We’ll look at character in greater depth later on. Make the point that in the clips it’s actually quite difficult to identify victims – these are often minor roles (usually because they’re murdered early on!) We assume the police are the crime solvers but again, this is increasingly not the case as we’ll explore further later on.
What is a Television Crime Drama? Defining the genre
A television crime drama• Television Crime Drama is a genre (or type) of TV programme.• It always follows certain rules. The rules of a genre are called the conventions (typical elements) of a genre (type of programme).• Watch this trailer:• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBSkE6M8Vso&fe• What tells you it is a television Crime Drama programme?
Is it a television crime drama?1.Is it on television, or originally made for TV? (it can’t be a film that came out in cinemas)2. Is it mainly about a crime or series of crimes?3. Is it a drama (made-up, acted, fictional?)
Are these TV crime dramas?• X-Men• A documentary about drug smuggling• CSI: Miami• Thor• Reality show about police work• Dr Who• Morse• A story on the news about a murder• Pirates of the CaribbeanFor each example, say why it is or can’t be a TV crime drama. Use the three questions to help you decide: • Is it on television, or originally made for TV? (it can’t be a film that came out in cinemas) • Is it mainly about a crime? • Is it a drama (made-up, acted, fictional?)
Genres and sub-genres• Within the main genre of crime dramas, Crime there can be lots of Dramas different types or sub-genres. Private detectives Police Forensics e.g. CSI, e.g. Sherlock Holmes, procedural The Body Farm Poirot, e.g. Prime Suspect, Miss Marple Law and Order
Genres and hybridsWithin TV Crime Drama there can also be hybrids, where the programme is mixture of different genres.• For example Life on Mars takes elements of Crime Drama and elements of Science Fiction and mixes these together. This makes Life on Mars a hybrid genre programme.• The Bill took elements from TV crime drama and elements from soap operas, making it a hybrid genre.
Genres, sub-genres and hybrids• Watch this clip of Life on Marshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhffuKpgVyMWhat typical crime drama elements does it have?What typical sci-fi elements does it have?
Typical charactersCrime dramas usually include three types of character:• The ones who solve the crimes (detectives, private eyes, police officers, forensic scientists).• The ones who commit the crimes (criminals, murderers, thieves).• The victims (the ones who get murdered, attacked, robbed, beaten up, mugged, stolen from, burgled).
Typical plot / storyline• The typical plot centres around solving a crime (the murder, attack, burglary)• The story usually follows those who solve the crime (the detectives, police)• The crime is not usually solved until the end of the episode or programme.
To keep you interested…One of the pleasures of TV Crime drama is watching the crime get solved. But if it was solved too quickly or easily, it wouldn’t be interesting. So Crime Drama plots usually have:• A mystery or enigma at the start – a puzzle or mystery – who killed the dead man? And why?• Lots of suspense – will they catch the killer in time?• A red herring – will they arrest the wrong person; do the clues point to an innocent person?• Some personal drama – the detectives marriage is falling apart; the detectives fall out with each other; the detective loses his promotion.
Narratives and closure• If it is a one-off drama, then the narrative will be closed (all the loose ends will be tied up at the end of the programme).• If it is a series, there may be one storyline that gets finished in the episode, for example a crime that is solved, then other storylines that run on through the whole series. These other storylines may end on cliff-hangers to keep the audience coming back for the next episode.
TodorovTodorov suggested that most stories follow five stages:• Equilibrium – everything is normal at the start• Disruption – something happens: a crime, a mystery• Recognition – people see something has happened and react to it• Attempt to repair – people try to put things right, solve the crime, catch the criminal• Resolution - everything is solved, worked out, fixed, and there is a new equilibrium
For example…It’s an ordinary night and a party is taking place.A car blows up as a footballer gets into it.Emergency services are called to the scene.The police investigate the crime, follow leadsd,interview witnesses etc.The criminal is identified and arrested and the worldgoes back to how it was except that the footballer isdead and the murderer is in jail.
Typical settings for TV Crime Drama• Often in the city (seen as a dangerous place)• But sometimes in the countryside…consider the murder rate in Midsomer!Within this, individual locations often include:police stationslaw courtsscience labspolice carsdetectives’ housesalleywaysnightclubsvictims’ houses….
Applying what you’ve learnt so far…Whilst watching the episode of Sherlock, complete the worksheet detailing these genre conventions:Sub-genre/hybridNarrative – applying Todorov, identifying plot devices and narrative closureCharacter – criminals, crime solvers & victimsSettings
Mise-en-sceneMise-en-scene refers to what can be seen in a camera shot.• What are the characters’ positions (facing the camera? Standing aggressively? Sitting shyly?) What does this tell us about what kind of person they are?• What are the characters’ facial expressions? (Glaring at the camera? Smiling? Laughing? Winking?) What does this tell us about what kind of person they are?• What props (things) are there in the shot? (A coffee mug? A new car? A gun? A pencil?) What does this tell us about the situation?• What costume does the character have? ( A suit? Jeans? A flowery dress?) What does this tell us about the person/situation?• Where is the location or setting? (in a front room? In prison? In an office?) What does this tell us about the situation?• Is the lighting bright or dim? Full-on or from the side? What mood does this give to the image?
Mise-en-scene analysis• Look at these images taken from a selection of crime dramas.Describe what you can see in each image:• Characters posture, position, facial expression• Costumes• Location• Props• Lighting• Camera shot type and angleHow does each image have a different mood and feel? What similarities do you notice between them?What do you think is happening in each scene and do you think the characters are criminals, victims or crime-solvers?
Homework• Repeat the previous analysis using an episode of a crime drama of your choice.• Make notes on the mise-en-scene of the programme and comment on whether you think it is typical of crime drama.
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