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The best television crime boxsets

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Top 10 crime boxsets to buy

A good, meaty crime DVD or Blu-ray boxset makes for ideal binge watching, but where do you start? Simon Brew, editor of Den of Geek, selects 10 to make entire weekends disappear before your very eyes...
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Broadchurch

Broadchurch

A crime drama that kept lots of people guessing back in 2013, Broadchurch is set in a small seaside town, where the death of an 11-year old boy sparks a major whodunit. Heading the investigation are two detectives who barely get on, played by David Tennant and the always-brilliant Olivia Colman. Yet what lifts Broadchurch above the usual crime drama clichés are brilliant writing and some committed performances. And it keeps you guessing right until the final episode.
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The Sweeney

The Sweeney

Forget the recent movie version, the real Sweeney is original 53-episode 1970s’ television series. It’s hard-nosed stuff, too, with John Thaw’s Jack Regan and Dennis Waterman’s George Carter battling violent crime in London. With the criminals they’re up against willing to use extreme tactics to get their way, Regan and Carter have little choice but to match them. Full of mistrust, violence, moments of precise humour and a wonderful double act at the heart of it, The Sweeney is a rightly revered crime classic.
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The Killing

The Killing

The success of both the Swedish and English language takes on Wallander opened the door to a rich collection of Scandinavian crime drama. If you’re okay with subtitles, then The Killing is arguably the best of the lot. There are three series in all, but it’s the first that sees the show at its peak — a dark drama about the investigation into the murder of a young woman. Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Lund is a remarkable and rounded character, too. There’s an English language take on The Killing as well, but the Danish original is the best.
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Prime Suspect

Prime Suspect

Helen Mirren’s career has given her some wonderful roles, not least her Oscar-winning turn as Elizabeth II in The Queen. However, her best performance might just be in the part that brought her to prominence — Prime Suspect’s DCI Jane Tennison. In truth, later Prime Suspects would take questionable turns with her character, but the earlier episodes are exceptionable and happily stand the test of time. Even in the weaker moments, Mirren remains a class act.
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Police Squad!

Police Squad!

Only six episodes of Police Squad! were ever made, running to just over 20 minutes apiece. The show was cancelled, and that, by most measures, would have been that. But then those episodes kept playing and playing, and those reruns eventually built to the Naked Gun movie trilogy. That said, lots of people have seen the Naked Gun films, but few have explored the debut of Frank Drebin, as played by the late, great Leslie Nielsen. It doesn’t cost much to correct that and Police Squad! is the funniest crime drama known to humankind.
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Cagney and Lacey

Cagney and Lacey

An 80s’ classic, the tone for which is set the minute Bill Conti’s iconic theme tune kicks in, Cagney & Lacey made stars of Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless — even though Gless didn’t join the show until the second season. Cagney and Lacey ran for seven seasons in total and addressed its fair share of serious issues across 125 episodes. So while it’s rightly remembered for its wonderful characters, the series had far more to say too than it was usually given credit for.
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The Wire

The Wire

Hyperbole maybe, but The Wire is a towering achievement in modern American television. Five complex seasons explore the drug problem in Baltimore from a variety of differing viewpoints. Season one focuses on both a police investigation and the people they’re investigating, but subsequent runs turn to the impact of education, the media and politics. It’s gripping television and worth watching all the way through at least twice.
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Life On Mars/Ashes To Ashes

Life On Mars/Ashes To Ashes

The adventures of Gene Hunt and his politically incorrect policing tactics spanned five series: two of Life On Mars and three of Ashes To Ashes. Both shows had an underlying fantasy element, as two modern day police officers find themselves transported back to the 1970s and 1980s. Razor-sharp writing, some truly moving moments and plenty of laughs are the core of both.
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Inspector Morse

Inspector Morse

The late John Thaw dominated British crime drama with his superb performance as Inspector Endeavour Morse. Alongside Kevin Whately as his partner, Lewis, his gruff demeanour and intense intelligence were pitted against cases that each were given sufficient screen time to satisfyingly play out. Once you’ve caught up on Morse, do consider the follow-up series Endeavour, which documents Morse’s early career. The spin-off series, Lewis, is also worth a look.
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Sherlock

Sherlock

The role that made Benedict Cumberbatch a star, this modern day take on Sherlock Holmes is a major international TV hit — and rightly so. Each adventure runs to 90 minutes, uses Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories as the basis of the plot and marries up strong comedy, extra-clever sleuthing and an intriguing mystery. Even at its weakest, Sherlock is a strong show. At its best, it’s pretty much hard to beat.
 
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