
I don’t want to be too paranoid of things, but as a parent I have to be practical. I can’t expect my kids to ask the pertinent questions that will help them avoid getting themselves stuck in town in the middle of the night, for instance. I can feel quite proud of myself that I was able to guide my daughter through this evening’s potentially problematic situation, even if I needed a sensationalist American cop series to give me the kick up the tuchus that I obviously needed.