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Understanding Crime Drama

jeremy | Saturday May 16, 2009

Categories: GCSE, AQA GCSE, Eduqas (WJEC) GCSE, WJEC GCSE Film Studies, WJEC GCSE Media Studies, A Level, AQA A Level, AQA A2, AQA AS, OCR A Level, OCR A2, OCR AS, Eduqas (WJEC) A Level, WJEC A2, WJEC A2 Film Studies, WJEC A2 Media Studies, WJEC AS, WJEC AS Film Studies , WJEC AS Media Studies, Film, Crime Drama, Key Concepts, Genre, Other Topics, Television, Television Crime Drama, Television Drama

Television and film crime/cop drama is very popular with a wide audience. Crime Dramas seek to anchor the representations of all types of police officers, criminals and victims as ‘believable’ characters, with ‘realistic’ plot lines, set in urban locations.The genre has been taken up in the US under the heading of American Quality Televsion (AQT) - see under heading AQT.

Codes and Conventions

Crime dramas:

  • are constructed realities
  • depict constructed versions of reality that appeal to audiences
  • encode hegemonic values and ideologies
  • represent current societal responses to crime
  • use formulas
  • employ some stereotypical representations
  • make iconic use of hand guns, police cars, banks, uniformed and ununiformed police, and explosions

Modern TV crime dramas put the reconstruction of realism at the forefront of their appeal to audiences, particularly in their use of media language – see further down.


Television crime dramas have ongoing characters who slowly evolve over time as in a soap opera. The audience develops a relationship with main characters like Morse, and Bergerac who change very little. For an audience a main part of the attraction of a crime drama is knowledge of a main character, the enigma of the plot and a sense of suburban comfort with the genre.

A typical television crime drama such as The Bill includes four main types of representation

  • Ordinary, usually innocent, characters who become victims of crime
  • Police officers with fallible human characteristics
  • Damaged human beings who become caught up in crime
  • Out and out villains seeking unlawful financial gain, revenge, power or sexual domination
  • Police officers, victims and villains tend to have stereotypical characteristics

Narrative in the The Bill revolves around the interaction between the uniformed police officers and the CID. These characters are carefully modelled on ‘real’ three dimensional police officers with detailed back...

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