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Series / The First 48

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"For homicide detectives, the clock starts ticking the moment they are called. Their chance of solving a case is cut in half if they don't get a lead in The First 48 hours".

American documentary series running from 2004 to the present. It follows homicide detectives in a number of US cities as they solve real-life murders.

It's a good antidote to the glamorised crime dramas out there, especially CSI: Miami, since Miami is a frequent location in the show.

This show contains examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: The first victim talked about in the episode "Loose Ends" was apparently one of the perpetrators in a robbery that ended in murder. He was apparently killed by a fellow robber who was angry that he had failed to dispose of a cell phone that he had used to set up the robbery. They show pictures of the victim when he was younger and have his mother talk about how devastated she was by his death, how proud she was when he graduated from high school, how she always knew that he would stay at home with her even after his siblings moved out, and how distressed she was when she heard that he had himself been involved in committing a homicide.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In one case, the police, lacking evidence to arrest their main suspect for murder, arrested him for driving with a suspended license. This ended up being useful, as it allowed them to tow his car and search it for evidence, then use the car as bait to lure the suspect back to be arrested for murder once they had more evidence.
  • Asshole Victim: Although they make a point of mentioning family members left behind, and pointing out they don't make judgements about the victim, many of the murder victims are criminals with the motive being things like a drug deal gone bad. You can sometimes guess when the end result will be one of the rare cases of justified homicide on the part of someone who wasn't involved in criminal activity when they defended themselves because the show, when presenting facts about the victim, won't provide such sympathetic information about them.
  • Badass Boast: Det. Thompson of the Dallas Police Department delivers one to the voicemail of a suspect on the run.
    I may not get you today, I may not get you tomorrow, I may not get you next week. But I need you to know Nate, you cannot outrun a capital murder warrant. 'Cuz I'm tellin' you right now, I'm gettin' ready to put some medicine on you. I promise you that.
    • They got him.
  • Bilingual Backfire: A suspect called his home from the Miami Homicide interrogation room and told his father, in Creole, to hide the murder weapon. Even described it so the father knew what it was. A Haitian-born detective watched on a monitor in another room, and translated the call with a big grin on her face. The detectives barely managed not to howl with laughter.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: As the show is about homicide detectives, most of whom who have been on the job for years and have seen many bodies killed in assorted horrible ways, they tend to be dispassionate about most of the cases they deal with, casually discussing the scene and chatting or even joking with each other. The exceptions tend to be when children or other purely innocent and/or helpless victims are involved.
  • Cigar Chomper: Cleveland detective Ignatius "Nate" Sowa.
  • Confess to a Lesser Crime: Frequently, people will end up confessing to crimes such as prostitution and drug possession. Sometimes the people who confess to lesser crimes include the ones who end up being charged with murder.
    • In one case, a man was found in possession of a homicide victim's cell phone. While apparently caught red-handed in possession of stolen property, he said that all he had done was buy the phone from a "crackhead." The "crackhead" he identified, in turn, eventually said that he had stolen the phone from the victim's dead body but denied killing him. This didn't stop said crackhead from getting life without parole for first-degree murder after an eyewitness identified him as the shooter.
    • A common and idiotic version is when one of the participants in a robbery that ended in death confesses to involvement in the robbery but claims (truthfully or falsely) that they aren't the one who did the killing, thinking they will get off on the big charge. Then, all the robbers usually end up getting charged with murder for being involved, even if some of them didn't directly participate in the killing (or weren't even there) and had no idea a death was going to occur.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Double example: in "One Gram" (Harris County, Texas), a drug dealer threatened to kill another dealer who sold him four ounces of cocaine and said it was five. The latter dealer responded to the threat by killing him.
    • In another case, two men were killed because their friends cheated other criminals (and ended up dropping off a ransom at the wrong place).
  • Downer Ending: Occasionally, an episode will end without a case being solved.
  • Dueling Shows: With the Indianapolic-centric The Squad.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In one episode, a couple was gunned down in their home, with their young daughter calling 911 for help. After arresting the gunman, one of the officers mentions that he thanked the gunman for not hurting the children in the house; according to the officer, the gunman's face became "very disturbed," and he said that people "in his game" don't do anything to children.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: you'll see partial shots of corpses and bloody crime scenes, but you usually won't see bullet wounds or a victims's contorted dead face.
  • Guilt-Ridden Accomplice: Sometimes, someone who accompanied the killer during a robbery or drug deal gone bad, or was involved in a murder conspiracy, will claim to be this and point to someone they say is the one who physically killed the victim.
  • Exact Time to Failure: We constantly get a nice digital countdown of the time remaining in The First 48, even though the statistic is undoubtably an approximation.
  • Handicapped Badass: Louisville detective Kevin Trees has a prosthetic left leg.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Happens reasonably often during interrogations.
  • Lying to the Perp: Not used that often during interrogations, but it sometimes does happen.
  • Master of Disguise: Miami detective Joe Schillaci is a former undercover narcotics agent and he puts his old talents to good use in one case, impersonating a drug-addled homeless man to track down a heroin dealer who murdered one of his rivals.
  • Murder by Mistake: Has happened quite a bit. In one case the victim of the episode was killed by a stray bullet inside a gas station—the intended target of the shooting had been standing just outside and was shot in the leg.
  • Mooks: The show has scads of White meth dealers and Black crack dealers who all tend to run together after a while.
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: Subverted in "House of Santeria." The first major suspect is a friend of a murdered doctor, who was allegedly a boyfriend of the victim and who was allegedly on bad terms with the victim and who the victim apparently tried to use voodoo-like practices to control and curse. When the suspect receives a phone call from police, he tells them they have to talk to his lawyer first. The sergeant in charge of the case expresses dismay and disbelief that "he lawyered up over the phone." The suspect ends up talking to the police and providing an alibi. Later, someone else confesses to the crime.
  • Pixellation: a lot of it. The show uses this technique to hide the faces of witnesses, corpses, and (innocent) suspects. This leads into a meta-version of Genre Savvy: when a suspect's face is not hidden by Pixellation, it's a sure bet that they end up arrested and charged for the murder.
  • Pull the Thread: a standard goal of interrogating a suspect is to get them to admit to a small thing and proceeding from there until their story falls apart.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: quite often they don't recover usable fingerprints, DNA, or other forensic evidence that audiences have come to expect in crime dramas.
  • Serial Killer: As they are much rarer in Real Life than they are in fiction, they've only had a few in the years they've been on the air, the first being Terry Blair (Kansas City). Remarkably enough, however, he tried to engage in Criminal Mind Games by calling to taunt the authorities, and in an even yet more unbelievable bit, they narrow down his location by identifying the cell towers being used and identifying the sound of a train in the background to narrow it down to the right street.
    • The killers in the episode Killing Spree were accused of killing three people, execution-style, in the same area within two months. The main culprit was only convicted of two murder counts, though, and the only other person convicted as of the time the episode was aired was convicted on one count.
    • In the episode "Loose Ends," the main defendant was accused of being behind five murders and one attempted murder. He was only put on trial for one murder and the attempted one, though. He ended up pleading guilty to all five murders after being convicted of the attempt.
    • The episode "Predator" involved the arrest of Texas serial killer Steven Hobbs.
  • Spin-Off: The First 48: Missing Persons is a spinoff launched in early 2012. It covers missing persons investigations rather than homicide (though homicide can frequently happen to missing persons).
  • True Crime: A series detailing about, well, true crimes.