A great crime show has a twisted and charming reliability: Who doesn't love the intrigue of a heinous fictional crime, with the promise that it will be neatly resolved within an hour?
The best crime shows add a little more nuance. The Wire isn't a series about choosing sides — jaded lawmen vs. strategic gangsters — but about seeing how everyone's soul is compromised in the rat race toward a phony American dream. HBO's more recent The Night Of follows a similar pattern to its predecessors: There isn't just one experience when it comes to cops and crime — perspectives vary drastically based on where you are and what you look like.
The real criminal justice system seems closer to a horror-thriller these days, so the shows ahead might even be a little inspiring, too. In these series, dutiful, hardworking people try to make an inherently biased system work for everyone. The charm of all 450-plus episodes of Law & Order comes from its dependable formula. These are good cops working toward a fair conviction. That's not always true in real life.