On the Glories of ‘Homicide Hunter’
BY TRAV S.D. travsd.wordpress.com | If you’re feeling stressed out by life in New York with all its attendant pitfalls and dangers, do what I do: gratuitously rubberneck at the disasters that happen in other cities.
The Investigation Discovery channel’s show “Lt. Joe Kenda: Homicide Hunter” is a window into the murder culture of the small-to-medium sized city of Colorado Springs. And wouldn’t you know, they have a surprising amount of killing in that town!
Impossibly sedate Lt. Joe Kenda has true crime charisma to burn
The show’s host, retired Colorado Springs police detective Kenda, spent several decades on the job. I’m sure every single day wasn’t the adventure it seems on the show — but having solved 397 murders (with a 92 percent success rate), he gives his producers more than enough fodder for an entertaining true crime series. There have been 29 episodes thus far, with a fourth season on the way.
Around my house, Kenda is a rock star. An impossibly sedate man, slightly shlumpy, he relates tales of his career with a world-weary air, a man who has seen the worst mankind has to offer and would love to prevent more of it from happening.
The show’s producers take this very distinctive tack of shooting Kenda in extreme close-up. It’s as if you’re sitting across from him on a very intimate date. In his low-key manner, he weaves his amazing tales — which, of course, completely contrast with his implacable attitude. After all, these are stories of horror and murder.
Kenda comes across as a decent man, appalled at the cold-heartedness of some of the people he’s had to deal with, and it’s made him just a touch cynical and jaded — not enough to corrupt him, just enough to give him a bit of droll gallows humor, of just the sort you’d want the cop from central casting to have. “I’m not a doctor,” he growls, “but I’ve seen a lot of dead people.”
Something about Kenda’s manner reminds me of the assistant principal, the one who’s in charge of discipline. He makes the bad guys look not just bad, but invariably foolish. They are people who’ve done the worst thing a human being can do. And, well, who DOES something like that?
For the most part, they ain’t rocket scientists. There’s the creep who ran over his ex-girlfriend in his car with two drunken buddies sleeping in the back seat and an entire neighborhood of witnesses looking on — and the stalker who became obsessed with his neighbor, strangled her, and left a tell-tale bite mark on her shoulder. “There are some people who don’t deserve to be on the outside with the rest of us,” says Kenda. His job is to scoop ‘em up and throw ‘em in the tank.
I am not the only one in the Kenda fan club. Others love to parrot his catchphrases, such as the ever popular “Well…my, my, my” (delivered to the perps in his stories with a single eyebrow raised) and “Now he’s got my attention” (usually delivered when a suspect has made a revealing slip-up during an interrogation).
For maximum hilarity, he is played in the flashbacks by a man 20 years his junior, who looks little like him (par for the course in true crime re-enactments). Actor Carl Mariano, the Kenda stand-in, has more to offer than his movie star looks — having been a Deputy Sheriff in New York State for 17 years. We look forward to seeing both “Kendas” when the show returns for its fourth season later this year.
Trav S.D. has been producing the American Vaudeville Theatre since 1995, and periodically trots it out in new incarnations. Stay in the loop at travsd.wordpress.com, and also catch up with him on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, et al. His books include “No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous” and “Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and its Legacies from Nickelodeons to YouTube.”
TELEVISION | LT. JOE KENDA: HOMICIDE HUNTER
On Investigation Discovery
Channel 23 on Time Warner Cable