If there's one lesson we've learned from 2009's television, it's that there's really only one place to work if you want to save the world from alien invasions, parallel universes or any kind of weirdness: The Federal Bureau of Investigations.
From Fringe to FlashForward to V, with sidesteps into Dollhouse and Warehouse 13, the FBI were all over 2009's science fiction television (And yet, none of these activities make their list of top cases of 2009. I smell cover up). But why are so many of today's heroes working for The Man? And the same Man, at that?
Positive media portrayals are nothing new for the FBI; since its creation, the agency has actively participated in various projects, including 1935 radio show G Men and the wonderfully-titled This Is Your FBI. We remember Special Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks, or Mulder and Scully from The X-Files, but this year's federal fetishism seems to have hit a new high. Part of it could be put down to a mix of comforting the audience while pretending to ramp up the excitement at the same time: They're risking their necks to make your life a safer place like the cops... But more extreme!
There's something to be said for the post-9/11 wish-fulfillment aspect of the new rash of FBI heroes; it plays directly to the idea that, even when the threat is literally unimaginable on a human scale, the people charged with protecting us will (in whatever small way) be able to recognize it first, and mobilize to stop it even if said threat is internal, which it so often seems to be. In fact, today's FBI dramas seem a particularly backhanded compliment, if they're meant to reassure; in most of the shows our new G Men and Women idols appear in, they're faced with an institution that's against them and, in some cases, implicit in the "bad stuff" that's going on around them. How many times, after all, has an FBI agent turned out to be an undercover bad guy (V, Fringe) or mentally unstable in some way (FlashForward, Fringe, Dollhouse because, let's face it, Ballard has problems) this year?
Besides the apparent ease of infiltrating the FBI, the new wave has also produced other 21st Century FBI cliches: Apparently, emotionally distant blonde women advance up the ranks easily, especially when paired with joking-yet-caring male partners. Department heads are often African American and gruff, yet ultimately caring. And new taskforces will be created at seeming random, but have to answer for budget overruns just before important breakthroughs happen. Are these really things that happen all the time in the real FBI? If so, I think someone in HR needs to find the moles immediately (Here's a clue: They're probably the ones from an alternate dimension).
Maybe the FBI-zing of science fiction is just a way of making everything into a procedural, making it easier for non-genre fans to get to grips with the new shows, turning everything into a CSI: Aliens or the like, and we're reading way too much into it. Perhaps it's a fad, and next year, every new show will have firemen. But for whatever reason, 2009 has been the year when only one kind of government employee could save the world, and we were happy to have them. Viva la FBI.