Crime Shows Analysis

An in-depth analysis of the various crime shows on TV such as Law and Order, NCIS and CSI focusing on just why people like crime shows.

Earlier today I bought a somewhat late dinner for myself and came home to eat it. I turned the television on, which was set to National Geographic channel where they were showing somewhat vivid images of crime scenes. As I was eating, I did not really feel like watching it so changed to TV1 which had CSI on with Caruso studying the way in which a bullet pierces the human skull. Somewhat irritated I switched to free-to-air television and found Law and Order: SVU and on the other channel NCIS with one of the autopsy scenes with Ducky.

It seemed I had to turn the television off in order to eat, but the whole time I was eating I was thinking: what is it with these crime shows? Just what is the appeal of them that has caused them to essentially flood almost every television channel. To this end I wrote this article in the hopes of perhaps understanding the shows in closer detail and just what it is that makes them appealing.

The Appeal of Crime Shows

Here are some of the ways I hold that these morbid shows appeal to viewers.


Escapism seems to be a large part of the appeal of Crime Fiction, but  there does seem to be a limit too how far this can go. One of the major advantages of the genre is that it mixes something quite extreme, severe crimes like murder, with quite mundane every day elements. As a result it is a great source of escapism that does not stretch viewers too far to suspend their disbelief in the way that a Science Fiction show might.

Violent Expression

It seems fair to claim that humans have innately violent urges. Given that acting on these in reality would be akin to suicide, they are repressed. Crime shows offer a fantasy of a kind of letting them out, without actually doing so.

Resolved Fears

It is a nice fantasy to have a person or group of people with special talents to bring to justice someone that might have killed us. Goren uses his psychoanalysis, the CSI time have their forensics and Gibbs his instinct. The idea is that if it had have been one of us that was murdered, one of these people would bring the person who did it to justice and in a way get revenge on our behalf. Its a nice fantasy.


The appeal of these show seems to be that they mix a sense of realism with escapism, making it easy to suspend disbelief when watching them but also giving the pay off of more abstract escapism.

Related posts: