This 1986–88 NBC crime drama was Michael Mann's darker and grittier answer to Miami Vice, set amid the dregs of 1960s Chicago and later Las Vegas. Detective Mike Torello (Dennis Farina) and his band of roguish officers track mobster Ray Luca (Tony Denison) as he goes from small-time racketeer to casino mogul.
This series provides examples of:
- Big Bad: Ray Luca is about as big and bad as it gets.
- Black-and-Gray Morality: Luca and his crew are unequivocally bad, but Torello and his band of officers kill at will and defy legality to catch the bad guys.
- Breather Episode: Lots in the second season, most notably "Pauli Taglia's Dream", which was part clip show, part "how we got here" and pretty much all slapstick comedy.
- The Cameo: Stratosphere owner Bob Stupak plays a casino owner in one episode.
- A Day in the Limelight: Again, lots more in season 2 where they fleshed out Torello's crew. Luca even had one, where he was arguably the main protagonist dealing with a business too shady even for him, Hollywood.
- Good is Not Nice: Torello. Subverted if you're a victim, but God help you if you get on his bad side.
- Jurisdiction Friction: In "Pursuit of a Wanted Felon", Torello gets into it with a group of Federal agents about who has the right to bust Frank Holman, who is holed up in a motel in Toledo. While Torello and the Feds are arguing, Holman makes his escape...on a bicycle!
- Meta Casting: Series star Dennis Farina was actually a former Chicago PD detective and had actually once arrested former jewel thief John Santucci, who played Ray Luca's criminal sidekick Pauli Taglia.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Manny Weisbord is quite clearly an Expy of Meyer Lansky.
- No Ending: A third season never materialized, thus the show ends on a Cliffhanger.
- Not Quite Dead: Ray Luca, though it's left somewhat ambiguous whether he is Back from the Dead, since he is quite clearly blown up in a nuclear bomb test at the end of season one. In a case of Chemistry Can Do Anything he is revived by scientists for reasons unknown. It was later explained that they were revived at the behest of Luca's old boss Manny Wisebord.
- Odd Friendship: Hard-nosed, brutal, violent cop Torello, and straitlaced, mild-mannered liberal attorney David Abrams form a surprisingly formidable team.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: John Santucci, who played dumb-but-lovable Mob flunky Pauli Taglia, started out in the end credits. He made his way up to the 'With' credits (the credits that aired before the Guest Stars), where most of the actors who played mobsters were listed. When the series shifted locales from Chicago to Las Vegas during the first season, Santucci, the breakout star of the series, made his way into the opening titles, between Paul Butler and Stephen Lang. In the second season, he'd moved up the ladder to fourth-billed, after Dennis Farina, Anthony Denison and Bill Smitrovich.
- Recap Episode: "Crime Pays" in the first season, "Pauli Taglia's Dream" in the second season.
- Re-Release Soundtrack: Crime Story used a lot of pop standards in its soundtrack, most of which were swapped out for generic, similar-style tunes in the video release.
- There Is No Kill like Overkill: Ray Luca gets a hell of an assassination, being tied up and driven to a test site where he gets nuked. Somehow he survives.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Ray Luca's crew consists of the dumb Pauli Taglia and the even dumber Frank Holman. So Luca comes to this realization very often.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Ray Luca in season two.
- Villainous Friendship: Luca will backstab just about anyone to get ahead, but for the most part he is every bit as loyal to Pauli as Pauli is to him. He will verbally abuse him (and at one point raped his girlfriend), but for the most part he always had his back even when it didn't serve him well to do so.
- Viva Las Vegas!: The second season of the show is mostly set here. The city is shown to be a teeming hive of underworld activity and a member of Torello's crew develops a gambling problem.