Bingeing on crime shows a bit too much? Fear not; you’re in good company and the never-ending slew of crime drama on the idiot box is proof of that. Research says it makes your brain get sharper and smarter and you’re definitely not a psychopath!
Also, check my: Top five CRIME shows on Netflix
HONEST confession: I love crime. Even more honest: I am kind of obsessed with crime shows. And though something like Netflix and a host of other apps that let you binge on your favourite genre have just come into existence; my fascination with crime goes way back, much much before the internet revolution happened.
During my school days, it was a host of the usually acceptable detective books like Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes that fascinated me and made me into a mini detective of sorts, trying to catch a relative who had kleptomania– a tale best forgotten I think! Later in my teens, it was the scurrilous rag called Crime & Detective that held my attention more than the Mills and Boons that girls of my age were reading. The TDH or the tall, dark and handsome hero was not as appealing to me as the sinister guy or girl who committed ingenious crimes and never got caught.
And like one thing leads to another; my chief source for trying to understand the motivations of crime and the subsequent post-mortem reports was the very grown-up and forbidden (for us, the children, at least) thick book called Dr Parikh’s Textbook of Medical Jurisprudence, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology. It was one of the numerous books that dominated my doctor dad’s shelves in our house and I’m sure he didn’t imagine that I’d be reading it under bedcovers with a torch, at midnight, way past my bedtime. As you can imagine, it was quite a thrilling experience or boring, as you may be inclined to believe; but my fellow crime buffs thought it was awesome. Hell, I thought that too, armed with my scanty knowledge of forensic medicine as I trawled the deep dark world of sinners and culprits, who were all innocent until the evidence got them in.
Yes, of course, I’ve had phases where I saw and read a lot of other stuff too. But if you ask me, there’s nothing like a thriller or a crime series to get one’s attention from the first. That explains why I’d prefer Liam Neeson’s Taken to Mila Kunis’ Friends With Benefits, any day. Also, not to forget that we are so short on time nowadays that lengthy books and telly shows that take their time to pick up are no longer on anybody’s radar.
Coming back to crime, these shows excite because that’s when our brain is taxed to the maximum. But a point to ponder on: is too much crime viewing bad for you? I guess, like everything else, if done in extreme, the repercussions could lead to a skewing of the moral sense and a lot of cynicism, if you aren’t a cynical person already. So, moderation is really the key, in everything. And that’s just elementary, my dear Watson. And yes the crime shows just keep coming, one after the other. Demand creates supply?
As an article in the Telegraph by neuroscientist Dr Amanda Ellison of Durham University says: in order to stay healthy, the human brain needs to be kept active, and suspense-filled small screen thrillers provide a taxing mental workout because watching a powerful mystery is actually good for you. That’s a neuroscientific fact. She says it is because the best TV crime dramas build suspense over a number of episodes. They challenge viewers to pay attention to complicated stories, including red herrings, and to remember them from episode to episode. In other words, they provide great stimulation for the brain, which in turn helps keep it healthy, as the human brain needs to be kept active.
It can also trigger the release of brain chemicals such as serotonin (which helps us feel happy) and dopamine (which helps us feel rewarded). Serotonin and dopamine are crucial to a healthy brain: it is these chemicals that are often depleted in those suffering from depression. There’s also a ton of research if you’d like to trawl the net and read some interesting stuff, that pegs crime shows as becoming popular because our brains love puzzles and problems to solve, according to one of the proponents, psychologist Meredith Fuller talking in the body and soul website. Quoting her: “It’s all in the balance – yin and yang. There is an interest in understanding those human dichotomies and darkness in human nature.”
As for me, I am absolutely not confused about the ones I’d give the top five position to, on my favourite app Netflix; I just think I find it easier to watch superlative performances crafted by extremely sharp people; So most of the shows I like are coincidentally all award-winning.
Don’t they deserve it? You can decide that!
- Marcella: is a British “Nordic” noir detective series written, directed and produced by Swedish screenwriter Hans Rosenfeldt, creator of The Bridge.
USP: The gifted Anna Friel as Marcella Backland, a former London detective who returns to work after a hiatus once her husband leaves her and she battles personal demons. A strong woman with dark secrets, who has blackouts and is in a state of fugue sometimes and yet, does not flinch from doing her work to the best of her ability. And of course, the crime she commits which lie in the recesses of her mind, buried, somewhere, which we find out later. Full marks.
- The Sinner: is based on the book of the same name by German writer Petra Hammesfahr and is developed by Derek Simonds
USP: Jessica Biel is brilliant as the ordinary woman who goes to a beach with her husband and son and ends up stabbing a man in broad daylight. And she has no recollection why she did it. Can’t get better than this. Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) acts as the perfect foil to her, as he is also troubled and yet struggling to clear her name.
- Shetland: is based on the books by famous writer Ann Cleeves and brought to screen by David Kane
USP: Douglas Henshall as the very good, very upright Jimmy Perez, a detective inspector working for the Shetland police. The story takes place largely on the eponymous Scottish archipelago that is breathtakingly beautiful and introduces an eerie atmosphere because of its deserted locales.
- Hinterland: is created by Ed Talfan and is a Welsh noir police detective drama series.
USP: Richard Harrington as Detective Chief Inspector Tom Mathias is dark, brooding, and handsome with a world-weary air. Add to that, his vagabond lifestyle in a camper van where he lives after the death of his two daughters and he is separated from his wife, and our curiosity is aroused. The stunning Aberystwyth, Wales, as the backdrop, makes it an excellent watch.
- Luther: is a psychological crime drama created by Neil Cross
USP: Starring Idris Elba as DCI John Luther who is obsessive, possessed, and sometimes violent. An interesting man for whom the job always comes first. At times, Bollywoodesque with its propensity to glorify the hero and strange turns and twists, it nevertheless engrosses and engages. The beautiful and brilliant psychopath and murderer Alice Morgan who Luther investigates at first and how they end up becoming friends is a hook right from the beginning.
Watch them if you must and if you love crime. Many others like Requiem, Safe, The Forest, Blacklist, Sacred Games etc., have come and gone but these on my top FIVE list were well worth it, I felt. I’m currently checking out Gillian Anderson (of the X Files fame, yes that good looking actress with David Duchovny, remember?) play a game of wits with killer Jamie Dornan in the current season of The Fall. Uh, average, I would say.
As for my wishlist: can Netflix India just get some more brilliant, award-winning shows like The Bridge, Wallander and The Killing to our telly screens? Can’t wait for that!