"Homicide: Life on the Street
" is one of the least-watched long-running police dramas that ever aired. It is superior in every way to its contemporaries "Law & Order
" and "NYPD Blue
" and the modern "CSI
". Picking up the mantle of realism left bare by the departure of "Hill Street Blues
", "Homicide" detailed the everyday happenings in Baltimore's Homicide Division.
It was shot mainly using hand-held cameras in a style that would become the norm for gritty realistic crime dramas on both the big and small screen. The series' true ensemble cast prominently featured the excellent Andre Braugher
and Kyle Secor
as two detectives drained by the grind and the pressure associated with the homicide beat.
The cast rounds out with exceptional performers including Richard Belzer
(portraying the Sgt. John Munch, a character later transferred to Law & Order: SVU), Clark Johnson
, Daniel Baldwin
, Ned Beatty
and Yaphet Kotto
. Unlike many other police shows of its time, "Homicide" refused to sensationalize its storylines or glorify the police officers. Everything on the show was very realistic including the negative attitude many of the detectives took toward their work.
Because of this, the show was often difficult for viewers to accept and suffered in the ratings because of this. Its multiple story arcs and interweaving plotlines were way ahead of its time, making it difficult to follow in at time before DVRs. Compared to the shows of today; "Homicide" really isn't that complex: It's essentially the tale of the murder police on "The Wire" by themselves. "Homicide" contains all the realism and intense drama of the HBO series, despite dealing with just a small portion of it.
The reason these two shows compare so favorably is because they share the common link of David Simon, the former Baltimore journalist and creator of "The Wire
". "Homicide" is based on his book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets", and the first couple seasons drew much of there storylines directly from the book. Simon also served as a writer and producer on the series under the series show-runner Tom Fontana
, most famous for his HBO series "Oz
". There are many reasons "Homicide" never caught on with viewers. The aforementioned complicated story arcs, a difficult time slot (Fridays at 10), and NBC sometimes airing episodes out of sequence in order to amp up the violence during sweeps. The latter led to confusion and alienation among viewers. Luckily, the DVD editions of the series have restored the episodes to their original order so audiences can enjoy them in the way the show's creators intended.
Quality was never the reason the show failed to connect with viewers. It won two Television Film's Critics Awards for Best Drama and three Peabody awards in the same category to go along with several Emmy wins and nominations. "Homicide" is perhaps the most realistic and best police drama ever to appear on network television and fits better into the today's gaggle of series than it did in its time. Fortunately, the magic of DVD allows viewers to enjoy a show at a time better suited for it.
"Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC) - 7 Seasons, 122 Episodes Total plus 1 TV Movie and 4 "Law & Order" crossover episodes Perfect For Fans Of: The "Law and Orders", The "CSIs", and "The Wire"
Article by Andrew Payne