Crime dramas, a genre in the w…
Crime dramas, a genre in the world of television. The word ‘Genre’ comes from the French word ‘Category’ or ‘Type’. Genre is important for an audience as it helps us to find exactly what it is we’re looking for. By having these categories and sub categories people are able to identify where their interests lay. Programmes of this genre have a typical plot which centres around solving crimes, it follows a person or persons who solves the crimecrimes. Frequently crime dramas are individual’s guilty pleasures, they enjoy the mysterious journeys to solving the crime. The plot for this genre has to be interesting enough to keep the audience intrigued, it often starts with a mystery or enigma, throughout the feeling of suspense is crucial and always apparent as the story evolves the pieces are put together and eventually the crime is solved. This can be solved within one episode or it can take a few episodes. Crime dramas have become highly favoured in our generation, more and more crime dramas are being released such as the very popular series, Luther and Hannibal.
(James G Webster, Jacob J. Wakshlag.1983).
Looking at narrative structure Tzventan Todorov a Bulgarian – French Historian described narrative as going from equilibrium to disequilibrium back to an altered equilibrium. Equilibrium, sets the scene, Disequilibrium, a conflict of some sort occurs which disturbs the peace but finally we get back to the stage of new equilibrium where normality is stored. This is how narratives are structured for almost all types of Television and films. My chosen case study for crime Drama genre is the series Sherlock based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories. This Drama can be seen as supporting this narrative theory as the episodes always start off as having no problems and everything is calm but as the episodes continues a problem will occur and Sherlock will then have to solve it and restore normality. Giving an example of this is in Series 1 Episode 2 ‘The Blind Baker’, the episode beings with a lady working in a museum and pouring tea into old ancient Chinese ornaments, it’s humorous as one of the workers is trying to flirt with the lady and ask her out but she pays him no attention and shuts him down. This is the Equilibrium stage. As the story continues in the same location the atmosphere turns dark and the lady disappears due to seeing a yellow sign drawn on statue which causes a mystery element and confusion to what is happening as well as this a banker is killed and the same yellow sign is shown to be painted on a painting. This is the disequilibrium stage. Sherlock is called to solve the crime and eventually reveals that these two people the banker and the lady from the museum were killed as they used to be a part of a smuggling crew in China called “The black Lotus’ and they were thought to have stolen an item from them after solving this crime normality is restored, this being the new equilibrium stage.
(Yvonne Maphosa, 2013).
The primary audience for this Series is a younger audience around the ages of 15-25 as the mystery element of this drama would be more appealing to them. The secondary audience is of the older generation around the ages of 30 and above as this series of Sherlock is based off the older Sherlock Holmes detective stories so an older audience may have an interest in watching the newer version of the books. The show uses two great actors to play the main role ‘Benedict Cumberbatch’ As Sherlock and Martin Freeman as John Watson. I think by using these attractive actors to play the roles of strong characters defiantly appeals to the audience and attracts them to continue to watch the show. Right from the start Sherlock’s character is intimate and for the audience it is exciting to watch a character who is extraordinary. Looking at the uses and gratification theory by Blumer and Katz (1959) it is an approach to understanding how and why people look for specific media. According to Sherlock the audience would be seeking ‘personal identity’ as they find Sherlock’s behaviour admiring and they may wish to be able to solve crimes in the way he does, his character is strong and empowering so for an audience member this is appealing and they may seek this quality in themselves. Comparing ‘Sherlock’ to other very popular crime Drama series the strategies they use to keep their audience attracted aren’t very different, almost all crime dramas now have the same elements of mystery and admirable characters, however I would say that ‘Sherlock’ has its elements of humour and Solemnity so for me as an audience member I find the mix appealing and engaging to watch.
Sherlock has 4 series and aired from 2010 to 2017.The drama stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin freeman as Doctor John Watson. Sherlock is a “consulting detective” and aids the metropolitan police service, and becomes friends with Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade, played by Rupert Graves and solves crimes to help him out. Sherlock labels himself as a high functioning sociopath and as his mind works in an unusual way. Dr John Watson who moves into a flat share with Sherlock after returning from Military service in Afghanistan assists him in crime solving and also becomes his close friend. Considering typical conventions of Crime drama, Characters play a key part in this genre. Applying Vladimir Propp’s character theory, a scholar who analysed the components in Russian folk tales, the theory states that every narrative has eight different character types, the main ones being, the hero which in this case would be Sherlock Holmes as he solves the crime and restores normality, the helper, being Dr John Watson, he is seen as Sherlock’s other half he helps him with solving these crimes and also helps him by being his friend. The helper can also be the police department as they also assist Sherlock. The final character being the villain, the villain in the Sherlock series is James Moriarty who is classed as Sherlock’s arched enemy and causes trouble for Sherlock to fix. The reason that always have this pattern of the hero versus the villain or the hero and the damsel in distress is because it is what audiences have become immune to. We enjoy seeing the hero and the villain, good versus bad. Another convention to do with characters in the crime drama genre is that the drama itself is named after the leading character, examples being ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Luther’ named after the leading role character John Luther. Often these leading characters in Crime Dramas have a personality imperfection using my case study ‘Sherlock’ as the main example, Sherlock is considered to be a ‘psychopath’ by the people he works with from the police department however he considers himself a ‘high functioning sociopath’ as his brain functions faster than most. His character also is seen as emotionless and unable to understand or develop feelings, however later as he becomes closer to Dr john Watson it is revealed that he is capable of having feeling but not understanding them or understanding others.
As said in Jason Millers book, ‘Genre and television’, ‘television genres matter as cultural categories’, genres are there to create organisation and put together a group of similar styled television that follow certain rules. How do we recognise these genres? We see the typical conventions used for that genre. Looking at conventions of crime dramas the usual setting is often in a well-known city or capital, often because they are seen as dangerous or as having a high crime rate and also being well known, examples of this are CSI: Miami and Sherlock. Within the main location there are individual location such as police stations, detectives house, science labs and other various locations are used. However, this isn’t always the case some TV crime drama can be set in countryside’s as it can highlight crime in unexpected areas. In the Sherlock series, all the episodes are based in London except one ‘The hounds of Baskerville’ where Sherlock and Dr john Watson take on a case from Henry knight, played by Russel Tovey, Henry as a child witnessed the killing of his father by what he calls the ‘gigantic hound’, Sherlock visits a military research base in Baskerville and it is revealed that the hounds were in fact images induced by a drug that was created by the man who actually killed Henry’s father. The rest of the Sherlock series are based in London, having an episode based in the countryside this can appeal to the target audience as they are used to seeing crime dramas based in popular cities so seeing crimes take place elsewhere can be a surprising change for them. Having the series ‘Sherlock’ based in a very popular city can also be appealing for their target audience as everyone is aware of London as being prominent. It also gives them a key branding image, the title sequence for Sherlock features the many tourist attraction in London again keeping a branding image for the series. ‘Sherlock’ received a great deal of popularity especially due to the actors who played the main roles, London is now the place known by many for where ‘Sherlock’ was filmed, the locations have become a tourist attraction and a Sherlock museum has also been opened and the flat where Sherlock’s character lived has also become a tourist attraction. When it comes to the branding of ‘Sherlock’, this series was bound to be a hit as it is based on the very popular Sherlock Holmes stories written in 1887, the fact that the drama was based on a character that most admired and already had a great fan base, it gave the drama a great advantage. The promotional material used for ‘Sherlock’ was mainly trailers for each season, the trailers revolved around dark and mysterious atmospheres to attract a target audience of a young generation as to them puzzling atmospheres can be intriguing. The branding image for ‘Sherlock’ was dark and bewildering in its trailers, Posters and Television advertisements. Having this dark atmosphere is also another convention of crime dramas. This Creates an unusual atmosphere for its audience. The Sherlock series was aired on BBC, The British Broadcasting corporation, it is the world’s oldest national broadcasting organisation, as it is such a well-established company this also helps the branding for this series as The BBC are known for their popular Television series so Sherlock had already gained a huge audience.
(The Editors of encyclopaedia.2017)
(James G Webster, Jacob J. Wakshlag.1983).
Binary Oppositions, a French anthropologist named Levi Struss’s theory that explores to keep an audience interested the story needs to have an interesting narrative there is always a sort of binary opposition in order to keep an audience entertained. With crime genres, the usual binary opposite is ‘Crime solvers vs criminals’. Applying ‘Sherlock’ to this, the target audience for this series enjoy seeing good vs bad, Sherlock being good, the hero who saves the day versus the opposite, the bad guy being the criminals in each episode who have conflict with the good guy. In Sherlock, the first three episodes in the first season have 3 different criminals each with different mind sets and different goals, for and audience this is appealing as they enjoy seeing these conflicting characters. However, in season two the same bad guy is used for each episode this being ‘Jim moriarty’, Jim sets Sherlock up with multiple crime puzzles to solve but no one at this point knows who Jim is. Sherlock’s audience enjoyed having the same villain and moriarty was the most favourable because of his satire personality and the audience enjoy seeing Sherlock against a villain whom the audience actually like.
Overall, television genres have given audience’s the opportunity to understand the many types of programmes out there. There are many types of genres, they can be divided into sub genres and example being the Genre Horror, this can be divided into the sub-genre vampire horror. For an audience being able to notice these genres and sub genres is important.