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TV Review: The First 48 – Ain’t Nothin’ Like The Real Thing

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If you’ve ever seen The First 48 on A&E, you probably – as I do – have found yourself avoiding dramatic cop-shows such as Law and Order. Praised and time-honored as the Law and Order franchise might be, their storylines are pretty much crock. Their bad guys are over-the-top truly villainous people whose crimes are planned around L&O’s need for ratings and penchant for preachiness.

The First 48 however, is the real thing. Painfully, terribly so. It’s a reality show, of course! But what a reality! The premise for the series is this: the first forty-eight hours after a homicide are the most crucial. Evidence, witnesses, and the bad guy can simply disappear, fade, or be forever lost.

Each episode focuses on two homicide squads, in different cities. On any Thursday night the viewer might find herself involved in the investigation of a murder in Dallas, Kansas City, MO, Las Vegas, Memphis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, or Miami.

Of course, we develop favorites. The Memphis and Miami squads are superb and stand-outs are Sergeant Caroline Mason, Sergeant Doreen Shelton, Sergeant Tony Mullins, Sergeant Mitch Oliver, Sergeant Eunice Cooper, Sergeant Ervins Ford, Detective Kevin Ruggiero, Detective Emiliano Tamayo.

We see these cops in their humanity. We see the adrenalin pumping in the adrenalin junkies who live to get the bad guy. We see the grief when they have to inform a family member that their loved-one has been murdered. We see their grief for both the victims and the victimizers.

That’s probably the strangest thing about The First 48. These cops know something that most TV cops don’t know: that murderers are not particularly evil. They aren’t even smart. The murderers are generally kids who haven’t got a lick of sense, who get involved in something that goes awry, who gave the devil a finger and the devil took the whole hand. The cops are educated, and mature. They understand common sense and they come in all sizes and shades. The murderers, on the other hand, unfortunately are of a darker hue: hispanic and black, they are often involved in gangs, fighting over the little 1% of the American dream the rich have allowed to trickle down.

When Sergeant Caroline Mason of the Memphis PD is on the case, she shows us that being a cop involves being part spiritual counselor, part trickster-manipulator, part maternal voice of the community, and part investigator. Yet, she’s got to be one of the most ultra-feminine cops you’d ever see. The woman has style, but she also has heart. A young criminal is like putty in her hands. At the end of the investigation, he is usually blubbering as much as we are.

He knows he’s wasted his life. He knows he’s not being the good Christian kid his mom wanted him to be. He knows that one moment of stupidity has cost him his future and possibly his life. If it’s a girl who was playing one guy against another, she knows how volatile hormones can be. And, most importantly, the murderer knows that another human died and didn’t deserve to.

Okay, I’m sounding a bit like a bleeding-heart liberal with a Law and Order fixation. But I can’t help it. The show makes even hard hearts weep. I kid you not. I find myself watching the programs and shouting at those young stupid murderers, “My people! My people! What are you doing to yourselves! And for what? The little cash a drug deal will bring?”

I know many parents don’t feel like sitting their kids down to watch documentaries or straight-up reality shows. But I’m the kind of parent who forced my son to watch Maxed Out, a film about the evils of credit cards; and SuperSize Me, a film about the horrors of fast-food addiction.

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  • Constance

    I never heard of this show before. I’ll be sure to watch it next time I see it on the TV.

  • john

    The murderers, on the other hand, unfortunately are of a darker hue: hispanic and black, they are often involved in gangs, fighting over the little 1% of the American dream the rich have allowed to trickle down.fuck you u piece of shit your just mad hoe

  • greg

    “The murderers, on the other hand, unfortunately are of a darker hue: hispanic and black, they are often involved in gangs, fighting over the little 1% of the American dream the rich have allowed to trickle down.fuck you u piece of shit your just mad hoe”

    i think you just proved her point. under-educated (the very bad english and complete lack of sentence structure you used), definitely no sense, and just plain mad… at what, i’m not sure. maybe you’re mad at the world because people like this are out there nailing wanna-bes like yourself to the wall every day.

    -g-

  • Mani

    The murderers, on the other hand, unfortunately are of a darker hue: hispanic and black, they are often
    involved in gangs.

    Yeah it sounds offensive because you are generalising them as the only culprits, but you are right because statistics don’t lie. However I don’t think its the colour to blame its the poverty struggle and the injustice that denies them that opportunity for success in life to blame.

  • Shayzee

    I absolutely love this show. I used to come home and watch it every day after school let out. I just started watching it again, and I have to admit I forgot how truly horrific it can be, especially for the families who have to deal with the death of a loved one.

    Of course everyone has their favourite investigators when they get into The First 48. Lieutenant Joseph Schillaci is my favourite. He’s smart, he’s tough and he gets the job done. :-)

    When I read the last sentence I was a little bit shocked; it does sound racist, but there is some truth to it. They are often the least fortunate in society. I wish I could help. :-(

  • bigg regg

    I think this show exploit blacks and Hispanic people think about it. As many white people that commit hideous crimes such as murder are never shown as much as Blacks or Hispanics. I wonder why. Is it possible that the media wants to keep u under the impression that these two groups of people are the nations killers. Just saying the show is one sided. I wonder if the show would last as long as it has if the criminals were all white. Y don’t we ever c these white MASS MURDERS on the show. FOOD FOR THOUGHT. WHERE ARE THE EPISODES BASED ON THEM. I WOULD LOVE TO C THEM PUT N THE BOX AND INTERVIEWED UNTIL THEY BREAK AND TELL ON THEMSELF AND OTHERS N THEIR HOODS.

  • D

    I read a newspaper article when the First 48 Crew came to Detroit, near me. They said the crew only stays for a few days or a few weeks. That’s it. It all depends on what homicides are committed at that time. Maybe more black and hispanics show up because statistically more blacks and hispanics murder. But anyone with common sense knows that just because you’re a certain race you act a certain way. And if some people DO think that, well, screw them. Don’t worry about what they think, it’s not worth getting a fuss over. Great article! Sgt. Caroline Mason is my favorite of all, that’s how I found this article, for a Google search for her name.

  • D

    I meant to say “just because you’re a certain race doesn’t mean you act a certain way”. It pisses me off beyond belief that people think that. But we can’t be worrying about what other people think of us. They aren’t worth it.

  • -K

    Would also like to add that the ‘white mass murderers’ usually make headline media around the United States. Lack of them being on a reality TV show is an irrelevant argument. The ‘statistics don’t lie’ statement is as true as could be as well. Facts and statistics aren’t racist. Love the show.

    -K