Is there too much crime drama on TV?


BBC1 chief Danny Cohen justified the decision to axe Zen by claiming there were too many crime series on our screens. So are there – and which would you kill off?

On Wednesday BBC1 controller Danny Cohen defended his decision to axe Zen, starring Rufus Sewell, on the basis that television already has too many male detectives and crime dramas. “You can’t keep on doing everything if you want to bring in new things. I felt that we risked having too many male detectives, and arguably we have had maybe too much crime,” Cohen said.

Normally I wouldn’t argue with the focus on male detectives. I, like everyone else, tire of seeing women murdered, and men solving the crimes. But oddly, this is quite a good time for women detectives. They’ve been dominating BBC4’s Saturday night schedules for weeks in the form of The Killing’s Sarah Lund and, currently, Spiral’s Laure Berthaud. A new series of The Closer has recently begun on More4. ITV1 is also in on the act: the channel has two new female policemen arriving on screens next week – Case Sensitive’s Charlie Zailer, in an adaptation of Sophie Hannah’s Point of Rescue, and (surely not!) the older, dowdy Vera, played by the brilliant Brenda Blethyn.

Things are by no means equal, and its notable that two of my examples are European imports, but these are steps in the right direction. In fact when it comes to female detectives, it seems BBC1 really is rather lagging behind

But what about the bigger question here: namely, is there too much crime drama on TV? I’m the first to say I love a crime novel: British, Italian, French, Swedish – my commute is not complete unless I’ve dipped into one. So it’s no surprise that I also love a crime drama. And I’m not alone. The reason there are lots of crime dramas is the same reason there are lots of crime novels: they’re popular. What’s more they travel well across international borders, both on the page and on screen. Commercially, they make good sense.

Which is not to say I watch all of the telly detective shows. Like anyone else, I’ll cherry pick my favourites and ignore those that I either haven’t got time to discover, or have no wish to watch. They are all quite different programmes: lumping them all up together doesn’t make any sense. Sherlock, for instance, must count as crime drama – but would you discuss it in the same bracket as Midsomer? What has Thorne got in common with Marple? Luther with Zen?

However, even allowing for the pick-and-mix approach that viewers will inevitably take, the sheer number of shows on offer is, at the very least, surprising. I can think of a good handful I’d get rid of without a second thought – although my list would doubtless be different from that of other viewers. So which would you kill off, if any? Are there any you have a particular soft spot for? Which new cops might you actually make room for on the schedules? Your thoughts please – and of course your votes. Is there is too much crime drama on TV? Let us know …

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