A passion for crime

For a change, for some ‘in-depth’ reviews this month, I looked at crime series I had watched (or re-watched, in the case of the older series) during the last three years. So it’s more an in-depth review of my viewing habits and tastes.

I don’t claim to have watched every episode of everything other than the ones I have starred. I lost some of my boxed sets (e.g. Lewis) in our fire. I haven’t been replacing things – I have all the Brit freeview channels, Amazon Prime and Netflix; however, I do not have all the time in the world!

I wondered what made a series a ‘must watch’ for me and made a kind of spread sheet. Here are my findings and my recommendations!

    The Excellent

It would seem I need a good ensemble cast with some tight relationships e.g. detective team/lead detectives that I can really get to know, interesting locations and gripping plots plus series story arcs that seem believable. I particularly like episode plots that address current issues but leave the viewer to make up their own mind. The following ticked all the boxes and I would watch more if more seasons turn up. Remember – the stars refer to having seen all episodes, and are nothing to do with quality!

Line of Duty* (Brit) – corruption investigation in police force, ensemble with male and female leads
Happy Valley* (Brit) – police and their families in Yorkshire, female lead
Vera (Brit) – police with female lead DCI in Northumberland
Grantchester (Brit) – lead detective paired with parish priest in 50s/60s period drama, male leads
DCI Banks (Brit) – detective team in Yorkshire, male and female leads
Lewis* (Brit) – detectives in Oxford (spin off from Morse), male leads with strong female supporting cast
Shetland (Brit) – detective team on Shetland (Scottish Isles), male lead with strong female supporting cast
Dublin Murders* (Brit) – detective team plus quasi paranormal explanations, in Eire (actually filmed in N. Ireland), male and female leads
Vienna Blood* (Brit) – detective and psychiatrist plus their families in Vienna pre WWI. Male leads
The Professionals (Brit) – CI5 battles anything that might be a type of internal terrorism/organised crime in and around London, Male leads.
Spooks* (Brit) – MI5 deal with terrorism inside Britain, mainly London. Ensemble (changing) cast with male and female leads.

Spiral (Engrenages)* (French)– police and lawyers in Paris. Ensemble with male and female leads. THIS IS MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE
Crimson Rivers* (French) – northern France and hints of the supernatural which are constantly debunked by the detective pair. Male and female leads.

The Bridge* (Swedish/Danish) – autistic female lead detective in Sweden with forays into Denmark

Cagney and Lacey (US) – female detective team in New York
Starsky and Hutch (US )- detective team in fictional Bay City (actually LA). Male leads.
NYPD Blue (US) – detective/police team in New York. Ensemble (changing) cast with male and female leads.
Homicide, Life on the Street (US) – detective/police team in Baltimore. Male leads.
Hill Street Blues (US) – detective/police team in New York. Male leads.

    The Reasonable

I prefer crime series that persuade me to suspend disbelief, even though I know they are often not particularly true to life. I also like to have lead detectives who are in some way personally engaging. These were watchable but I wouldn’t seek out sequels.

Sherlock* (Brit) – started well but seems to be heading towards mystical collapse. Male leads.
Death in Paradise (Brit) – police team set on a fictional Caribbean island. Comfort viewing but can get too silly in quest to inject humour. Ensemble (changing) cast with male and female leads.
Darkness: Those who kill* (Danish) – detective team set in Denmark. Male leads.
Wisting* (Norwegian) – detective and his journalist daughter in Norway. Male and female leads.
STHLM Requiem* (Swedish) – detective team in Stockholm
Beck* (Swedish) – detective team in Sweden. Male and female leads.
The Sinner (US) – detective in northern American states. Male lead.

    The Abandoned

There are a number of reason for abandoning a series. Whilst I appreciate a series plot arc and the stories of the leading characters, I don’t like it when this gets in the way of the episode plots or the tightness of an ensemble cast and when it seems to send the series in a different direction. In some cases I watched a couple of seasons, but in others I only watched a couple of episodes. I may well give Sherlock a miss next time around.

Whitechapel (Brit) – Started well then an unexpected plot-arc spoilt the series and took it into the realms of paranormal horror instead of crime. Male leads.
Ripper Street (Brit) – Started well then deteriorated as the lead detective’s story took over. Male leads.
Bancroft (Brit) – As soon as it became apparent that the lead detective was corrupt, the mystery element vanished and so did my interest. Female lead.
Deadwater Fell (Brit) – police and community in Scotland. This was slow and boring. Male and female leads.
Hidden (Brit) – police in North Wales. Dark, dismal and boring. Female lead.
The Bay (Brit) – police team in Morcambe. Unbelievable characters, especially the lead detective. Female lead.
Killing Eve (Brit) – British spy versus international criminal. I never really got to grips with it and I faintly disliked the main characters. Female leads.
Baghdad Central (Brit) – there was a lot of Arabic and the subtitles were impossible for me to read against the film background. Probably good. Male lead.

Detective Cain (French) – I couldn’t get really interested in the lead detective. Male lead.

Montalbano (Italian) – police team in Sicily. The series started well then after a couple of seasons deteriorated with too much reliance on people reporting to police station rather than the police going anywhere, and too much attempt to inject humour. Male leads.

Baptiste (Netherlands/Belgium) This was a spin-off from another series and I couldn’t get ‘into’ the characters. I also didn’t believe the plot. Male lead.

Black Lake (Swedish/Danish) – I couldn’t get interested in the plot. Male and female leads.

Hawaii 5.O (US) – Started well then deteriorated as the lead detective’s story took over. Male and female leads.
Elementary (US) – I couldn’t work up any interest in the leads, or see them as a Sherlock spin-off. Without the Sherlock connection they might never have caught my interest in the first place. Male and female leads.

You’d think, from the above, that the TV is never off, but actually, weeks go by while I watch nothing, other than the news, and then I find something and binge-watch on catch-up streaming services!

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