University of Salford MediaCity Campus
Part of the remit of PLTV fest is to celebrate the best work from the small screen, past present & future, but also to shine the spotlight on work that we feel doesn't get the recognition it deserves. The police drama has always been fertile ground for TV, from’ The Detectives’ of the 1950’s to the likes of The Killing & Luther we see today. The Wire, with its sprawling dissection of the layers of infrastructure of a failing city, took the format to new levels, and is rightfully hailed as a cornerstone of contemporary visual storytelling.
But, before The Wire there was an American show that changed everything in the 1990’s.
Homicide: Life On The Street was no ordinary cop show. It’s starting point was a seminal book by the, then Baltimore journalist David Simon (The Wire, Treme), recounting his time shadowing the city’s Homicide department. The meticulous, investigatory nature of the source text, met with a rough around the edges visual style implemented by creators Barry Levinson (Oscar winning director of Rain Man), Paul Attanasio (writer of Quiz Show/Donnie Brasco) & Tom Fontana (producer of landmark dramas St Elsewhere & Oz), gave the show a unique and unpredictable flavour. Unlike its predecessors, following an established formula, this wasn't about tying everything neatly into an hour run time, it was about the daily lives of this disparate group of Baltimore detectives as they juggle cases with ordinary problems. And more importantly, it was about the police work. The creators had no interest in the morbid trend for sensationalising & depicting crime on screen. With an approach that was unsentimental, journalistic, Homicide was a revelatory examination of the procedures, relationships, politics & social factors that impacted on this work.
The results were always gripping, insightful & often profound, backed up with humour & social commentary.
It also boasts arguably the greatest acting ensemble ever seen on US TV. Yaphet Kotto (Alien), Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Ned Beatty (Deliverance), Oscar winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter) and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) were all regulars, while the roll call of guest stars included Robin Williams, Chris Rock, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Elijah Wood, JK Simmons and even a young Jake Gyllenhaal. All as you've never seen them before.
Long before ‘on-demand’ services and set-top recording, erratic broadcasting in the UK meant that only the most dedicated admirers got to see this astonishing, landmark TV drama. We will be spoke about our favourite aspects of Homicide and its legacy, from the bold, daring and sometimes experimental form, it's relationship to David Simon’s key text ‘A Year On The Killing Streets’, THAT theme music and the small matter of the ‘Lemmy Caution’ of TV, Detective John Munch…
The panel was chaired by One.Two.One Cinema's James Laycock and featured Dr Andy Willis (University of Salford) and Omar Ahmed (University of Manchester).