A staple of television since the early years of the BBC, British crime drama first crossed the Atlantic on public broadcasting stations and specialty cable channels, and later through streaming services. Often engaging with domestic anxieties about the government’s power (or lack thereof), and with larger issues of social justice like gender equality, racism, and homophobia, it has constantly evolved to reflect social and cultural changes while adapting U.S. and Nordic noir influences in a way that retains its characteristically British elements.
This collection examines the continuing appeal of British crime drama from The Sweeney through Sherlock, Marcella, and Happy Valley. Individual essays focus on male melodrama, nostalgia, definitions of community, gender and LGBTQ representation, and neoliberalism. The persistence of the English murder, as each chapter of this collection reveals, points to the complexity of British crime drama’s engagement with social, political, and cultural issues. It is precisely the mix of British stereotypes, coupled with a willingness to engage with broader global social and political issues, that makes British crime drama such a successful cultural export.