Saturday 14 March 2015
Back in the day . . . I’ve always wanted to use that phrase, and it seems to fit quite well in this context . . . back in the day cop shows really didn’t seem to go beyond robbers as their criminal of choice. Sure, there might have been a few episodes that covered murder and kidnapping, possibly a bit of extortion, but on the whole robbers were front and foremost. Home burglary, bank heists, jewellery store swindles, car stealing rackets, pick-pocketing, every other manner of robbery and theft used to be the heartland of cop shows, and back in the day when we watched the early leaders in that genre of TV show, we thought they were bloody great. We didn’t question the sort of crime that was being shown to us on our TV screens. We were probably a bit excited to see what was considered the gritty underbelly of society – at least, it was as gritty as they were allowed to show on prime time TV back then.
Of course, I am writing as though I’m some excruciatingly old fuddy-duddy, whipping out terms like ‘back in the day’ and ‘back then’, but I’m talking about y’know, the 70s. Yes I’m aware there were cop shows prior to the 70s, but let’s face it, all the good shows that preceded what we view today were created in the 60s and 70s. The thing is, I can’t really attest to too many shows before the 70s because I wasn’t born yet! Anyway, I digress . . .
My, how times have changed. The cop shows that we now devour are usually referred to as police procedurals, often have complex plots which offer up even more complex and convoluted red herrings, deal with heinous crimes and despicable people (both criminals and victims), delve into the psychological workings of the criminals, and give the audience a glimpse at some truly seedy worlds. And we devour them.
When you think about it, isn’t that the really scary part? The fact that we want more and more of these shows. That we want to see the base level of humanity in terms of acts committed, and suffering experienced. It’s a bizarre thing to sort of enjoy that level of pain, degradation, and criminal intent, but we seem to have to down. The same thing goes for novels as well. Our society seems to be desensitised to gross acts of violence and crime when we view them on the small or big screen, and to a lesser extent, I think we’re somewhat less horrified by crimes that we read about in the paper or see on the news. And just as a side fact, I read that the greater consumer of crime novels happens to be women. I reckon it’s so they pick up tips on how to avoid those horrible situations, how to survive if they’re faced with that level of danger, and whatever else they can pick up about outsmarting a$$wipe criminals. That and the fact that we’re always grateful that it’s not us in perilous situations.
Some of the police procedurals that are available for our viewing pleasure are pretty average and uninteresting. Some tend to go over ground that we’ve already seen before in other shows. Some are dialogue heavy, and for me, that’s a big reason to switch off. Blue Bloods and NYPD Blue fall in to that dialogue heavy category for me. I know that some of you out there probably think they’re remarkable shows, but they’re not my cup of tea.
My picks for good police procedurals include:
U.S.A. – the CSI franchise; Without A Trace; Crossing Jordan; Criminal Minds; Body Of Proof; the NCIS franchise (although I’m still deciding on New Orleans); Dexter; Due South; Lie To Me; Murder One; Murder, She Wrote; Profiler; Rizzoli And Isles; The X Files; The Pretender; Twin Peaks; Women’s Murder Club.
U.K. – Wire In The Blood; Happy Valley; Scott And Bailey; Silent Witness; New Tricks; Taggart; Midsomer Murders; Rebus; Father Brown; Grantchester; The Fall; Broadchurch; Agatha Christie’s Marple; Agatha Christie’s Poirot; Sherlock Holmes (a number of different series, not just the Benedict Cumberbatch version); A Touch Of Frost; Lewis; Morse; Jonathon Creek; Death In Paradise; Endeavour; Blue Murder; Dalziel And Pascoe; Foyle’s War; Hetty Wainthropp Investigates; Pie In The Sky; Rosemary And Thyme; The Body Farm; Waking The Dead; Fortitude.
Australia – Winter; The Doctor Blake Mysteries; Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries; City Homicide; Rush; Murder Call; Jack Irish; Halifax, F.P.; Janet King.
Austria/Germany/Italy – Inspector Rex.
There are many other examples of great police procedurals. If you’ve got any favourites that I have failed to mention, leave me a comment and let me know.