Top 5 TV Crime Universes

Written by Spencer Sterritt August 04, 2013

Justified 2, Raylan Givens
For something that is absolutely dreadful, a deadly plight in our society, crime is wickedly good to watch. Somehow we lose ourselves in anti-heroes, criminals, lesser criminals and the heroes who gun their way through countless goons in the name of justice. Our fascination with crime shows is a subject for a much larger article, a thesis even, but for right now it’s time to enjoy a simple list of the crime television shows with the most expansive and interesting universe.

5. Miami Vice

Miami Vice, Crockett, Tubbs

“Miami Vice” may not be the best show ever, but it certainly is one of the most colourful shows ever. Literally. It’s pastel upon pastel in the bright and drug lord-ridden world of “Miami Vice.” Iconic MDPD detectives Tubbs and Crocket always found themselves running into shady businessmen with even shadier accents, and all manner of exotic pets and drug running schemes. The “Miami Vice” universe was sprawling, since there was always some new colourful drug dealer to take down, which kept the series fresh enough to never go stale, even as it stuck to the same formula for almost all of its run.

4. Boardwalk Empire

Real gangsters know how to rock bowties.

Real gangsters know how to rock bowties.

Set in the Roaring 20’s, “Boardwalk Empire” concerns itself with Nucky Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi. Given that it was a time of never-ending parties and innumerable gangsters, it’s no surprise that “Boardwalk Empire” has one of the most engrossing crime universes on television. It derives its status as the fourth-best crime universe due to it’s inclusion of burgeoning social movements, specifically the civil rights movement. Chalky White, played by Michael K. Williams, is one of the most interesting gangsters I’ve ever seen, as a sort of black Godfather. While his connection to the black community certainly isn’t new, the writers investigate race in the 1920’s in nifty ways, and the inclusion of the black underground criminal societies makes for a very interesting show.

3. Twin Peaks

You know, this is - excuse me - a damn fine cup of coffee. I've had I can't tell you how many cups of coffee in my life and this, this is one of the best. Now I'd like two eggs over hard. I know, don't tell me, it's hard on the arteries, but old habits die hard, just about as hard as I want those eggs.

You know, this is – excuse me – a damn fine cup of coffee. I’ve had I can’t tell you how many cups of coffee in my life and this, this is one of the best. Now I’d like two eggs over hard. I know, don’t tell me, it’s hard on the arteries, but old habits die hard, just about as hard as I want those eggs.

“Twin Peaks” is the odd one out in this list. Though ostensibly about the murder of Laura Palmer, and then the various criminal shenanigans going on in the town of Twin Peaks, the real draw here is the oddball characters, from series protagonist Dale Cooper (Kyle Maclaughlin) to wackos like Dr. Jacoby and the Log Lady. It’s a standout cast, and everyone makes a bold impression in the short time that “Twin Peaks” was on the air. And virtually everyone was involved in something seedy, making it an easy inclusion into the list of Top 5 TV crime universes.

2. Justified

A personal favourite of mine, “Justified” gets everything right about the criminals it focuses on. Being set in Kentucky, everyone has a perfect Southernly atmosphere about them imbuing both hospitality and hostility, delivered in a smooth Kentucky drawl. What places “Justified” so high on this list is that no criminal ever has a simple motivation. Showrunner Graham Yost and his writers are excellent at writing three-dimensional cops and criminals, even if they only feature into a small part of the episode. It’s always a damn lively time in the world of “Justified.”

1. The Wire

The Wire

What hasn’t already been said about “The Wire?” It is the most complicated, engrossing, and arguably the best show ever. The universe that creator David Simon sketches, influenced by his own time as a Baltimore reporter, is hauntingly true to life. Characters and plots sprawl with no real pattern, just like how people bounce their way through life, never really sure of where they are. And by changing the setting every season, and constantly rotating the cast of cops and drug dealers, “The Wire” keeps everything fresh in the same fashion as “Miami Vice.” The dialogue and accents are impeccable too, just like in “Justified.” “The Wire” is the pinnacle of television in every way, especially in the universe that it creates.

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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