The Killing Times Top 20 Crime Dramas Of The Decade: Part two, 15-11

The countdown continues.

Yesterday we began the countdown of our best crime dramas of the decade.

From 20-16 we had favourites like Hinterland/Y Gwyll, Luther, Sherlock and the like, but now we countdown from 15 to 11.

As ever, we want to know what you think… let us know in the comments!


15 American Crime Story
UK Channel: BBC Two
Date broadcast: 2016-
Episodes: 19
Developed by Ryan Murphy – among others – American Crime Story tapped into the resurgent interest in true crime, thanks in part to the proliferation of podcasts.

Over two series, AMS retold the stories of some of the highest-profile crimes committed in the modern era, seeking to present a 360º approach and fill in some of the blanks that many of us either didn’t know about or had forgotten.

The fact that both series boasted some big names added to the intrigue.

Series one told the OJ Simpson story (John Travolta and all), and how race played a bigger role in the case than we ever imagined, but it was really series two where it really hit its stride. Intially the story of the murder of fashion icon Gianni Versace, it shifted focus and followed the descent into madness of delusional, shape-shifting serial killer Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss).

The detour this second series was as surprising as it was horrifying.

We said:American Crime Story: The Assassination Of Gianni Versace unpicked the American dream, expertly exposed prejudice and the culture of fame, and, in British screenwriter Tom Rob Smith, unearthed a real gem. A frankly flawless masterpiece of crime drama that should be essential viewing for any fan of the genre.”


14 Peaky Blinders
UK Channel: BBC Two/BBC One
Date broadcast: 2013-
Episodes: 30
What started out as a cat-and-mouse game between one cock-sure gangster from the industrial furnace of Birmingham and a steely detective determined to bring him down turned into a family drama – no, odyssey – that was unrivalled by anything that had preceded it in British crime drama.

The fact that it was British, came from a place like Birmingham (England’s second city but often neglected by British drama) and used modern blues and punk as its soundtrack, made Peaky Blinders feel like it was new and fresh.

But it was the sheer ambition and epic scale of it that often took the breath away. As Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and his family of gangsters cleaned up his local territory, his relentless pursuit of power and burning desire to become ever-powerful took him to America, and then on a course to join the British political establishment, often rubbing shoulders with the elite of the early part of the 20th century along the way.

But there was always madness at the heart of this swirling phantasmagoria of a series, where Romany mysticism, ghouls from the past and monsters in the present often lurked and whispered in the shadows like thin wisps of smoke.

No other British crime drama series has looked like it before.


13 The Night Of
UK Channel: Sky Atlantic
Date broadcast: 2016
Episodes: 8
Only one series, but HBO’s The Night Of (shown in the UK on Sky Atlantic) had a huge effect on us.

An adaptation of BBC series Criminal Justice, the celebrated American cable channel hired Steven Zaillian and crime author Richard Price to turn its version into a hardboiled, grimy noir that harked back to the good old days.

The conceit was the same but different – American-Pakistani student Naz Khan (British actor Riz Ahmed) had a heady, one-off night on the lash with a mysterious woman. He woke the next morning in her bed to find that she had been brutally murdered and blood on his hands.

As veteran detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) got to work on the case, so did huckster lawyer John Stone (John Turturro), skin complaint and all. For Stone, always laughed out of town, it was the case of a lifetime. For Naz, who had been placed in the infamous Rikers Island, it was matter of survival.

With whip-smart dialogue, superb acting and a character – Stone – that will live long in the memory, The Night Of was an engrossing throwback that will live long in the memory.

We said: “So that was the end of The Night Of: slightly uneven towards the end of the series with a few head-scratching moments, but for sheer depth of character, acting and dialogue, this was one of the year’s best and the best American crime drama since the first series of True Detective.”


12 Broadchurch
UK Channel: ITV
Date broadcast: 2013-2016
Episodes: 24
David Tennant, already a huge star thanks to Doctor Who, was paired with Olivia Colman – previously better known as a comic actress – for Chris Chibnall’s now genre-changing British crime drama.

Taking its lead from The Killing a few years before, the first series of Broadchurch gave equal weight to both the criminal investigation and the families of those affected by the trauma.

Set in a coastal town, the close-knit community was thrown into chaos and emotional meltdown when 11-year-old Danny Latimer was found dead on the beach, at the foot of some cliffs.

Tasked to investigate were DI Alec Hardy (Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Colman), one outsider and one local. Together they made for a brilliant pairing – one was uptight and traumatised, the other emotional, passionate and gregarious.

On the other side of the coin was the Latimer family (Andrew Buchan and Jodie Whittaker among them), trying to come to terms with the loss of their son and the prying eyes of the wider community. The ending of series one was one of the more shocking in British crime drama history and went on to be much-copied.

Series two and three didn’t quite hit the heights of series one, but Broadchurch’s place in Britain’s crime drama hall of fame was assured, and Hardy and Miller will live long in the memory.

We said: “I really do think, 20 years from now, Broadchurch will be remembered for that first series; a first series that captured the imagination like no other before it, got the nation talking and guessing and talking and guessing until that unthinkable, shocking conclusion, and heralded a new dawn in British crime drama.”


11 True Detective
UK Channel: Sky Atlantic
Date broadcast: 2014-
Episodes: 24
Coming from out of nowhere, the first series of True Detective – shown in the UK on Sky Atlantic – utterly transfixed with its almost hallucinogenic trawl through the swamps of rural Mississippi.

Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey, then at the peak of his Oscar-winning powers) and Martin “Marty” Hart (the always watchable Woody Harrelson) made for an irresistible combination as they investigated the (what looked like) ceremonial murder of Dora Lang.

Shifting between the pair ruminating on the case in 2012, and then the investigation in 1995, this first series mixed terrifying ceremonial murders and philosophising, True Detective was unashamedly pretentious but absolutely engrossing.

Like many pairings before it, Cohle and Hart were chalk-and-cheese: Cohle was a rheumy-eyed former addict always on the edge, while Hart was a local, emotional and weak in other ways.

Like so many before it, series two didn’t live up to the quality of the first series, but with another Oscar-winner, Mahershala Ali, onboard for series three, this anthology hit its stride again.

We said: “But at the end of it all, like all the very best crime dramas, it wasn’t necessarily the crime that was the underlying pulse of True Detective. The relationship between two flawed men was the real focus – Cohle, after seeing true darkness in life, wanted to die; Harte, now sleepwalking throughout his own life, wanted to find a way to live again. They were both lost, searching for different things. Catching The Yellow King was redemptive for them both. And even if the ultimate ending didn’t quite wash, I was hooked by True Detective from the very start. Hook, line and sinker.”






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