True crime dramas have gripped the world in the past few years, but the genre as a whole can be pretty exhausting. When you're done debating your Adnans and Averys, it can be almost relaxing to settle down with a cuppa and some nice fictional crime. Here's a round up of the best crime shows that you can watch right now - without having to wait on tenterhooks for the next episode to appear, because seriously, what kind of a person just watches one episode of a TV series anymore?
Few genres lend themselves so readily to binge-watching as crime, by virtue of the fact that there's a mystery to be solved and therefore a reason that you have to get to the end right now. Here are some crime shows that should be eating up all your weekends for the foreseeable future.
With the Christmas and New Year telly out of the way, now is the perfect time to watch José Padilha's thrilling series about the rise of notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Filmed in Colombia and following Escobar's life from 1970 to 1992, there's plenty of action in this true-to-life account. The show even includes real archival footage of the era for an extra (frighteningly) realistic feel.
Person of Interest
If CSI's "Enhance, enhance, enhance, oh now we can see the criminal's number plate" annoys you, then this crime show with a realistic attitude to technology is sure to impress. Created and produced by Jonathan Nolan, the series follows a presumed-dead CIA agent who is hired to take down a futuristic mass-surveillance computer that can predict crime, called the Machine. There's plenty of intrigue and action, but character development doesn't lose out, with the show's stars giving incredibly nuanced performances across all five seasons.
Line of Duty
The most popular drama series ever broadcast on BBC Two, this thrilling show about a police anti-corruption unit set in the West Midlands is now available on Netflix. The story follows Steve Arnott, a Detective Sargeant who refuses to cover-up the shooting of an innocent man, and exposes the dirty underside of the British Police. The whole thing is only heightened by the fact that the actual British police refused to cooperate with the show's producers, so they instead relied on anonymous information from serving officers.
Sons of Anarchy
A series that follows an outlaw biker gang as they run guns, drugs and shoot their way through rival gangs like there’s no tomorrow and Scarface never existed. The whole thing is based around Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which, let’s face, it is a bona fide classic. Throw in motorbikes and more Mexican stand-off situations than you could throw a sombrero at and you’ve got some seriously addictive telly.
What better subject matter for a crime series than the greatest unsolved murder case of all time – Jack the Ripper? This time though, detectives pursue a Ripper copycat killer in modern-day London. It’s gritty, gripping stuff, and likely to make you a mini Ripper expert as you watch. The second series focuses on a copycat of the Krays’ grisly crimes, while the third series recreates the Ratcliff highway murders. It’s nice to get a bit of a history lesson with your crime.
Orange Is The New Black
The US doesn’t need John Oliver to dictate the failings of its penal system for comedic effect – no, it already has Orange Is The New Black, the pitch black comedy based on the experiences of Piper Kerman and her memoir about living for a year in a women’s prison. The episodes just get better and better, and with season three now added, if you’re not already telling friends/parents/strangers about this show today, there's no better reason not to commence binge viewing today.
Top of the Lake
If you like your dramas distinctly "masterpiecey", this Emmy-winning mysterious and haunting series set in New Zealand is definitely for you. The story follows a detective as she investigates the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old, and has been praised by feminists for its exploration of rape culture.
If Gangs of New York had a sequel and that sequel was set in Birmingham, this is what it would be. An absolute British triumph of television starring Cillian Murphy as crime boss Tommy Shelby as he runs rackets post World War I with his flat-capped gang, The Peaky Blinders. Notable appearances from Sam Neill other big names couple together to make it one of the best things that the BBC have made in years.
This noir detective drama has actually been made twice - one with Welsh dialogue and once with English. The latter is on Netflix, and it follows the story of a troubled detective on the run from his London past. With murders and small town secrets a-plenty, it's an incredibly gripping show that doesn't lose its human element.
A smart – and at times very, very dark – reworking of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon does the impossible: turns Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter back from a pantomime villain into a legitimately scary monster. It doesn’t rush to trade off the more familiar elements from the book or previous movies, instead using a “killer of week” procedural format to develop the relationship between the psychotic Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and possibly psychotic FBI agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). Tasty.
The godfather of Scandinavian crime, Swedish cult hero Kurt Wallander (Krister Henroksson) is what every great TV copper should be – grumpy, disillusioned, and utterly brilliant. The episodes – in which Wallander investigates everything from religious cults to human traffickers – are more like movies, making this a binge watch that will give you hours upon hours of crime caper brilliance.
Slotting straight into the same universe of the original Cohen Brothers film, Fargo is a charming (and bloody) indie-fied crime series for the coffee house generation. All ironic jumpers, funny characterisations, suspense and Billy Bob Thornton sporting the worst haircut of his career. Essential viewing for anybody with eyeballs. The second season, starring Ted Danson, Kirsten Dunst and Patrick Wilson among many more – and also now available on Netflix – is also a hoot too.
Better Call Saul
OK, so it might not have the same edge-of-your-seat discomfort of Breaking Bad but the televisual return of Saul Goodman definitely has its own weight. Charting the rise (ok, flatline) of Walter White’s future lawyer from morally challenged good guy to hustlin’ legal trickster, its a modern classic in its own right. Two seasons are available, just in time to get you up to speed ahead of the third installment heading this way soon.
One of the best British crime thrillers of recent years, with Idris Elba playing the growling Detective Chief Inspector who blurs the lines between right and wrong in order to get the job done. As the series develops, the crimes stretch across multiple episodes and the complications of Luther’s life become ever more tangled, making it almost impossible to watch just one episode.
It's the show that kickstarted the 'Nordic noir' trend and if you still haven't seen it then Netflix is the perfect way to rectify that. Sofie Grabol is superb as the Detective Inspector assigned to find the killer of a young woman. The plot twists and turns so much in each episode that you'll probably make it through series one in a day (it's twenty hours long).
It might start to flag a little towards the end but Michael C Hall’s ‘good-guy’ serial killer Dexter Morgan rode the first wave of boxset binges when it kicked off way back in 2006 and it still holds up with the best of them. If you’re a fan of dubious anti-heroes, Miami sunshine and wry humour then this is your kind of show.
As slick as crime shows get, this stars Matt Bomer as a high class conman who makes a deal with the FBI after he breaks out of prison and is recaptured. He suggests that he uses his considerable devious skills to help his captors bag bigger fish in return for a life lived on the outside. The pleasure is in never being sure who's tricking whom.
Season one is the best of the run, with a man committing a crime in order to be put in jail so that he can then break out his brother who has been sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit. It's a hugely daft conceit but one that the show has enormous amounts of fun with. Later series get sillier, but there's still an enjoyable trash element that will keep you watching 'just one more' before bed.
When Sherlock launched in 2010 it immediately had the feeling of a show that would be beloved for years, as if it had already been around for decades but we’d only just noticed. Even once you know how all the crimes were committed it still bears repeat viewing for the beautifully drawn friendship between Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
Obviously. We’re not going to berate you if you haven’t seen it yet, but you know you’ve got a treat in store when you do get round to it, and that you're probably going to have to cancel all your plans until you've finished it.