Sex and the Crime Show Drama (Part 1)

What do homosexuality and feminism have in common with the American Crime Show drama? Answer: both are noticeably absent from these highly popular television shows. In the early part of the 2000’s the American crime show drama took center stage as the most watched television genre in prime time. Perhaps it was our foray into the war in Iraq, or a gun-toting cowboy in the White House but after the events of 9/11 the most heavily watched TV series’ involved groups of police detectives and criminal investigators who solved crimes and caught the bad guys. The shows commonly included a white male patriarchal figure, a second-in-command white female and a group of two to four underlings, all of which were heterosexual and again predominantly white. The police procedural drama format was based off of the early detective fiction beginning in the 1940’s. These radio programs depicted police detectives or private investigators, who gathered evidence, interrogated suspects and solved crimes. The television shows have continued with the same traditions; each feature a police force, and usually a single crime (often a murder) per episode. However, in the case of the CSI format, most episodes focus on two separate cases, one being examined by the night shift and one for the day shift, at times with overlapping story lines. Traditionally the audience is unaware of the criminal’s identity until the show’s climax (usually towards the end).

The procedural dramas

CSI
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

each have a “self-contained” episodic format, where the individual episode can stand alone with little or no background knowledge of the primary characters. The police procedurals investigate a “case-a-week” and with few story arcs (continued storylines) they are much more accessible to new viewers which counts on their increasing popularity. However these procedurals, much like soap operas, are oftentimes formulaic, with many of the most popular dramas today produced and created by the same white, heterosexual, men; Dick Wolf is the creator of the Law & Order franchise (Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Criminal Intent), Anthony E. Zuiker is the creator of CSI and it’s spin-offs (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: NY and CSI: Miami) and Donald Bellisario produced both the television show JAG (Judge Advocate General) and its spin-offs NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) and NCIS: Los Angeles. Each show has a general format that is followed weekly, whereas the older shows were generally less character driven than serial, the newer shows have adjusted their formats to include character development among the recurring cast which consist of romantic tensions, drug abuse problems, terminal illness and moral issues.

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