Clichés of the common crime show

These days, one can’t turn on the tube without finding a show about crime, cops, and the regular folks caught in between.  The number of shows in the genre is endless, but are they all really that different.  Here are at least seven stereotypical ways which may or may not do crime shows justice.

Cliché #1: The Acronymic Title

One way to know a good crime show is if it’s title is an acronym.  Crime shows take too long to be explained in full sentences, so abbreviations must often be used.  There’s CSI(any flavor), NCIS, CHiPS, NYPD Blue, Law & Order SVU, JAG, and ER (only kidding!).

Cliché #2: Perpetual Singleness

People in crime shows have neither children nor spouses.  Many, it could be shown, don’t even have extended families.  Much like patients on hospital shows who seldom if ever have visitors to their room, the crime show crowd does well to have a dog waiting at the door when they get home from a long day.  This leads to much brooding at days end set to the tune of some likewise brooding James Blunt-style emo music, which is understandable, cause you would emote too if you were in a crime show.

Cliché #3: The Crime Show Babe

Likewise perpetually single, the Crime Show Babe has difficulty concealing her weapon due to the tightness of her clothing.  Consequently, when she does find place to stow her gun and badge, it looks as if it’s an awkwardly unwieldy appendage.

The Crime Show Babe has uncanny fighting ability, and is usually able with a swift kick to render an opponent unconscious. There’s always some tension between the Crime Show Babe and her male counterpart, but alas, it will never work, due to Cliché #2 above.

Cliché #4: The Startling Beginning

Nearly every crime show these days begins the same way: two people are going about their ordinary day (often on jog around the lake), talking about ordinary things, when all the sudden, they stumble upon a body.  The girl screams, and the show’s opening sequence starts to roll.

One variation on this is the CSI-style pun to jump start the show.  The lead, while investigating the murder which happened in a funeral home, stops and quips to the camera: “people are just dying to get in.”  Cue the credits.

Cliché #5: Super Crime-show Technology

Let’s face it. The cops in crime shows have better technology than your local precinct. From 50-inch computer monitors to holographic crime-scene reconstruction displays, crime shows have the high-dollar gear — except for one glaring omission: the computer mouse.

For some inexplicable reason, the crime show world has yet to discover that tethered, two-buttoned wonder of a device that we in the rest of the world depend upon daily. Our valiant crime-busting friends must rely on pure keyboarding to track down the bad guys. No pointing and clicking here — navigation by typing is the way it’s done. Need to move something on the screen? Just type it a little to the left.

Cliché #6: Super Video Enhancement

Got a photo that’s a little blurry?  No worries, because the crime labs in crime shows have a super version of Photoshop that’s not available to the general public.  With just a few clicks of the mouse — er, I mean keyboard — one can read a license plate from a mile away in photo taken with a cell phone.  This action is always — without exception — introduced by the phrase “can you enhance that?”

Cliché #7: The Killer Confession

No crime show would be complete without the killer confessing to our heroes in the interrogation room.  No waterboarding necessary here.  The criminals are more than willing to explain why they did it, because surely then we will understand why they had to poison their best friend’s drink at the bar.  Somehow, it all makes sense in the killer’s head, but as our hero will tell them, “the only bars you’ll be seeing from now on are the ones on your cell door.”

That’s seven for the road.  Can you think of any more?

4 thoughts on “Clichés of the common crime show”

  1. How about the quirky assistant? See Criminal Minds and NCIS for examples of this. Look at that! She’s wears wacky clothes and has dyed hair! What an interesting foil to the uptight hardass leader!

  2. I’ve heard a lawyer friend of mine complain about #5 because jurors are expecting said technology.

  3. actually nubmer #2 isn’t quite true, some do have families. Elliot Stabler from Law and Order Special Victims Unit has a family, a wife – Kathy Stabler, Maureen, Kathleen, Elizabeth, Dicky, Elliot Jr. (Eli).
    Detective Fin also had a family, an Ex Wife, a son, and a nephew which you see all three in one episode titled “Screwed.” And Captain Cragen would have had his family if his wife and kid hadn’t died in a car accident (which is why he went to AA for so many years *refered to in an episode where he offers Detective Benson a drink.)

    Also #3, Olivia Benson is SVU’s Crime babe, but her badge and gun do not look awkward. Many men in the business world have cellphone/pager clips on their belts today. Her gun holder looks like those clips, just a tad larger. She stores her gun under her coat as does the other detectives. She seems to be holding her own in the Squad room, natually.

  4. Coming in at #8: They always have LOTS of time on their hands to fully solve the mystery, even if it means picking up every bit of litter and lint lying around in a four-block area of a busy city. No budget cuts or staff shortage here.
    Equally noticeable: all crime scenes are pristine before “the event” took place, as if all streets, all the rooms in all buildings and even waterfront docks are cleaned and vacuumed daily! (“Oooo! Look! A spec of dust the killer must have dropped!”)

    Pick #9: the offices where these brave souls work (especially the CSI bunch) are mostly glass walls and doors. Highly impractical in a cop-to-suspect shootout or a simple gunshot test!

    A side note here, again with the CSI crowd: Ever watch re-runs or a DVD of the ol’ BATMAN TV series? Notice the dark backgrounds, the angled walls that mimic the Atomic Bat-Pile, way-down-there in the background of the Bat-Cave. And what about those query results on the Bat-Computer? It had an answer to (nearly) everything, just like in CSI!

    Holy Déjà-Vu!

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