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Hurts So Good: Honoring TV's Best Torture

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We can finally say that there is, indeed, an award for everything: on Oct. 15 the organization Human Rights First will award the first Award for Excellence in Television, presented by Sam Waterston. And by “excellence,” they mean “excellence in depicting torture.” (I’m picturing a statuette of a little gold man doubled over in pain.)

As you may have guessed from the group’s name, there’s a serious intent behind the award. Says the group: “On many TV shows today”—read: 24—”torture is portrayed the same way every time. The hero stabs, punches, shoots, chokes or otherwise abuses a suspect who had been unwilling to talk. Seconds after the abuse begins the captive invariably reveals critical secrets.”

This award is designed to honor “realistic depictions of torture and interrogation,” so it makes sense that Lost (think Sayid) and The Shield were nominated. Beyond that, it gets dicey. The group commends The Closer and Criminal Minds for their depictions of interrogation without the use of torture. (Which are, of course, entirely realistic. Most crimes in real life are solved in 44 minutes, through overacting.)

An episode of Boston Legal is also nominated, apparently for the show’s reliable supplying of progressive esprits d’escalier. If the group wanted to go that route, though, why not nominate satires as well? There are topical episodes of South Park, Family Guy and American Dad that are easily sharper than Alan Shore’s weekly bloviations. Also, where’s Sleeper Cell?

Judge for yourself, though; the nominees are here. If nothing else, it’s fitting that the award is bringing up torture for discussion on a day when the Supreme Court is refusing to hear about it. In the meantime, may I suggest a snazzier name? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… the first annual Torties!