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.