By ADAM BUCKMAN
NEW YORK, March 18, 2014 — It’s a sweeping generalization to be sure, but I’ll say it anyway:
When you get right down to it, TV today can be boiled down to this: It’s a lot of people getting their heads blown off.
Hey, maybe I watch too many violent TV shows, but recently when I encountered yet another blood-splattered scene featuring a bullet administered to another person’s forehead, I had an epiphany. The thought that occurred to me was this: I’ve seen so many of these forehead-busting gunshots on TV that I don’t even think about them anymore.
Of course, I was thinking about it then, but that’s the point. I’ve seen so many of them that it came as a surprise to be giving the subject a second thought. And I wondered: How many heads blown off have I actually seen in a lifetime of watching television?
The scene that triggered this line of thinking was one that occurred in a recent episode of “The Americans” on FX. That’s the series about Soviet spies who are embedded in the Washington suburbs in the final years of the Cold War in the 1980s. This particular skull-shattering pistol shot occurred after a mini-massacre in the back room of a restaurant. The victim was a hapless busboy who had the misfortune to still be hanging around at work. Well, the gunman — the spy named Phillip played by Matthew Rhys — took one look at this would-be witness cowering in a corner and without substantial hesitation splattered the poor guy’s brains all over the kitchen wall.
I don’t mean to pick on “The Americans” or even FX in particular, but it just so happens that FX is where these shots to the head seem to be administered the most frequently and, it bears mentioning, the most casually. Jax Teller, the motorcycle club president played by Charlie Hunnam on “Sons of Anarchy,” has emerged as TV’s champion of the casual headshot. Sure, Jax is an unpredictable character, but this was one aspect of his personality that became predictable last season: Often when you did not expect it, Jax would suddenly produce a gun and blow someone’s brains out, instantly solving whatever complicated “problem” he was trying to work through.
What’s the point? Just this — and stop me if you’ve heard this one before (because I’ve written variations on it many times): Violence on TV has become so gruesome that frequently seeing people shot in the head (with the resultant gore blasting from the backs of their skulls and onto walls, lamps and draperies) isn’t even shocking anymore.
There has to be something wrong with that, right?
Contact Adam Buckman: firstname.lastname@example.org