If you’re most familiar with the streets of Baltimore by way of The Wire, then there’s a good chance you haven’t explored it thoroughly with the Baltimore Police homicide department depicted in Homicide: Life on The Streets.
Based on the David Simon book Homicide: A Year on The Killing Streets, this police procedural drama is among the finest shows ever produced. The characters on the show and many of the cases investigated are richly drawn from the real life police that Simon had reported upon through his book.
Through its exceedingly talented cast, which includes Yaphet Kotto, Melissa Leo, Andre Braugher, and Clark Johnson, the show delivered a quality of performance that is almost unsurpassed by any other US series.
As great as the acting is on the show, the true strength is in its writing. While the murder investigations are compelling, the show is ultimately about what happens during the investigations and the exploration of the show’s characters. Most of the show is conversational, taking the viewer on a journey of opinion and philosophies.
As you’d assume, Homicide was never safe network television, with the show under continual interference from NBC.
Its cast were far from the beautiful, photogenic casts that populate most US series and so great talent such as Jon Polito and Ned Beatty were moved from the series, in favour of more TV-friendly faces such as Reed Diamond. The gritty look of the early seasons of the show were cleaned up in later years, with the network also demanding more on-screen romance and violence. Also, episodes were screened out of order, upsetting multi-episode narrative developments.
Despite the obstacles, the show remained compelling television. Homicide: Life on The Streets is human drama at its finest.
The show is available on DVD from local shops, but there is a much better full-series box set from US stores.