Does Fictional Crime Mirror Real Life?

As long term readers of this blog will know, I’m a fan of crime fiction, both in terms of the written word, but also on TV. The last few weeks of TV have been particularly good, with there being something new to watch nearly every night of the week (barring live FA cup matches and other sporting interludes).

It set me thinking that with all the crime shows on TV, does it really reflect real life, or is it perhaps a bit of gratuitous entertainment?

So picking this past week as an example here’s what’s been on the main terrestrial channels and the body count:

Sunday: Vera (ITV1): 2 murders

Monday & Tuesday: Silent Witness (BBC1): 6 murders

Wedesday: Midsummer Murders (ITV1): 3 murders (nearly 4, but Ch. Insp. Barnaby saved the day in the nick of time).

The BBC is also showing Death In Paradise and Shetland on Thursdays and Fridays respectively, both great shows, but for the purposes of this calculation I’m going to exclude them. The reason being is that the data from the Office for National Statistics covers only England and Wales and therefore the two shows are outside of that jurisdiction. I’ve also excluded repeats and reruns on other channels because they technically are in the past, the above are new / current series never shown before.

So fictional body count from above = 11 (in under a week), so rounded up (11 x 52 = 572). Compared to the figure of 534 for “homicide” in the above ONS statistics (Year April 2014 to March 2015, the most recent stats available).

So gratuitous entertainment? It doesn’t really feel like it is, although the numbers whether they are fictional or actual are quite shocking. Given the ebb and flow of the TV crime shows, the numbers will go up and down week to week, as shows come to the end of their run and are off air before new ones start.

Obviously some longer term analysis might be useful, but as snapshot it appears that perhaps the numbers are not far from reality, and compared to ten years ago when the number of actual homicides was 868, and the number of crime shows on TV probably less, perhaps it’s not a bad reflection (sadly) of real life, if it is somewhat over dramatised for entertainment.