TV’s obsession with murder

I had been thinking about this for a while when I saw this quote yesterday:

“Today’s TV is filled with crime shows, medical shows and all things depressing.”

— Herald Sun article about a campaign to bring back Hey Hey It’s Saturday

What is it with all the murder shows on TV? Why is there so much of an obsession with something we all hope to never experience?

Just looking at free-to-air prime time over a week (from tonight to next Wednesday):

  • Law and Order: Criminal Intent — Ch10, Thursday 9:30-10:30pm, from USA
  • Trial and Retribution: Rules of the Game — ABC, Friday 8:30-10:05pm, from UK
  • The Closer — Ch9, 10:30-11:30pm, from USA
  • Law and Order: Criminal Intent — Ch10, Friday 10:30-11:20pm, from USA
  • Foyle’s War — ABC, Saturday 10:05-11:40pm, from UK — not actually a “murder show”, but has a murder this week
  • NARC — Ch10, Saturday 11pm-1am, from USA
  • Midsomer Murders — ABC, Sunday 11:30pm-1:15am, from UK — surely the most violent and dangerous county in all of England
  • Bones — Ch7, Sunday 8:30-9:30pm, from USA
  • Castle — Ch7, Sunday 9:30-10:30pm, from USA
  • NCIS — Ch10, Tuesday 8:30-10:30pm, from USA — a double helping of murder and mayhem
  • Law and Order: SVU — Ch10, Wednesday 8:30-9:30pm, from USA
  • Criminal Minds — Ch7, Wednesday 8:30-9:30pm, from USA — oh marvellous, a serial killer
  • Cold Case — Ch9, Wednesday 9:30-10:30pm, from USA
  • CSI: Miami — Ch9, Wednesday 10:30-11:30pm, from USA
  • A Most Mysterious Murder — ABC, Wednesday 11:25pm-12:25am, from UK

(I haven’t included action shows like SWAT or Rush if they don’t mention murders in the episode synopsis for this week.)

Hooray, Monday night is murder-free! But Wednesday night is pretty bloody.

I have to admit I don’t watch any of these, except very very occasionally I might look at Law and Order while channel-flicking. I hope none of the others are trivialising the issue.

Do some people have a fascination with this subject? Hopefully nobody watches all of them. That would be downright unhealthy.

Sure, good drama should grab you by the scruff of the neck and challenge you… but even if you watch only one of these shows regularly, is week after week of this stuff too much? Do they normalise in some people’s minds what are not just devastatingly tragic events, but events which (hopefully) most of us will never encounter in real life?

Is it a reflection of society? In particular, is it a reflection of American society, where the murder rate is higher than here? (USA is 5.8 per 100,000 per year; Australia is 1.45 — Source: Wikipedia, citing the FBI and UN respectively.)

But these shows must rate, or the commercial channels in particular wouldn’t keep showing them. And I guess people need something to watch with the weekly Hitler documentaries displaced by The Ashes.

These shows are obviously not to my taste. No wonder I don’t watch much TV. (And I’m not sure Hey Hey would drag me back.)