9. Homicide: Life on the Street
This series was the most reality-based police drama that has ever aired on television. It was shot entirely with handheld cameras on location in the Fells Point Community of Baltimore, MD. One of the series' executive producers, Barry Levinson, is a Baltimore native. He has written and directed at least three films that take place in Baltimore: "Diner", "Tin Men" & "Avalon". Doing this show was a natural for him.
The series was based on a book called "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," by David Simon, a writer who spent a year with the members of Baltimore's homicide unit. Some of the series' characters and cases were based on the book.
This series was unlike most cop shows of that time, in that there were almost no car chases, gunfights and etc. This show was about closing cases and the act of the crime was usually never seen. Generally, the viewer first sees the case when the detective(s) arrive on the scene. Open cases are kept track of on a board, open cases under the primary detective's name are shown in red ink, when the case is closed the red is replaced by black ink. During the first season it aired, it didn't have great ratings and the chances for a second season looked bleak. When Steven Bochco's NYPD Blue premiered in the Fall of '93 and got great ratings, police dramas "were in" and the series was given the go-ahead for a second season (the two Emmy Awards probably didn't hurt either). The better ratings of the second season led to a full third and subsequent seasons. When the Lifetime cable channel picked the show up for syndication in 1997 it helped guarantee that there would be a fifth season. Then NBC made it possible for the series to have a sixth and seventh season.
With the great cast, acting, writing, and directing the series has won awards including a few Emmy Awards, Writer's Guild Awards and George Foster Peabody Awards. Most of these awards were earned by Tom Fontana, one of the series' executive producers, whose other credits include St. Elsewhere. In the 1995-1996 television season Andre Braugher was finally nominated for Best Actor in a Drama. While he didn't win that year, two years later in the 1997-1998 television season he was again nominated, this time the Television Academy recognized what we already knew, that Andre Braugher was the best actor working in television drama.
One of the highlights of the series, starting with the second season was the use of music. All varieties of music have been featured throughout the series, most often it was featured in a montage of the detectives conducting their investigation.
First air date: January 31, 1993
Last air date: May 21, 1999
Original air time: Friday 10:00:00 pm (Eastern)