The Top Seven TV Cop and Crime Shows I Watch for Fun
There are cop and crime dramas on television that I would recommend my criminal justice college students watch because I think they might learn something about criminal justice or law from viewing them.
But this is not that list. This is the shows I watch, at least occasionally, because I think they are great, or in some way fascinating, entertainment. They may not be the best police procedurals nor do they necessarily depict aspects of the criminal justice system in a realistic way, but they are fun to watch. Well, most of the time, anyway.
1. Criminal Minds
There is no such unit like this team of profilers who goes out to investigate serial killers, although there is certainly a Behavioral Analysis Unit at the FBI’s training center at Quantico, Virginia. This is police procedural and we follow the crack team of FBI agents as they solve serial killings around the U.S. It gets preachy at times as the shows attempts to weave in facts about serial killers. And, of course, it is scary leading some viewers (certainly not me!) thinking there is a serial killer waiting to get them next.
A new show this fall, it might be called “Batman without Batman.” It shows the killing of Bruce Wayne’s parents in the first episode and you meet characters who will obviously be major characters in the future. Bruce Wayne is only about 12, so he can’t be Batman – at least not yet. But there are detectives like Jim Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie), who are destined to be in later Batman episodes. It’s sort of a police procedural, but it is violent, dark, and at the same time tongue-in-cheek. Jada Pinkett Smith has a delicious role as mobstress Fish Mooney. Fox has ordered 22 episodes for the first season, so they think that other viewers will like it, too.
3. Murdock Mysteries
A Canadian police procedural, “Murdock Mysteries” follows Detective William Murdock (played by Yannock Bisson) of the Toronto Constabulary as he and other detectives in his department solve crimes. The series, now in its eighth season, takes place around the turn of the 20th century, which means that the technology is a far cry from what is expected in contemporary police shows. Sometimes, Murdock and his associates use newly-invented procedures (such as crude forms of fingerprint analysis) or they anticipate or invent procedures of the future, such as blood typing, photography, sonar, night vision goggles, and so on. A doctor, Dr. Julia Ogden (played by Helene Joy), takes on the role of pathologist and amateur psychiatrist, while providing a love interest for Murdock. It’s a highly entertaining show with appealing characters.
“Castle” is a police procedural that is as much a comedy as a straight police show. The series, which debuted on ABC-TV in 2009, revolves around Richard Castle, a best-selling mystery writer, and Kate Beckett, a NYPD detective, as they work together to solve crimes. Castle (starring Nathan Fillion) was originally called in as a suspect, but he became fascinated by hanging out with the NYPD and finds a way to shadow Detective Beckett (played by Stana Katic), who wants nothing to do with a writer following her around. But she warms up to him and figures out he has useful insights into cases. Their relationship becomes more romantic and they work together virtually as partners in crime-solving ventures. The show is one that you don’t have to follow religiously every week; you can dip into a syndicated show at any point and enjoy the humor and the banter between Beckett and Castle.
Everyone has seen “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” at one time or another. In fact, it has not only been around since 2000 on CBS-TV, but it’s been said to be the most watched show on television. It takes place in Las Vegas with crime scene analysts from the Las Vegas Police Department solving cases based on their expertise in analyzing physical evidence and their use of high-tech crime-solving apparatus. It’s fun, it’s glitzy, and it’s well acted. It has spawned two other series, “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: New York,” both of which ran for nine and 10 seasons, respectively before being cancelled. If you can suspend your disbelieve in the use of the super high-tech lab equipment they use, CSI is always a fun show to watch.
6. Chicago P.D.
Another Dick Wolf creation, “Chicago P.D.” is in its second season. A real departure for Wolf, who created all of the Law & Order shows, as well as “Cold Justice” and “Chicago Fire.” This show is different from the various Law & Order shows because it is less realistic and features much shooting and considerable violence. Its’ main character is Chicago Police Department Detective Henry “Hank” Voight (played with steely-eyed menace by Jason Beghe), who first appeared in “Chicago Fire” as a dirty cop. He supposedly gets transformed from a dirty cop (although you are never really sure if he is clean or corrupt) when this series was launched in January 2014. It is a police procedural and Voight heads up an intelligence unit that fights the major crimes on Chicago streets. This unit solves crimes in whatever way they – or Voight – wants to, and no matter how many people they shoot or how many cars they wreck there seems little consequence. If you don’t take it too seriously, it’s great entertainment.
Another police procedural, “Stalker” just debuted on CBS-TV in October, 2014. Dylan McDermott plays Detective Jack Larsen, who has just hired on as a detective in this fictional unit in the LAPD called TAU (Threat Analysis Unit). His boss is Lt. Beth Davis, played by Maggie Q, who is herself a stalking victim. Larsen is, in turn, trying to hit on her while stalking his former wife, who has moved to Los Angeles from New York presumably to get away from him. Larsen and Davis investigate stalking and murder cases, all while dealing with their own issues. It’s been labeled a misogynistic show because so many of the victims are women, and it’s not unusual for the show to open up with a women being tortured or killed in some horrible way. Get past all of that and it is a show you might feel guilty watching. The whole premise is a bit absurd, it’s scary and fascinating — in a macabre sort of way.