Research skills: What ‘Suits’ you?

Sometimes, ideas for posts come from the most unlikeliest of places.

Trying Suits on for size

This past week, I decided to give the TV series Suits a try (while we are still enjoying a free preview of Amazon Prime!).

In the pilot episode, I was particularly drawn to the character of Rachel Zane (played by very-soon-to-be-a-princess-in-real-life Meghan Markle), who is the law firm’s top paralegal and researcher — and knows it! I do love a woman who is smart and is not afraid to be smart.

Here are just a couple of snippets of how Rachel describes herself and her work ethic in the pilot episode:

  • “I’m smart.”
  • “I take my job seriously.”

Breaking down the research scene

A little over halfway into the episode, the newbie assistant lawyer, Mike Ross (played by Patrick J. Adams), asks Rachel for her help on a case. Let’s beak down their conversation.

First, the ask and recognition of Rachel’s research skillz. (I also have to admit that at one point, I thought seriously about becoming a paralegal and putting my own research skills to use in a different way.)

MikeRachel! I need your help!

RachelSo why are you coming to me?

MikeBecause Donna says you’re the best researcher in the firm.

They walk into her office, which, in the pilot episode at least, is lined with bookshelves. A woman after my own heart!

Screenshot from pilot episode of 'Suits'

Rachel Zane, paralegal

Screenshot from pilot episode of 'Suits'

Rachel Zane at her desk

Mike: Whoa, whoa, whoa. You have an office? How do you have an office, and I have a cubicle?

RachelLike you said, I’m the best researcher in the firm.

Next, the research set-up:

RachelYou’re asking to look at private files without any evidence of your assertion.

MikeYeah, but the only way we can find the evidence is to look at those files.

RachelIt’s a rickety argument.

MikeBut is there precedent?

RachelLet’s go see if we can find one.

Finally, the pay-off at the firm’s in-house law library. (Two stories, no less!)

Screenshot from pilot episode of 'Suits'

Rachel Zane in her natural habitat, the law library

RachelResearch is as much art as science. So, we’re gonna look at privacy and harassment law to see if we can find a combination of cases to make an argument. I’ll take privacy.

MikeI’ll take harassment law.

RachelThis’ll take a while.

Final lessons about research

What do we learn from these few seconds about research with ace paralegal Rachel Zane?

Screenshot from pilot episode of 'Suits'

Rachel Zane, paralegal, tellin’ it like it is

  1. Research is a combination of art and science — in other words, being BOTH “book smart” AND “street smart”
  2. Have a plan before you start researching
  3. Think about multiple starting points/keywords/potential sources
  4. Research can take time
  5. If you need help, ask a research expert!

I’m admittedly new to Suits — even though its final season is about to air, having already hit that 100-episode marker! — but I was very pleasantly surprised by how invested I was in the characters by the end of the pilot episode.

Have you seen Suits? Do you like Rachel Zane’s character? Please leave a comment and share!

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The kids shush themselves | School library scene in ‘Psych’ TV show

I have been enjoying our free preview of Amazon Prime, including watching TV series, both new (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and old (Psych). While watching Season 2 of Psych, I noted a library scene in episode 7, “If You’re So Smart, Then Why Are You Dead?”

About Psych

First things first. If you’re not familiar with the comedic TV show Psych, here’s the basic premise:

Shawn Spencer (played by James Roday) has amazing powers of observation — and uses that power to pretend to be psychic. Why? So that he can solve crimes with the police, alongside his best friend, Gus (played by Dulé Hill). Corbin Bernsen plays his crotchety father, Henry Spencer, a retired cop.

Here’s a trailer for Season 2 of the TV show:

And here’s the basic plot for the “If You’re So Smart, Then Why Are You Dead?” episode, which first aired in August 2007:

A group of genius teenagers go to the Psych office claiming their teacher is a murderer.

School library scene

The scene occurs 9 minutes into the 42-minute episode. Shawn and Gus arrive at the school, going undercover as guest lecturers for a paranormal studies class. The headmaster gives them a tour of the school… which apparently starts in the library! I like this school. 😉

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of library scene in 'Psych' TV episode

Let’s all go to the library!

Headmaster: Personally, I’m not sure that I see the merits of a class in paranormal studies, but we do let the students choose one guest instructor a semester. 

[A student walks past, carrying a thick book, joining a table of other students with their noses in books.]

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of library scene in 'Psych' TV episode

Reading is a recess activity

ShawnWhat is this? Like a study hall?

HeadmasterOh, no. Recess.

Shawn:  [Sniffs] Does it smell like teen spirit in here?

Student:  [Walks by] Shhhhhh!

Gus has to hold Shawn back from going after the kid!

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of library scene in 'Psych' TV episode

The kid shushes Shawn in the school library

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of library scene in 'Psych' TV episode

Shawn doesn’t react well to the shushing

The school library

The library looks to be a pretty large space, with lots of windows and light and yellow-painted walls. I’m not sure where they filmed this scene, but I do know that the series filmed primarily in Vancouver, Canada. You can read about other filming locations featured on the show via the Movie Maps site.

There are different kinds of resources in the library, including books and computers. Furniture is also set up for different kinds of learning activities, including tables, computer desks, and bookcases, both small and tall ones. This furniture is used to break up the library into different spaces.

And as Shawn and Gus walk through the library with the headmaster, we also see glimpses of various students working hard at computers and other students working in groups. The library is also quite full — at recess, as we learned! — and the students range in ages, genders, and ethnicities.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of library scene in 'Psych' TV episode

Library tour in ‘Psych’ TV episode

The only thing missing in this scene? A librarian! 😉

Why a school library scene?

The scene lasts a total of 30 seconds, and it is the only scene in the episode set in the school library. What purpose does this brief scene serve? It primarily serves to provide as not only an introduction to the school for Shawn and Gus, but also as an introduction for the audience. We have been informed already that this is a school for geniuses — what better place than a library to reinforce this concept?

The scene starts with a closeup of thick books, a bookcase of atlases. This shot efficiently establishes the setting as a library without having to actually say the word.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of library scene in 'Psych' TV episode

Bookcase closeup to set the library scene

This scene also efficiently reinforces the vibe of the school and the priorities of its students. They are serious, focused, and not afraid to stand up to authority — even shushing adults. This scene is so efficient — and the students themselves are so self-sufficient — that there is no need for a school librarian!

This also sets up a conflict in the episode, because if you’re a fan of the show, you know that Shawn jokes all the time and rarely takes anything seriously. As the audience, we are already looking forward to the students pushing back during Shawn’s upcoming lecture. After all, Shawn may be able to hoodwink the police about his “psychic” abilities… but will he able to convince these genius students? Or will the students call his bluff and shush him out of the school? 😉

Sources used:

“If You’re So Smart, Then Why Are You Dead?” Psych. USA Network, 24 Aug. 2007.

Psych Season 2 Trailer,” uploaded by Shannon Haddock, Standard YouTube license.

 

Second impressions? Season 2 premiere of ‘The Librarians’

Y’all knew where I was this past Sunday night, right? Watching the Season 2 premiere of “The Librarians” OF COURSE. The premiere kicked off, like last year, with two back-to-back episodes:

  • Episode 1: “And the Drowned Book”
  • Episode 2:  “And the Broken Staff”

*POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

The first episode starts off with the news that the librarians-in-training have all been working on their own for the past few months, so they have to learn to work together again in this episode. The library is back, but Jenkins discovers that items are going missing and that the library is rearranging itself. Something rotten in the state of Denmark?

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from Season 2 premiere of 'The Librarians'

Screenshot from Season 2 premiere of ‘The Librarians’

There are new villains for Season 2, fictional villains from great works of literature — referred to as “Fictionals” — including Prospero from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes stories. As some of my favorite episodes from Season 1 focused on inventive twists on fairy tales and legends, I am looking forward to the librarians taking on the “Fictionals” throughout Season 2.

My husband, a college English instructor, personally liked how literary Season 2 is already. And I already have more appreciation for the Season 2 tagline, “This season they’ll need every trick in the book.” 😀

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from Season 2 premiere of 'The Librarians'

The gang is back together! Librarians unite! Screenshot from Season 2 premiere of ‘The Librarians’

My favorite bits from Episode 1, “And the Drowned Book”:

  • 8 minutes in, Flynn and Eve are going to a museum exhibit on a new mission:
    • Flynn:  A new exhibit brings in the fundraisers and gives the big-wigs a chance to rub elbows with the rock star archivists and librarians.
    • Eve:  Every girl’s dream.
  • 30 minutes in, Flynn’s fan-boy glee when he thinks he’s met Sherlock Holmes:  I love you! I mean, I love your adventures… A team-up with Sherlock Holmes!
  • 45 minutes in, Prospero casts Shakespeare as the villain:  Shakespeare broke my staff; he drowned my book. Who is more real? Authors or their creations? Again, I appreciate how inventive the writing is.
  • Almost 50 minutes in, the librarians are trying to figure out how to stop the storm system of hurricanes Prospero has unleashed upon New York. Problem-solving at its finest:
    • Jake:  People don’t have great track records of stopping hurricanes.
    • Flynn:  Well, they haven’t had the resources of the library. [Snaps his fingers, turns to Jenkins] Zeus’s lightning bolt?

The second episode continued the Prospero storyline. The librarians are trying to prevent him from putting his broken staff back together while also trying to protect the heart of the library. The library’s security system actually traps the librarians inside the library, so they have to work together (sensing a theme here) and use the library’s internal resources in order to stop Prospero and protect the “tree of knowledge” at the heart of the library.

My favorite bits from Episode 2, “And the Broken Staff”:

  • Almost 10 minutes in, Ezekiel researches references to lost or broken staffs in the old-school library card catalog. Actually, this scene both amused AND infuriated me. (Especially because Ezekiel is tossing the cards onto the stairs as he goes through them. NOT COOL. You better be planning on re-filing those cards, dude.)
    • Ezekiel:  I’ve got references to a bunch of lost magic staffs in here…
    • Jake:  Just cross-reference staff with “broken”
    • Ezekiel:  How? It’s not like it’s a search engine.
    • Jake:  What do you mean, how? You don’t know how to use a card catalog?!
    • Ezekiel:  It’s the 21st century. I don’t know how to shoe a horse, either.

Jake’s look of outraged incredulity during this scene was PRICELESS. I feel you, Jake, I feel you.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from Season 2 premiere of 'The Librarians'

What do you mean, how? You don’t know how to use a card catalog?! Screenshot from Season 2 premiere of ‘The Librarians’

I AM RAISING MY HAND SO HARD, Y’ALL.

  • 20 minutes in, the librarians-in-training have to bribe a young girl who checked out the local library’s only copy of the unabridged, complete works of Shakespeare. I guess you can put a price on knowledge… 😉
  • Almost 40 minutes in, Flynn’s attempt at soothing Frankenstein’s monster:  Hug it out. For humanity. Yes. There’s no need for violence. This is how librarians solve problems. With our minds and our hearts. [Frankenstein’s monster throws hims off.] Worth a shot.
  • Eve’s eternal frustration with Flynn because he never has a plan; rather, he just goes off adventuring and reacting in the moment. And 46 minutes in, she totally calls him on it:  I want you to stop. And think! (I also love that the planner in the group is the non-librarian.)
  • 55 minutes in, Flynn’s description of the tree of knowledge:  Knowledge is young, always growing. No matter how much [knowledge] you think you have, there’s always room to grow.

My favorite aspects of the series are still in full force. It’s so earnest and fun, and you learn a little (or a lot) along the way. In fact, what I said last year still sums up what I find appealing about the entire series:

Reel Librarians | Quote from 'First Impressions' review of 'The Librarians' TV series premiere

I always finish watching an episode of “The Librarians” with a smile on my face. 😀

‘The Librarians’ are back!

I was reading through this week’s issue of People magazine, and I literally squealed out loud and clapped when I saw this ad for ‘The Librarians’ TV show.

'The Librarians' magazine ad

‘The Librarians’ magazine ad

That’s right, ‘The Librarians’ are back! The tagline for the second season is:

“This season they’ll need every trick in the book.”

This season will kick off on TNT this Sunday, Nov. 1, at 8/7c. You’ll know where I’ll be this Sunday night! You can find out more on the TNT website.

And if you’d like to catch up on the first season, check out my posts below from last year:

Reel librarians with ‘A Bone to Pick’

A few months ago in this post, I highlighted a preview of a new Hallmark TV movie, “A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery,” based on the book series by Charlaine Harris. The title character is a younger librarian, played by Candace Cameron Bure, who also served as executive producer.

The Aurora Teagarden Mystery series continues this summer, with the next TV movie set to premiere this Sunday, July 26, on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel. Will you be watching along with me?

Snapshot of Real Murders:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery episode

I also recently rewatched the premiere movie, “A Bone to Pick,” and overall, it’s an enjoyable show. If there’s a bone to pick — I couldn’t resist the pun! — it is a typically “cozy” type of mystery, nothing too scary or mentally taxing. It’s the kind of show where there is a lot of light, and everyone seems to have huge living rooms. I most enjoyed the warm portrayal of its title character as a multi-faceted and multi-talented reel librarian.

Setting the stage for sleuthing

The TV movie starts out not in the library, but instead in Aurora’s bedroom, where she is braiding her hair and practicing a presentation about a notorious historical murder, a speech she delivers in a town hall where the “Real Murders Club” has gathered.

Reel Librarians  |  Opening shot in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Reel Librarians  | Real Murders Club in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

After the successful presentation, an older member, Jane, ruffles up some controversy by stating that Aurora should run for president of the club. Jane then invites Aurora to her house the next day to pick up a few out-of-print titles about true crime, and we learn a lot of character background — including the fact that Jane is a retired librarian! The plot doesn’t get going until we learn that soon after, Jane has passed away and left her house and estate to none other than Aurora. Part of the legacy she left to Aurora includes a hidden skull and a mystery to solve….

*MILD SPOILER ALERTS*

The resulting mystery is not all that interesting:  It includes break-ins and cheating spouses and a really far-fetched conclusion involving a pregnant cop practically giving birth while arresting the perps.

Librarian role call

This TV movie and the series definitely fit into the Class I category, with Candace Cameron Bure as the title character Aurora Teagarden, or “Roe” for short. Here are the other librarian characters in the story (who, strangely, don’t get seem to get screen credits):

  • Jane, the spinster librarian who died and left Roe her estate
  • Lillian, the middle-aged spinster librarian meanie who scares children and is always on Roe’s case
  • Characters also mention a Mr. Crowley, the head of the library, but we never see him onscreen
Reel Librarians  |  Reel librarians in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Reel librarians Roe, Jane, and Lillian in ‘A Bone to Pick: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery’ (2015)

Salary and education

The low salary given to librarians gets mentioned quite a lot throughout the TV movie. Roe doesn’t even expect to afford rent on her librarian’s salary (her mother pays her rent), and she wonders how Jane was able to afford such a big house (it turns out Jane had inherited money).

  • I can’t afford a new dress.  /  Because you are woefully underpaid.
  • I never thought I’d own a house, not on a librarian’s salary.
  • Too bad I can’t afford it.

Moral of the story? Pay librarians what they are worth! (This means at least a living wage, y’all.)

Education and “library science” also merit a mention, mostly in the early exposition scene between Roe and Jane. Her master’s thesis was in true-crime literature, which sounded odd to me. Jane agreed!

Roe:  I wish I had had access to a collection like this when I was getting my master’s. My thesis was in true-crime literature.

Jane:  That wasn’t a speciality of library science in my day.

Roe:  It’s still not, officially. I think I’m the only librarian in the state who has it.

Side note:  I also did a research project in my Children’s Literature graduate class, a project all about character types in detective and mystery stories for children and young adults. We’re so alike! 😉

Here’s how Roe would probably react to that statement:

Reel Librarians  |  Librarian eye-rolling in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Whatever, Jen.

There are several scenes highlighting the bright and spacious public library. The sign on the front door says “Lawrenceton Public Library,” which is a nod to the Lawrenceton, Georgia, setting of the books. However, the TV movie was filmed in British Columbia.

Librarian tasks we see onscreen include: opening up the library, researching on the computer, shelving books, and helping a little boy find a book (he’s scared of Lillian, the dragon-lady librarian, who is really rude and condescending to him). Lillian is a total rule-monger and Spinster Librarian character type.

Reel Librarians  |  Public library in  'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Reel Librarians  |  Roe helping a young boy in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Reel librarian style

Roe’s fashion sense is subjected to many negative comments throughout the TV film, mainly by Roe’s mother — and by Roe herself!

  • This has no pizzazz. [her mother, referring to a blazer with piped trim, seen above]
  • I’m sorry, I wanted to change into something nicer. [Roe, wearing a sweater on a date]
  • This is what you wore, on a date?! [Her mother, after Roe’s date]
  • Please tell me you’re not wearing that to church. [Roe’s mother]
  • I wish I had more fashion sense. [Roe, going shopping]

I didn’t really get this style criticism, because she looks cute, relatable, and modern to me. Cardigans and practical coats abound. (I did think they overdid it with the praise whenever she wore a dress.) But no one except her mother ever comments on her hair and her signature side braid.

Reel Librarians  |  Collage of Roe's style in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Collage of Roe’s style in ‘A Bone to Pick: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery’ (2015)

Librarian skillz

Roe has got skillz. She is smart, observant, and resourceful, and she’s not afraid to do research and get her hands dirty. And it’s nice to see how she uses her skills as a public librarian, as well, using knowledge of patrons she observed who were frequent visitors to the library. People also trust her, given her position in the community.

We definitely see a well-rounded character in Roe and an atypical reel librarian portrayal. I haven’t read the series, so I don’t know how close it is to the character in the books. We get to see different sides to Roe, the good and the flawed. Other characters, including her friends, both compliment and challenge her.

Reel Librarians  | Best friends in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Best friends Roe and Sally

Roe has relatable flaws — she is stubborn and doesn’t really listen to her closest friend or her mother. She prioritizes her own pleasure in figuring out a puzzle above the logical (and legal) step of handing over evidence to the police — and then doesn’t want to return the skull to the police because she doesn’t want to get in trouble for withholding evidence! Gotta go with her mother on that one — “maybe you deserve to be behind bars.”

Roe is also warm-hearted, friendly, and generous. And she’s definitely got spunk! It is interesting to note that Roe is susceptible to stereotypes — she starts dating a young minister — but is also open-minded when those stereotypes are challenged. (As a librarian, wouldn’t Roe be used to being stereotyped by one’s profession?)

Her sleuthing skills are highly praised throughout, including how she had set up a crime board in the living room of her new house. But it really annoyed me that common sense takes a back seat sometimes. For example, she set up her “secret” crime board — complete with maps and post-it notes and records — in full view of the front door and the front windows with blinds wide open for anyone to see what she was up to.

Reel Librarians  |  Snapshots of Roe's evidence wall in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Roe’s evidence wall, which is visible from the front door and windows

Connections between research and sleuthing

Does Roe being a librarian matter to the story? In some ways, it seems more important that she’s a member of the Real Murders Club, but the fact that she’s a librarian is emphasized throughout the TV movie. She applies the same skills — her intelligence and logical way of thinking, her organizational and research skills, as well as her friendly demeanor — to both her job as a librarian and to her adventures as an amateur sleuth.

Roe connects the dots for the audience by using research in her sleuthing, skills she obviously picked up as a librarian. So I would argue that yes, identifying Roe as a librarian not only helps the audience trust Roe but also helps us believe in her skills as an amateur detective.

Reel Librarians  |  Roe researching in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Reel Librarians  |  Roe studies a skull in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Reel Librarians  |  Roe compares maps in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

I mentioned in this prior post, “Nancy Drew as a librarian?,” how much overlap I personally see between private detectives and librarians, and I’ve already stated that I think Nancy Drew would have been an AWESOME librarian. I’d like to think that in the character of Aurora Teagarden, we can have the best of both worlds — why choose between being a private detective and a librarian? You can be good at both! 😉

I will wrap things up with a compliment(?) that Jane bestowed upon Roe in an early scene:

You have a mind for murder like no one else I know.

Thank you. I think.

Again, the next Aurora Teagarden Mystery movie, “Real Murders,” premieres in a few days, on July 26. Are you interested in watching along with me?