One of the most popular and serious types of television shows is crime and mystery. Dealing with the complexities and grim realities of the world, it’s not often the genre one immediately goes to for fun. But in recent years, there have been shows that break away from brand tropes, showing the not-so-serious side of this business.
Without ignoring the darker parts of this genre, Crime & Mystery shows that leaning towards the comedic side can break the mold and deliver something different and unique. Primarily due to the personal lives of the detectives and police solving the crimes, or the incompetence and over-complication of those who commit them, the comedy potential is certainly not lost.
‘Castle’ (2009 – 2016)
Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) is a bestselling crime novel writer who just killed off his most famous character. With nothing better to do with his life, he receives a call from the NYPD, who need him for a murder investigation, as this murder is staged as one of his books.
Finding new inspiration, he becomes a consulting partner for Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), much to his initial annoyance. As the series continues, the investigations Castle and Beckett take on take them to unconventional and strange places as their relationship develops.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (2021 – 2013)
This crew is on a mission to catch the bad guys and look good doing it. Stoic Captain Raymond Holt (André Braugher) runs the 99th Brooklyn Police Department, managing its diverse group of detectives; childlike Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), enthusiastic Charles Boyle (Joe Lou Truglio), the aggressive Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatrice), innovative but competitive Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero), capable and strong Sargent Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews), fickle public relations assistant Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti) and bumbling lead detectives Hitchcock and Scully (Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller).
Together they solve crimes in Brooklyn, balancing their personal (and romantic) relationships and their hijinks, personalities, and quirks along the way.
‘Psych’ (2006 – 2014)
As a child, Shawn Spencer (james roday) learned from his father to develop an impressive photographic memory and a keen eye for detail. Suffering from burnout as an adult, he becomes an amateur consultant for the Santa Barbra police after using his abilities to convince detectives that he possesses psychic powers.
Opening a new detective agency with his best friend Gus (Dule Hill), they solve crimes while maintaining Shawn’s charade and dealing with their odd behavior and lack of authentic experience. But while they don’t always take things seriously, Shawn’s skills usually shine through.
‘Cop Rock’ (1990)
Cop Rock was a short-lived series that only lasted 11 episodes and is considered by many to be one of the worst television shows of all time. At first, it feels like your standard crime drama – a team of elite officers investigating crimes in Los Angeles.
But there’s a weird twist: it’s a musical. In each episode, several songs appear in places such as court verdicts, arrests, and even criminals singing about their sordid behavior. Balancing serious subject matter with flashy, over-the-top musical numbers was never a good move. Still, the completely bonkers premise makes for a fun watch that added something interesting to the genre.
‘The Afterparty’ (2022-)
A high school reunion afterparty went horribly wrong when the famous host (David Franco) dies suddenly. When the lead detective (Tiffany Haddish) arrives on the scene, nearly everyone at the party gets a chance to explain what they saw that night. As the suspects tell their stories through their individual episodes, the style and tone changes from person to person.
From musicals and action movies to romantic comedies and psychological thrillers, each story becomes a pastiche as their little truths begin to slip away. One of them (Sam Richardson) tries to clear his name when it looks like he’s going to fall.
“Only Murders in the Building” (2021-)
A faded television star (Steve Martin), a selfish but broke Broadway director (Martin runs), and a reclusive young artist (Selena Gomez) live in an apartment building in New York City. They quickly discover that they share a love of murder mystery podcasts, only to find that someone else living in their apartment building has been murdered.
They decide to start a podcast, investigating this strange development and how it affects them in their lives. While the series isn’t afraid to be dramatic, it still hinges on the humor of the central trio’s dysfunction, their lack of real-world experience, and the fact that their conclusions don’t match what they themselves, nor the audience, are waiting.
Terry Seattle (Arnett) is your standard, badass, traumatized detective who investigates murders in the big city on a daily basis. But with each new day comes a new partner – played by a rotating list of guest celebrities. Conan O’Brien, Marshawn Lynch, Sharon Stoneand others come to play as rookie partners in Seattle’s latest case.
But while Seattle and the rest of the Murderville the cast and crew have a storyline to follow, the celebrity guest must improvise their way through the mystery and try to figure out who the murderer is.
‘The Air Hostess’ (2020-)
It’s certainly the darkest ending of the murder cop comedies, but the laughs it provides are still very present and needed, especially with an unusual choice for a main character. Alcoholic stewardess Cassie Bowden (Haley Cuoco) wakes up after a night of fun in Bangkok to find a corpse next to her.
She tries to understand precisely what happened; all the while, the FBI is on his trail. As the truth begins to come to light, Cassie questions her allies and begins to re-examine her behavior and her life as she grapples with her dark past.
‘Reno 911’ (2003-2009, 2020-)
Police departments are supposed to protect their citizens and capture those who break the law. So when a crime is on the streets of the biggest little city in the world, who will protect it? Because, unfortunately, it’s stuck with these idiots. Taking a parody approach to crime reality shows, this mockumentary series uses a general outline for otherwise improvised episodes.
The Reno Sheriff’s Department has agreed to participate in a documentary series. They take cameras at work, but their incompetence and less than politically correct behavior quickly comes to light.
“Gravity Falls” (2012-2016)
While it might not seem like a series one usually associates with a typical mystery show, behind the colorful facade and hilarious comedy of this Disney Channel family series is a truly exciting conspiracy. Dipper twin siblings (Jason Ritter) and Mabel Pines (Kristen Schal) were sent by their parents to the small town of Gravity Falls, Oregon.
They stay with their great-uncle Stan (Alex Hirsch) in his workplace – a ramshackle tourist trap called the Mystery Shack. But this town has more than a few paranormal secrets, and the Pines twins are on the case. But they don’t realize that Stan is hiding his own secrets.
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