Tripwire continues its list of its Top 30 Crime and Police shows, selected by its editor-in-chief and senior editor. Counting down to its first choice at the end, here’s its 15th entry, NBC’s Homicide: Life On The Street…
15.. Homicide Life On The Street
Creator: Paul Attanasio
Stars: Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto, Melissa Leo, Andre Braugher, Kyle Secor
Running for seven seasons, Homicide: Life On The Street, based on David Simon’s book, was a police show unlike any that had preceded it, chronicling as it did the activities of a fictional version of the Baltimore Police Department’s Homicide unit.
Fronted by Captain Al Giardello (Kotto), Homicide was a true ensemble show featuring a cadre of police officers who were as eccentric and off-kilter as many of the felons they arrested.
Kotto is magnetic as the African-American captain with the Italian-American name, subverting the tradition of police melodramas helmed by a Caucasian boss, while the rest of the cast offer ground-breaking essays in skewed characterisation.
The likes of Bolander (Ned Beatty) and Lewis (Clark Johnson) lend gravitas to the show while the cinematic, verité style that the programme makers employ gives Homicide a more psychological, introspective feel than any previous US police show. Newbie officer Bayliss (Kyle Secor)’s character develops significantly throughout, with the viewer drawn in almost in lockstep with his experience.
The filmic approach here is down to the fact that producer Barry Levinson, well known as a director of cinema, helped to bring this series to the small screen.
There is a through line between Homicide and future shows like The Wire, which was also set in Baltimore. The police here are world-weary and jaundiced, exhibiting an unvarnished portrait of humanity. As the series progresses, we of course learn of all the brutalising effects and fallout of life on the force, that is again delineated with prosaic, unfiltered immediacy.
Homicide won four Emmys, proving that police dramas could be understated and that life in the police was underpinned far more by politics than vocational ideals. It gave us a department that was balanced on a knife edge, filled with petty jealousy, personal sniping and ruthless ambition. A pivotal show that was a direct marker for the next wave of even more seismic crime dramas.
JOEL MEADOWS/ ANDREW COLMAN
Homicide: Life On The Street is on now on Apple TV in The UK