Cop shows are great, who doesn’t love a good murder to solve, or a cast of tortured law enforcement officers tasked with an impossible crime to solve. I don’t mean procedurals like Law and Order, CSI, or Criminal Minds, I mean genuine stories that look deeper into what stands each side of the thin blue line. These are the five best cop shows of the 21st Century.
One of Amazon’s most successful original programmes, Bosch is based on the insanely popular detective novels by crime writer Michael Connelly. Starring Titus Welliever, who finally gets the lead role he deserves after a long career playing great supporting characters, as Harry Bosch and Los Angeles homicide detective tasked with solving difficult, often violent cases. While the first series wasn’t a classic by any description, Bosch has found its voice in the second and third seasons by being a shameless exercise in cop genre tropes. It doesn’t add anything new to the genre, but with strong performances, and the fact that it was brought to screen by The Wire’s Eric Overmeyer, Bosch is a great piece of genre entertainment.
4. The Killing
It’s hard to think of a time before Denmark’s supremely influential crime drama, The Killing. Its influence is felt in shows like Broadchurch, The Fall, as well as its US remake. The original is best though as the show charts the investigation by Detective Inspector Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) as she solves a different murder in each of the show’s three seasons. It’s dark ascetic, and sombre, almost gothic mood is now a staple of every crime show worth its salt, though none reach the majesty, or complexity of The Killing.
3. Line of Duty
This British crime show is one of the most watched dramas in the UK and for good reason. Each season follows an investigation by the UK equivalent of Internal Affairs, into police officers accused of, sometimes murderous, wrong down. With its critically acclaimed fourth season just finished, Line of Duty has cemented its place as the best cop show on TV right now. What’s great about the show is that its attention to detail works for the drama rather than against, meaning that the dense procedural guidelines in these investigations actually propel the drama rather than kill it dead.
2. The Shield
If it wasn’t for a certain Baltimore based crime epic, Shawn Ryan’s The Shield would regularly top lists like these. Starring Michael Chiklis as Vic Mackay, a renegade cop that makes other renegade cops look like traffic wardens, The Shield is an intricately plotted character study of how this cop manages to play both sides of the law. Even though the cast is full of great performances the best episodes usually have Vic running around like crazy trying to do both his job, and make sure his bad (criminal) behaviour stays a secret.
1. The Wire
The number one spot could only go to one show, and that’s The Wire. What to say about this show that hasn’t already been said? It’s the show that made novelistic television possible, and it’s not even based on a novel, it’s an epic story about a city suffering through the battle against drugs, and it has one of the best casts of any TV show ever. What more is there? If you haven’t already watched The Wire then finish reading this and get to it.