In the last couple of years, I’ve become addicted to crime series on TV. I’ll watch pretty much anything that’s on the screen, even if I’ve seen it before, although most of what I watch is on DVD. There’s nothing better than watching a TV crime series on DVD and being able to watch eight episodes back to back. Heaven.
Even though I watch most crime series, I do still have my favorites. For interesting storylines, weird writing, crooked cops or old-fashioned British understated television, you really can’t beat these top five crime series and I’ll bet most of you will agree.
Fringe – On my top five crime series list, I just finished watching the first season of Fringe last week and, not being familiar with it, I was surprised at how good it was. Fringe comes from the brain of J.J. Abrams of Felicity and Lost fame and is a weird mix of science fiction and crime. The story involves FBI special agent Olivia Dunham, Peter Bishop (an ex-con man turned FBI consultant) and Peter’s father, Walter Bishop, who gets released from a mental hospital to help a special unit of the FBI solve cases involving the paranormal.
In the first season, we see people dying as a result of human combustion, weird diseases, drugs that cause people to have super-human powers, and even one episode where the victims handle a $2 bill and, within minutes, their eyes, ears, nose and mouth close up causing them to suffocate to death.
Fringe is a fun crime series as, much of the story is unexpected. There’s even a sub-plot involving a company called Massive Dynamic that has something to do with “the pattern” and the world coming to an end. Bad things about Fringe include the lead character, Olivia, played by Anna Torv. Her character is not developed enough so far so she’s nothing more than a one-dimensional figure that’s bland and more than a little boring. But, there’s season 2 coming up soon, so hopefully that will change.
Criminal Minds – A friend just lent me the first three seasons of Criminal Minds on DVD and I’m halfway through season two. Honestly, I can’t really say it’s that much different than any other crime series on TV, but it is fun to watch. Again, the characters are too one-dimensional, they really do need to be developed more, and the storylines are quite obvious but, for an entertaining 45 minutes, Criminal Minds does give you that.
It’s also fascinating to hear about profiling and how profilers for an agency like the FBI use certain human psychological characteristics to come up with the profile of a murderer. I’ve even started to use some of these psychological tricks in real life and it’s amazing how accurate they are. Criminal Minds won’t blow your mind, but it will entertain, and I do love the character of Special Agent Dr. Spencer Reid, played by Matthew Gray Gubler.
The Shield – I’m in seventh heaven at the moment as I’m in the middle of watching the fifth season of The Shield on DVD, having just finished watching the first four seasons back to back. I love the acting on The Shield, the raw grittiness of the characters and the bad language – all make the series believable and completely realistic. I lived in LA where The Shield is filmed so it’s also fun to see old neighborhoods and haunts every episode.
The Shield’s main character is Strike Team leader, Vic Mackey, who heads up a strike team in an experimental division of the LAPD. He’s a crooked cop who has a corrupt finger in every pie, and even befriends criminals if it will get him what he wants. He does however almost always catch his man and, even though he’s corrupt so are many others in the department.
At least with Vic, you kind of know what you’re getting and, to some extent, even feel sorry for him. Estranged from his family, trying to do the right thing in a weird, twisted sort of way, he’s one of the most fascinating characters in crime series. Played perfectly by Michael Chiklis, Vic is a joy too watch and The Shield is one of the best cop series on TV.
Foyle’s War – My family and I are huge fans of Foyle’s War because it’s so darned unusual. Set during the Second World War in Hastings, England, it centers around Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle and his driver, Samantha Stewart.
Before seeing Foyle’s War, it never really dawned on me that police work went on as normal, even during a world war. Even in war though, criminals continue to operate and actually take advantage of the mess of war to try to beat the system. DCS Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) is a wonderful, typically British policeman who, while remaining polite, still manages to beat and take down some of the most influential people in the country.
There are only four episodes in each series, but each episode runs for around 100 minutes, so storylines are well-developed. If you like British crime series, you’ll love Foyle’s War. It really is that unusual.
CSI – I can’t finish this article without mentioning CSI. The grandaddy of them all, this time about the forensics of crime scene investigations, CSI originally began in Las Vegas and then spawned a couple of other CSI series – Miami and New York. My personal favorite is still CSI: Las Vegas as the characters are exceptional, with Miami running a close second and New York being a very distant third (by the time they got to New York, the series concept was becoming a little tired).
CSI is perfectly done as it’s a fascinating combination of smarts, unusual crimes, and forensics that make you think. Of course, the forensic science they use is not actually reality (for instance, it doesn’t take a minute to search enormous national databases for fingerprints) but, all that aside, CSI is a must-see for any crime series fanatic.
Of course, there are many other crime television series and I’m sure there’ll be many more in the future. These top five crime series on TV and DVD though are worth a special look and a mention, simply because they’re fun to watch.