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This is just about my all-time favorite TV show. It follows real homicide detectives as they work to solve actual cases. You get to ride along with them and see how they put together the clues and catch their suspects. You get to see the devastating effects these homicides have on the families of the victims. You can see how the detectives interview actual suspects and how they handle the strain this rather grim and arduous work which often pulls them out of bed in the middle of the night to go to some miserable crime scene to examine a dead guy who was alive only an hour or so before. These detectives are admirable, heroic, stoic and dedicated to do the work they do and they're not without a sense of humor. This sense of humor isn't the breezy, wisecracking sort you get on the fictional cop shows, but a genuine dark humor which comes from an all-too-real appreciation of the tragic nature of their work and the absurdities of the situations they have to deal with. For example, a suspect is being interrogated by a female officer. The suspect is saying how he was friends with the victim and would never hurt him. However, it's looking more and more obvious he did it. "I knew him since grammar school, he's like a brother to me," the suspect pleads, "I love him to death." The detective replies: "I hope nobody ever loves me that much."
The vast majority of these murders occur in minority neighborhoods. This is a fact of life that many people have a hard time getting their heads around. Why this is may be a complex question. There seems to be a feeling of resignation among the residents of these 'hoods. They are very often reluctant to give information to the police even though they are the ones suffering most from the crimes around them, and though cooperating with the cops would be the surest way to mitigate the crime problem which is making their lives a living hell.
You can observe several salient things watching "The First 48." First, the housing in these high crime neighborhoods isn't really so bad. Second, people appear to be well-fed and possess TVs, cellphone, iPods and all kinds of consumer items including pretty good cars and nice clothes. You are far more likely to see obese people than starving people.
The third thing that impresses is the absolutely deadpan, casual, mindless and cold-blooded way these killers usually commit their murders. Most of them appear to be sleepwalking. They kill on impulse, not from passion or even for some economic gain. They kill innocent bystanders as easily as they kill intended targets. They hardly appear to know how to aim their guns. It seems you have generations of young thugs who appear to be just too dumb to think of anything else to do than to go out and shoot their friends and neighbors for...well, it doesn't even seem like sport, it's more like just something to relive the boredom. I don't know the reason for this, but it is the most absolutely remarkable thing you come to know from watching this series or just reading the stories in the newspapers. It is profoundly shocking to realize that a large cohort of young men, often in their late teens and early 20s have such little regard for human life, and little regard for anything else either. Often the young killers appear stunned, zombielike, when they find themselves in police custody, like they have no idea why they're there and wondering when they can go home.
This show is beautifully produced, visually and structurally, with a very real sense of compassion for the families and friends of the victims. Though the killers seem to be emotionally detached, the families of the victims feel the loss of a loved one very deeply indeed. "The First 48" touches on so many subjects, sociology, criminology, old-fashioned detective work, spirituality, psychology and forensics. It is just about the best 'reality' show on TV today.
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