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Beyond the Scene
Yu Dong Kyun  |  donky180@korea.ac.kr
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승인 2013.04.07  17:19:29
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Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) sounds familiar to most of the crime drama series fans. With state-of-the-art technology and unbelievable instinct, detectives leave no mistakes when it comes to solving a crime scene. People are enthusiastic about the way detectives and their crew members solve cases from white collar crimes to brutal serial killers. The United States (U.S.) has hundreds of crime drama series produced during the last decade. To name a few, CSI, Prison Break, Bones, and Body of Proof are the few exceptional ones among the vast pool of crime series.  

In actual crime scenes, there are more authorities and investigators involved, including the forensics team, than most people can imagine. Yet due to the nature of the television show, crime shows only focus on a single forensics team and its leader, a detective. Every day is a different day to them. When there is a murder, a new episode begins. Extremely trained so as to examine the evidence to dig out the truth, the forensics team is occupied during their entire day as long as they solve the case. Yet not all crime shows share the same plot as they engage deeply into the procedure of solving a case.
 
 
   
 

 

Cop Shows vs. Police Procedurals

 

Cop shows idealize the everyday lives of the cop. Cop shows portray that becoming a cop is far more dangerous and risky than it really is. Multiple shoot-outs are common and unexpected deaths of fellow officers lay heart-breaking responses. Car chases are not a rare thing to spot when watching cop shows. Ashes to Ashes is a cop show that contains a very interesting plot. The main character, a decorated policewoman, gets shot in 2008 and when she wakes up from her coma, she lands in 1981. The showprogresses as she collects crime evidence of past crime records.
 
Ashes to Ashes and other cop shows seemingly idealize the life of a cop. Meanwhile, police procedural shows are different from cop shows. Police procedurals often concern themselves with the accurate representation of the day-to-day realities of police officers. Though it aims to be ultra-specific towards illustrating the actual duty and procedure in a day of a police officer’s life, it lacks much entertainment and action
 
As the antithesis of cop shows, police procedurals also have their own merit. Motive is a Canadian police procedural drama which just got started this February. Motive is distinguished from other police procedural dramas since it reveals the killer and the victim from the very start of the show. This unusual plot successfully gathered more of an audience than expected before.
 

Best of the Best: Forensic Dramas
CSI, Law & Order, and Prison Break are known as the “must see” crime shows to all fans. Usually, these crime shows draw the procedure of capturing the criminal. Due to the crime show’s nature, it focuses on people who intentionally fail to oblige the law. Forensic shows also contain diverse characters not only including police officers and detectives, but private detectives, judge, retired police, government authorities, lawyers, and reporters as well. These jobs are considered to have some relation with acrime in one way or another; hence, the storyline in which these characters progress appears quite realistic and entertaining.
 
A typical forensic drama would be The Profiler. As this show portrays more suspense involving the psychological battle between the profiler and the criminal, viewers are normally stunned with its silent suspense. From only watching The Profiler, it seems too attractive that one canfind a pattern and be able to figure out the whereabouts of criminal.
 
Viewers are eager to indirectly experience the lives of the investigators and detectives sitting in lab or chasing down a malicious serial killer. CSI is an outstanding example of a forensic drama that sometimes puts a detective to get caught up in the murderer’s private life. Now viewers realize that cutting up corpses and finding the medical cause of the death are not the only duty of a detective, but also getting himself out from a pit of crime isthe human side of a professional detective.
 
 
   
 

Why are We in Constant Thirst for Crime Shows?
Of all the different shows in the world of media, the ones that never fail to lure audience are definitely the crime shows. From the long lasting legend Law & Order to the sensational Prison Break and CSI, crime shows have established a unique category for people who are eager to satisfy their curiosity towards criminal justice. Especially in Korea, domestic crime shows are rarely produced, making people to search for crime shows produced in the U.S. and the U.K. Crime shows that continue to suck audiences again and again have some unique characteristics.
 
When analyzing most of the crime shows, they all lead to one solid conclusion in terms of content. No single crime show deals with hefty robbery or pub fights. Instead, they all deal with scenes of murder, rape, kidnapping, child abuse, and severe white collar crimes. These are the ones that no one could possibly dare to stumble upon. Yet, it is strange that most ardent fans prefer the gross close-up scenes of corpses and autopsies. The reason crime shows are popular despite the constant displaying of the horrific side of life is because it unveils the twisted families and other relationships. Just as in real life often crime occursbetween close acquaintances, crime shows plainly adapt this heart breaking truth.
 
If crime shows did not appeal to the viewers’ sense of justice, they would never grab a chance to be successful. Seeking justice is an innate human characteristic. This is the reason viewers hope to see the ending as they had anticipated; the evil gets punished and the innocent gets saved. Examples like child abuse and white collar crimes draw fury from viewers who hope to fight for the rights of the weaker people. This sense of justice, ironically, sometimes breaks people’s hearts. One episode of CSI portrayed a teenager who killed her stepfather who had sexually abused her for a long time. The viewer’s sense of justice still tells them that the girl needs to be punished for murder charges. Yet, the situation where the killer is also a victim causes people to sympathize with the girl. The loss of hope to make a better world still leaves a trail even after the crime is solved, especially when the convict inevitably committed a crime. This emotional collision gives people an understanding that carrying out justice is not always a delightful duty, but rather accompanies painstaking responsibility.
 
Crime shows also offer an opportunity for the public to become familiar with crime prevention. These days, the rising number of crimes around the metropolitan areas have also played a partial role in the increased demand for more crime shows. People who feel insecure could learn something from the show even if it is inaccurate. According to Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, a total of 61,436 crimes occurred in 2012 in Seoul only. From 54,303 cases in 2011, the number had increased about 13.1 percent. Murders had decreased yet misdemeanors had increased, leaving rape and other sexual misbehaviors stay still. In such turmoil, crime shows are represented as the only way viewers can achieve indirect satisfaction. By watching the process of solving a crime, it is true, in some extent, that the general public becomes more aware and educated about the process of investigation.
 
Within the drama, the factor which makes audience find the crime show very attractive is the compelling storyline. This does not simply mean that crime shows are extremely concerned with the plot itself. Rather, crime shows adapt the story from real life and give it a twist by adding a romance or a reversal to keep the audience entertained. As an example, Prison Break is all about the procedure of a young genius engineer (Wentworth Miller) trying to get his brother (Dominic Purcell) out. Yet, this seemingly simple story contains romance, numerous reversals way ahead of the audience’s expectation, and most importantly the blockbuster-like acting scene which most of the viewers are dying to see.
 
   
 
Also, how well the detective or a crime solver intelligently solves crime may be a crucial factor leading to high view rate. Numb3rs is a crime show where Charlie Epps (David Krumholtz), a mathematics professor at Southern California Technical University aid his brother (Rob Murrow) in solving crimes cases. Although unrealistic, this drama was once considered as a sensation since it introduced an epoch-making idea of solving crime. Bones has the state-of-the-art science technology in solving crime. Criminal Minds, as its name presents, involves psychological profiling in discovering new evidence that leads to the unveiling of unsolved crimes. Likewise, novel crime solving techniques with minimal professional terms leads to more crime show fans.
 
Nevertheless, a great crime show would not be as popular if it did not have a great cast. Psychologically, viewers share a tendency of choosing a show if they are familiar with the cast. For example, Prison Break became successful not only because it had a great scenario, but because its cast was especially outstanding. Although the cast is not the primary reason people watch a crime show, it does play an important role in making the viewer hope these characters succeed in fighting crimes.

The Ugly Side of Crime Shows: Misconception
One misconception is the hierarchical relationship between uniformed officers and detectives. Television seems to draw police units inferior to detectives. This can be seen when the detective rushes into the crime scene and asks the police units to leave. Unlike the way detectives and police officers appear as crime-solving machines and an assistant, they are assigned to two different roles when it comes to crime solving in real life. Instead of being inferior to detectives, police officers are in charge of swift decisions and performing dangerous but strategic actions. In contrast, detectives are the ones who are overly praised as they are shown up in television. In real life, the detective would choose the time, location, and plan for arrest and minimize the risk of capturing the criminal. As opposed to the fast-paced, crime-solving machines as detectives are portrayed on the screen, often they are exposed to monotonous and time consuming workloads.
 
Also, television series forget to portray that real-life detectives have to spend painstaking hours on coping with tons of paper works. In CSI, the detective gets a call from his captain and receives that there is a murder case. Then he starts to gather his crew to solve the crime. Yet the real world detective does far more than that. Usually, a detective would solve multiple cases at the same time, and this is why detec­tives spend long hours on big conferences several times dur­ing the day. Unlike television crime shows, detectives seldom work privately in the field. Most of the time they are prone to spend endless hours of filling out necessary documents re­lated to the case. This is because working on several cases at the same time often leads to mounds of workloads.
 
Television crime series are a good way to get an idea of how a detective or crime related jobs would be like. Yet the audience must be critical and active in accepting which part to take in or not. Most of the television series do not aim for demonstrating the reality of detectives or police units. The shows are just for gathering the audience and this leads to producing more shows that contain more entertainment than reality if possible. It is of the audience’s responsibility to know what the job consists of, if he or she really wants to work within the law enforcement service. If the basic motivation of a person, who wants to pursue a career in criminal justice, is simply induced by fancy-looking lives of detectives or police units in TV, then he or she would have to conduct an extensive research as television series cannot get it right.
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