A curated list of the best crime series in the history of American TV.
White Collar is a USA Network television series created by Jeff Eastin, starring Tim DeKay as FBI Special Agent Peter Burke and Matt Bomer as Neal Caffrey, a highly intelligent and multitalented con artist working as Burke's criminal informant. Willie Garson and Tiffani Thiessen also star. The show premiered on October 23, 2009, and has aired six complete seasons, with the final season concluding on December 18, 2014.
Neal Caffrey, a renowned con artist, forger, and thief, is captured after a three-year game of cat and mouse with the FBI, specifically Special Agent Peter Burke. With only three months left in his four-year sentence, he escapes to look for his girlfriend, Kate. Peter Burke once again finds Caffrey and returns him to prison. This time, Caffrey proposes a deal to help Burke apprehend dangerous white collar criminals with the FBI as part of a work-release program. After some hesitation, Burke agrees. They thus begin their unconventional and testy relationship.
Criminal Minds is a police procedural that debuted on CBS on September 22, 2005. The series follows a team of profilers from the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) based in Quantico, Virginia. The BAU is part of the FBI National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. The show differs from many procedural dramas by focusing on profiling the criminal, called the unsub or "unknown subject", rather than the crime itself.
The series follows a group of FBI profilers who set about catching various criminals through behavioral profiling. The plot focuses on the team working cases and on the personal lives of the characters, depicting the hardened life and statutory requirements of a profiler. The show spawned two spin-offs: Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior (2011) and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders (2016–2017).
On April 7, 2017, CBS renewed the series for a thirteenth season. The series is moving back an hour to 10 p.m. on Wednesday nights starting in the fall.
As of May 10, 2017, 277 episodes of Criminal Minds have aired, concluding the twelfth season.
Quantico is an American drama thriller series that premiered on ABC on September 27, 2015. The series was created by Joshua Safran and is produced by ABC Studios. Mark Gordon, Robert Sertner, Nicholas Pepper and Safran serve as executive producers.
Priyanka Chopra stars as Alex Parrish, a bright FBI recruit, who joins the agency after graduating from the FBI Academy; she later becomes a prime suspect of a terrorist attack on Grand Central Terminal. The series, up to the 35th episode, featured two timelines— the present where Parrish runs from captivity to prove her innocence and the past which showed her and her fellow recruits training at the academy, revealing various detail about their previous lives. Later, it switched to a single timeline in the second season.
Apart from Chopra, who became the first South Asian to headline an American network series, the cast also includes Jake McLaughlin, Yasmine Al Massri, Johanna Braddy, Tate Ellington, Graham Rogers, Anabelle Acosta as her fellow recruits, and Josh Hopkins and Aunjanue Ellis as their trainers at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. In season two, Russell Tovey, Pearl Thusi, and Blair Underwood were added to the main cast following the CIA plot elements.
It has been nominated for four People's Choice Awards, including Favorite Network TV Drama. Chopra has won two People's Choice Awards: Favorite Actress in a New TV Series in 2016, making her the first South Asian to win a People's Choice Award, and Favorite Dramatic TV Actress in 2017.
On May 15, 2017, ABC renewed the series for a third season, which is set to premiere in January 2018.
Rizzoli & Isles is a TNT television series starring Angie Harmon as police detective Jane Rizzoli and Sasha Alexander as medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles. The one-hour drama is based on the Rizzoli & Isles series of novels by Tess Gerritsen. It premiered on July 12, 2010, and aired 105 episodes in seven seasons, concluding on September 5, 2016.
Prison Break is an American television serial drama created by Paul Scheuring, that was broadcast on Fox for four seasons from August 29, 2005 to May 15, 2009, and a fifth season which aired from April 4, to May 30, 2017. The series revolves around two brothers, one of whom has been sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit, and the other who devises an elaborate plan to help his brother escape prison and clear his name. The series was produced by Adelstein-Parouse Productions, in association with Original Television and 20th Century Fox Television.
24 is an American crime thriller television series produced for the Fox network, created by Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, and starring Kiefer Sutherland as counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer. Each season, comprising 24 episodes, covers 24 hours in Bauer's life using the real time method of narration. Premiering on November 6, 2001, the show spanned 192 episodes over eight seasons; the series finale broadcast on May 24, 2010. In addition, a television film, 24: Redemption, was broadcast between seasons six and seven, on November 23, 2008. 24 returned as a 12-episode series titled 24: Live Another Day, which aired from May 5 to July 14, 2014. 24: Legacy, a spin-off series featuring new characters, premiered on February 5, 2017.
The series begins with Bauer working for the Los Angeles–based Counter Terrorist Unit, in which he is a highly proficient agent with an "ends justify the means" approach, regardless of the perceived morality of some of his actions. Throughout the series most of the main plot elements unfold like a political thriller. A typical plot has Bauer racing against the clock as he attempts to thwart multiple terrorist plots, including presidential assassination attempts, weapons of mass destruction detonations, bioterrorism, cyber attacks, as well as conspiracies that deal with government and corporate corruption.
24 garnered critical acclaim, winning numerous awards over its eight seasons, including Best Drama Series at the 2003 Golden Globe Awards and Outstanding Drama Series at the 2006 Primetime Emmy Awards. At the conclusion of its eighth season, 24 became the longest-running U.S. espionage/counterterrorism-themed television drama ever, surpassing both Mission: Impossible and The Avengers.
Homeland is an American spy thriller television series developed by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa based on the Israeli series Prisoners of War (Original title חטופים Hatufim, literally "Abductees"), which was created by Gideon Raff.
The series stars Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, a Central Intelligence Agency officer with bipolar disorder, and Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody, a U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper. Mathison had come to believe that Brody, who was held captive by al-Qaeda as a prisoner of war, was "turned" by the enemy and poses a threat to the United States.
The series is broadcast in the U.S. on the cable channel Showtime, and is produced by Fox 21 Television Studios (formerly Fox 21). It premiered on October 2, 2011.
The series has received generally positive reviews, and has won several awards, including the 2012 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, and the 2011 and 2012 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama, as well as the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, respectively.
Blue Bloods is an American police procedural drama series that airs on CBS. The series debuted on September 24, 2010, with episodes airing on Fridays following CSI: NY before being moved to Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time and 9:00 p.m. Central and Mountain time for a four-week tryout. After four weeks, it returned to its original Friday 10:00 p.m. Eastern time slot, where it has remained since.
On March 23, 2017, CBS renewed the series for an eighth season.
The series follows the Reagan family of police officers with the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Francis Xavier "Frank" Reagan is the Police Commissioner. Frank's oldest son Danny is an NYPD detective, his youngest son Jamie is an NYPD police officer, and his daughter Erin is the assistant district attorney. Frank's middle son Joe was murdered in the line of duty in events that pre-date the series, when he was involved with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigating a group of corrupt NYPD cops.
Boardwalk Empire is an American period crime drama television series created by Terence Winter and airing on premium cable channel HBO.
The series is set in Atlantic City, New Jersey during the Prohibition era and stars Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson. Winter, a Primetime Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and producer, created the show, inspired by the book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson about historical criminal kingpin Enoch L. Johnson.
The pilot episode was directed by Martin Scorsese. The series premiered on September 19, 2010, and completed its five-season run on October 26, 2014.
Boardwalk Empire received widespread critical acclaim, particularly for its visual style and basis on historical figures, as well as for Buscemi's lead performance. The series received 57 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including two for Outstanding Drama Series, winning 20. The series also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama in 2011 and two Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2011 and 2012.
Bones is an American crime procedural drama television series that aired on Fox in the United States from September 13, 2005, until March 28, 2017, for 246 episodes over twelve seasons. The show is based on forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology, with each episode focusing on an FBI case file concerning the mystery behind human remains brought by FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) to forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and the personal lives of the characters.
Created by Hart Hanson, the series is very loosely based on the life and writings of novelist and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, who also produces the show. Its title character, Temperance Brennan, is named after the protagonist of Reichs' crime novel series. Bones is a joint production by Josephson Entertainment, Far Field Productions and 20th Century Fox Television. The series is the longest-running one-hour drama series produced by 20th Century Fox Television.
On February 25, 2016, the series was renewed for a twelfth and final season, consisting of twelve episodes that premiered on January 3, 2017.The series finale aired on March 28, 2017.
Breaking Bad is an American crime drama television series created and produced by Vince Gilligan. The show originally aired on the AMC network for five seasons, from January 20, 2008, to September 29, 2013. It tells the story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a struggling high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Together with his former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), White turns to a life of crime, producing and selling crystallized methamphetamine to secure his family's financial future before he dies, while navigating the dangers of the criminal world.
Breaking Bad is widely regarded as one of the greatest television series of all time. By the time the series finale aired, the series was among the most-watched cable shows on American television. The show received numerous awards, including sixteen Primetime Emmy Awards, eight Satellite Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, two Peabody Awards, two Critics' Choice Awards, and four Television Critics Association Awards. For his leading performance, Cranston won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series four times, while Aaron Paul won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series three times; Anna Gunn won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series twice. In 2013, Breaking Bad entered the Guinness World Records as the most critically acclaimed show of all time.
Castle is an American crime-comedy-drama television series, which aired on ABC for a total of eight seasons from March 9, 2009 to May 16, 2016. The series is produced jointly by Beacon Pictures and ABC Studios.
Created by Andrew W. Marlowe, it primarily traces the lives of Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), a best-selling mystery novelist, and Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), an NYPD homicide detective, as they solve various unusual crimes in New York City. Detective Beckett is initially infuriated at the thought of working with a writer and goes to great lengths to keep him out of her way. However, the two soon start developing feelings for each other. The overarching plot of the series focused on the romance between the two lead characters and their ongoing investigation of the murder of Beckett's mother.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (also referred to as CSI and CSI: Las Vegas) is a procedural forensics crime drama television series that premiered on CBS October 6, 2000. The series, starring William Petersen, Marg Helgenberger, Laurence Fishburne, Ted Danson, and Elisabeth Shue, is the first in the CSI franchise. The series concluded on September 27, 2015, after 15 seasons, with a feature-length finale titled Immortality.
NCIS is an American action police procedural television series, revolving around a fictional team of special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which investigates crimes involving the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
The concept and characters were initially introduced in two episodes of the CBS series JAG (season eight episodes 20 and 21: "Ice Queen" and "Meltdown"). The show, a spin-off from JAG, premiered on September 23, 2003, on CBS. To date it has aired fourteen full seasons and has gone into broadcast syndication on the USA Network. Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill are co-creators and executive producers of the premiere member of the NCIS franchise. It is the second longest-running scripted, non-animated U.S. primetime TV series currently airing and is the 15th longest-running scripted U.S. primetime TV series overall.
Law & Order is an American police procedural and legal drama television series, created by Dick Wolf and part of the Law & Order franchise. It originally aired on NBC and, in syndication, on various cable networks. Law & Order premiered on September 13, 1990, and completed its 20th and final season on May 24, 2010. At the time of its cancellation, Law & Order was the longest-running crime drama on American primetime television. Its record of 20 seasons is a tie with Gunsmoke (1955–75) for the longest-running live-action scripted American prime-time series with ongoing characters. Although it has fewer episodes than Gunsmoke, Law & Order ranks as the longest-running hour-long primetime TV series.
Set and filmed in New York City, the series follows a two-part approach: the first half-hour is the investigation of a crime (usually murder) and apprehension of a suspect by New York City Police Department detectives; the second half is the prosecution of the defendant by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Plots are often based on real cases that recently made headlines, although the motivation for the crime and the perpetrator may be different.
The Blacklist is an American crime thriller television series that premiered on NBC on September 23, 2013. Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader), a former U.S. Navy officer turned high-profile criminal, voluntarily surrenders to the FBI after eluding capture for decades. He tells the FBI that he has a list of the most dangerous criminals in the world that he has compiled over the years and is willing to inform on their operations in exchange for immunity from prosecution. However, he insists on working exclusively with a rookie FBI profiler by the name of Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). The series also stars Diego Klattenhoff, Ryan Eggold, and Harry Lennix. The pilot episode was written by Jon Bokenkamp and directed by Joe Carnahan. Executive producers for the series include Bokenkamp, John Eisendrath, and John Davis for Sony Pictures Television, Universal Television, and Davis Entertainment.
Fargo is an American black comedy–crime drama anthology television series created and primarily written by Noah Hawley. The show is inspired by the 1996 film of the same name written and directed by the Coen brothers, who serve as executive producers on the series alongside Hawley. It premiered on April 15, 2014, on FX.The series follows an anthology format, with each season set in a different era with a different story and mostly new characters and cast, although there is minor overlap. Each season shares a common chronology with the original film.
The first season, set in 2006 and starring Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, and Martin Freeman, was met with critical acclaim. It won the Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Miniseries, Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Casting, and received fifteen additional nominations including Outstanding Writing, another Outstanding Directing nomination, and acting nominations for all four leads. It also won the Golden Globe Awards for Best Miniseries or Television Film and Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film for Thornton.
The second season, set in 1979 and starring Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart, and Ted Danson, was met with even greater acclaim. It received three Golden Globe nominations, along with several Emmy nominations including Outstanding Miniseries and acting nominations for Dunst, Plemons, Smart, and Bokeem Woodbine.
The third season, set in 2010 and starring Ewan McGregor, Carrie Coon, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Goran Bogdan and David Thewlis premiered on April 19, 2017.
Hawaii Five-O is an American police procedural drama series produced by CBS Productions and Leonard Freeman. Set in Hawaii, the show originally aired for 12 seasons from 1968 to 1980, and continues in reruns. At the airing of its last episode, it had been the longest running police drama in television history.
The reboot premiered on Monday, September 20, 2010 on CBS. Like the original, it follows an elite state police task force set up to fight crime in the state of Hawaii.
On March 23, 2017, CBS renewed the series for an eighth season, which is set to premiere on September 29, 2017.
Narcos is an American crime web television series created and produced by Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, and Doug Miro. Season 1, comprising 10 episodes, originally aired on August 28, 2015, as a Netflix exclusive.
Set and filmed in Colombia, season 1 tells the story of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, who became a billionaire through the production and distribution of cocaine, while also focusing on Escobar's interactions with drug lords, DEA agents, and various opposition entities. The series was renewed for a second season, which premiered on September 2, 2016 with 10 episodes. On September 6, 2016, Netflix renewed the series for a third and fourth season.
True Detective is an American anthology crime drama television series created and written by Nic Pizzolatto. The series, broadcast by the premium cable network HBO in the United States, premiered on January 12, 2014. Each season of the series is structured as a disparate, self-contained narrative, employing new cast ensembles and following various sets of characters and settings.
The first season, starring Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts, and Tory Kittles, takes place in Louisiana and follows a pair of Louisiana State Police homicide detectives, and their pursuit of a serial killer over a 17-year period. The second season, starring Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, Kelly Reilly, and Vince Vaughn, is set in California, and focuses on three detectives from three cooperating police departments and a criminal-turned-businessman as they investigate a series of crimes they believe are linked to the murder of a corrupt politician.
The first season received generally excellent reviews from critics and earned high ratings for HBO. It was nominated for and won numerous awards and other accolades, chiefly for its acting, cinematography, writing, and direction. Reception to the second season was more divided, though the show maintained high viewership for HBO.