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From Serving Iowa Elders for Over 20 Years

New Tricks

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I might as well confess.  I am a sitcom junkie.  Love to laugh.  For decades of my life I watched way too many reruns of I Love Lucy, then had to wait until specific nights of the week to watch the funny weekly stuff:  Smothers Brothers, Carol Burnett, Green Acres, Honeymooners, Hawkeye Pierce.  Eventually we got a single channel of daily sitcom reruns so I could watch one lone comedy while making dinner.  The trouble then was that it was one sitcom over and over, ad nauseam.  I knew every punchline.  Then the heavens opened and out popped Hulu and Netflix.  Hallelujah!  Now I can laugh at the best of the past and present anytime I want.  I love these new tricks.

How strange then that the first show I want to recommend from my Hulu obsession is a detective drama.  New tricks.  It was recommended to me since it has a geriatric twist.  It is a long-standing British series about a unit of retired detectives called upon to reinvestigate old murder cases which have been closed without solution.  There is the middle-aged Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman, who supervises three retired detectives:  Jack, the grief-stricken widower; Brian, the obsessive human data machine; and Gerry, the typical tv-style loose cannon, who still smirks at having to report to a female.  The three Old Dogs are delighted with the New Tricks of DNA detection and database searches, while shocked at the restrictions borne of respect for the rights of the accused.  Their detective years of decades past included secret recordings, sneaky deceptions, and otherwise gathering evidence in whatever way conceivable.  It is a nice reminder of how much has changed in police work and human rights.

My particular recommendation is an episode entitled God’s Waiting Room.  Supervisor Sandra is touring a nursing home with her ailing mother when she hears of an alleged murder.  The victim was found with an overdose of Tramadol, a common painkiller.  The police initially declared the death a suicide.  There are some issues in this episode which are common to our experience in care facilities:  too many keys to the drug cabinets, theft of residents’ personal property, people with drug dependencies hovering around, people doing stupid things with intent to help family/friends, people reluctant to admit that long-term care facilities can be enjoyable, and parent-child frustrations and guilt.

Of particular interest to me is the original police detective’s comment that, at the time of the overdose death, he had to divide his energies between investigating the overdose of this elderly woman and chasing a serial rapist.  He saw the situation as “either-or.”  Later in the show, the same sort of thinking reemerges when the cost of care of the senior was compared to that of a child’s schooling.  “Either-or” thinking.  Competition between generations, favoring youth.  We could favor the more vulnerable.  We could work for more resources.  Like retired detectives.

Postscript:  Try to overlook the low-cut tops worn by the otherwise highly professional Pullman.  Her costumer should be reminded of female super-sleuth, Emma Peel of The Avengers, whose fashion sense kept all eyes on her without resorting to cleavage.

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