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Jacqueline Mahaboob
Instructor: Malcolm Campbell
English 1101
September 2, 2014
Mystery Television Series/ Dexter
Theres nothing quite like getting home after a long day, kicking off your shoes, plopping
down on the couch, and unwinding in front of a TV. Whether you rushed home to make it on
time for the new episode of your favorite series or you are just flipping through the channels,
watching television is engrained in our society as a daily ritual for most people. Ultimately the
programs that you select determine the genre of television that you experience. There are several
popular genres that compose the majority of television programming such as comedy, drama,
reality, news broadcasting and mystery. One genre that airs from weekend afternoon marathons
to late Friday night specials is mystery. Some mystery television series are based on true
incidents and are meant to inform, while others are works of fiction intended purely to entertain
an audience. Mystery programming caters to an audience who enjoys being kept in suspense and
appreciates a generally realistic storyline.
Conventions of a Mystery Television Show
The purpose of a mystery is to engage the viewers in solving a problem and provide them
with outcome that explains the events at the end of the show. There are certain conventions that
show up in most mystery, such as a crime or death that needs to be solved. One specific subset of
mystery is shows that revolve around serial killings. There is typically a suspect or a group of
suspects that are being tracked down by a team of investigators who are trying to prevent the

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next crime from being committed. Foreshadowing and red herring are very commonly used to
hold the audiences interest by alluding to a possible outcome or a false outcome. Although the
writer adds foreshadowing to tell more about the story, he or she also uses inference gaps that are
left for the viewer to notice and fill in the missing parts of the story with their own imagination
and deductive reasoning skills. The writer uses these conventions to create a puzzle for the
audience to try to solve based on their own assumptions, until the end when the author reveals a
twist that went unnoticed and the audience finally learns what really happened. The medium of a
television show displays this genre well because each episode shows the repetition of each
convention that is used to portray the mystery. A television show allows the viewers to see inside
a story from a particular point of view rather than reading a novel and imagining what an author
was trying to convey. Oftentimes this allows the audience to see things that the characters in the
show might not see or know, allowing for a unique point of view and extended use of
foreshadowing.
Cultural and Social Context in Mysteries
Cultural and social context in mystery are created by the plot and design of the show
itself-, including the setting and the time period. If a show is set in the present day, viewers are
likely to see certain distinguishable items in the show such as iPhones or a popular clothing
brand or trend. Social context in mystery television is created by how the programs can actually
be consumed by viewers. Todays mystery series can be watched from a living room television
or a laptop at a coffee shop, or a tablet on an airplane. The setting the viewer is in can alter his or
her reactions to the show. For instance, someone watching a mystery in his or her house alone
may find it more convincing and frightening than someone watching it on a tablet at the gym. It
also can be altered by who you watch with. Someone who is watching a mystery about an

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escaped serial killer with a friend might react along the same lines as their friend and view it
differently than if he or she had been watching the same program with an acquaintance or alone
instead. There is a chilling similarity between certain elements in the plot of Dexter as a whole to
a real-life serial killer named Manuel Pardo. There are theories that Dexter was inspired by
Manuel Pardo because he was a police officer in Miami and the character Dexter was a blood
splatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department. Manuel Pardo went on a killing spree
murdering nine people whom he believed deserved to be killed for drug trafficking. Pardo
believed he was a solider against the war of drug trafficking and that he was bringing justice to
society. This is easily compared to Dexter who spent seven seasons of the show murdering many
people who he believed were not deserving of life because of the heinous crimes that they
committed. Both Dexter and Manuel Pardo took keepsakes from their murders; Dexter kept
blood slides and Manuel kept ashes of the cartridges used to kill his victims in an urn. Another
clue linking Dexter and Manuel Pardo is that in season 3 there is a character named Miguel
Pardo. There are striking similarities between the two stories that point to the theory that
Dexter is based on the actions of a serial killer Manuel Pardo.
Mystery Television Show Example: Dexter
An example of a mystery television show that has a lot of these conventions is Dexter.
The show Dexter is a show about a man named Dexter Morgan who works for the Miami Metro
Police Department. Dexter suffered from severe trauma in his youth after his mother was
murdered, which led him to become the twisted man that he is. Dexter works with the police
department as a blood splatter analyst to help solve crimes and put killers in jail, but the people
who fall through the cracks of the justice system have to answer to him in his after hour affairs.
Dexter follows a code of rules that make him believe the killing he does is not wrong. Rather he

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believes he is taking out the trash of Miami. Each season of this show focuses on a main serial
killer that the Miami Metro Police Department is pursuing and Dexters pursuit of the same killer
in a less ethical way. Dexters after hour tasks begin to consume his life, as he stalks his victims
to analyze them and ensure that he has proof before closing in on them. Hiding who he really is
becomes hard when his sister Deb, -and his co-workers start to notice that he knows exactly
where and when things are going to happen and exactly what the killer is thinking.
The language of this show is a modern text with modern day slang, as the show was
written from 2006-2013. The show is told from Dexters point of view. Like many other crime
shows, the story is told from the perspective of law enforcement, but Dexter also happens to be a
killer. In each episode the squad finds clues that the criminal leaves behind, but Dexter analyzes
them more thoroughly as if it is a personalized game for him. Foreshadowing and red herring are
two conventions that are very frequently used to show characters past or to lead the audience to
believe they know who the criminal is. The use of inference gaps in Dexter is important because
a lot of episodes leave out explanations of what makes certain characters the way they are, but
this actually allows the viewers to have the freedom to create their own theory. The television
series Dexter was created in 2006 and ended in 2013, which contributes to its- cultural contexts.
In the show there are several distinctive props used that help to identify exactly when the episode
was written, such as the type of technology used or some of the clothes the cast members wore.
Dexter aired on Showtime TV and is now a series available on Netflix where it can be streamed
to a -TV in a home or a mobile device.

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Comparing Dexter to Criminal Minds


Mystery television shows centered on serial killers follow the same pattern of events; in
the beginning there is a crime or murder that is presented to the group of investigators who must
prevent the next crime from being committed. During the remainder of the show a series of clues
are found, and in the end the suspect is either caught or killed. In Dexter and Criminal Minds
there is the use of flashbacks from the point of view of the police team. Their personal lives are
used to add progression in the development of the lead characters so that the audience can learn
more about them as individuals. Both Criminal Minds and Dexter have the same types of
characters. For example, there is usually a very intelligent character that puts everything together
in his or her mind, and then there is a muscular jock character. The creators of both Dexter and
Criminal Minds use rhetorical choices like stereotypes with the way they develop their
characters. Certain lead characters have family problems or a deceased parent that contributes to
the reason that they are troubled.
Shaping a Mystery Television Show
The conventions displayed in Dexter are what help shape the show into the mystery it is.
The serial murders each season are drawn out to create the suspense necessary to hold the
audiences attention to make them feel like they are a part of the show. Without the use of
foreshadowing the viewers would be lost as to why certain events are happening and why
characters are the way they are. While those things help shape a mystery television show, there
are also constraints that take away from a mystery like adding in scenes that are inappropriate in
a serious mystery such as comedy. The tone is set as serious and mysterious; a comedy scene
would take away from the gravity of the situation. Adding a romance storyline between

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characters alters a mystery and changes the genre to a mystery drama. Mentioning the
relationship between the lovers often throughout the series would modify the main message of
the show and shift the genre to a more romantic drama. Taking out some of the crime would
transform the show from a mystery in to a romantic drama.
This genre is catered to people who are interested in shows that keep them wondering
what really happened until the very end. By using the conventions stated in the paragraphs
above, scriptwriters write shows that fall into the genre of a mystery. Some mystery shows do
not follow all of the exact same sequence of events, but the conventions they all have make them
the genre that they are. Dexter and Criminal Minds both achieve their intended purpose of
entertaining an audience who enjoys mystery television shows by presenting crimes in the
beginning of the show followed by clues being dropped, and then the suspect being questioned
and eventually convicted. Without these conventions, these shows would not be able to be
classified as a mystery.