Well, that's the longest title I've written and probably will ever write. But I guess this show deserves a bit of pomp and trumpet as it is that darn good.
Homicide: Life on the Street
Richard Belzer as Detective John Munch
Yaphet Kotto as Lt. Al Giardello
Kyle Secor as Detective Tim Bayliss
Clark Johnson as Detective Meldrick Lewis
Andre Braugher as Detective Frank Pembleton
Melissa Leo as Sergeant Kay Howard
Reed Diamond as Detective Mike Kellerman
and many more
Homicide: Life on the Street is a 1990s police procedural drama based on the book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon. Yes, David Simon that guy who created the greatest story driven show to ever grace our screens. The Wire. Now, I promise I'm not going to froth about The Wire any further in this review, but it has to be mentioned when talking about Homicide as The Wire is a clear descendent of Homicide and both shows have themes and elements in common.
Homicide ran from 1993 to 1999 and is set in the Homicide division of Baltimore, Maryland. It was inspired by David Simon's book and his influence can be felt throughout the series. The show features an exceptionally strong cast and also has many famous actors and actresses in guest roles. Off the top of my head I can mention Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Donovan (who both now star in USA's Burn Notice) and Kate Walsh from Grey's Anatomy/Private Practice, but there are plenty of others.
The word best used to describe Homicide would most certainly be gritty, while it doesn't get into an exploration of urban decay as much as The Wire does, the theme is clearly evident throught the series both in the camera work, storylines and dialog. Homicide does not shy away from reality, it also doesn't want to paint it's characters as being flash, overly attractive, slick or anything else that many other shows in this genre like to do. The members of the Homicide division are very human in their nature, they're flawed and real.
Starpulse recently rated Homicide as the most underrated show of the 1990s and they go as far as attributing the birth of realistic television shows to Homicide. Which is a fair statement to make, without Homicide paving the way who knows what todays police shows would be like. Would we have shows like The Shield, Life, CSI, Dexter and so on? Who can say what would be different? All I do know is even though I am watching Homicide nearly ten years after it finished (for the first time I might add) the show still holds up strong. The quality of film, clothing and phones might be outdated but the writing, acting and plots are as strong as the best of the current work in showbizland. It's a show that's genuinely worth taking the time to discover and it's a rewarding show to watch.
But, despite the show's brilliance it was not acknowledged publicly with massive ratings. During it's run TV Guide did give it that now famous moniker "The best show you're not watching" (A title that's been later held by Arrested Development and The Wire) and the show struggled with ratings throughout it's entire run. Which in some ways I can see, it's not the easiest of shows to watch as it makes no attempt to beautify the world in which it's set. The show also suffered with tampering by the network in an attempt to raise ratings. That seems to be a story that also never quite dies, excecutives vs writers.
Despite these problems Homicide remains one of the best shows out there, also as it has run so completely under the radar for most people most of the events in the show can remain suprising and it can feel like you're watching it for the first time.
Homicide features interesting crimes backed by a strong cast who have fantastic dialog to work with, the show is a complete diamond in the rough and show be watched by anyone and everyone who considers themselves a fan of police drama.
Last of all I can't finish without taking a little time to talk about the character John Munch, as he holds the record for the most appearances on different shows.
· "The Wire" (2008)
· "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
· "Sesame Street" (2006)
· "Arrested Development" (2006)
· "Law & Order: Trial by Jury"
· "The Beat" (2000)
· "The X Files" (1997)
· "Law & Order" (1996, 97, 2000)
· "Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993 - 1999)