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'Law And Order,' 'Only Murders In The Building,' And Other Iconic Crime Shows Set In New York

Before learning about real-life crimes on Oxygen's new series "New York Homicide," watch these fictional NYC crime shows.

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New York City is one of the most famous cities in the world, but like any place, it has a dark side.

New York Homicide,” premiering Saturday, January 1 at 10/9c on Oxygen, takes an intriguing, in-depth tour of NYC and some real-life chilling cases that left the five boroughs reeling. 

Crime is a fact of life — and death — in the city that never sleeps. which helps explain why it has provided so much inspiration for television. In advance of Oxygen’s new show, take a look at some iconic crime series set in NYC. Like a chalk outline at a crime scene, TV shows in this lineup have all left a mark.

“Naked City”

Decades before “Law & Order” became known for “ripped from the headlines” plots, this semi-documentary-style drama about NYPD detectives that ran from 1958 to 1963 looked to real life for inspiration. Besides a who’s who of guest stars including the likes of Gene Hackman, Robert Redford, and Cicely Tyson, the show was known for a telling tagline: “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” (There are now nearly nine million stories.)

“Cagney & Lacey”

When they weren’t nabbing criminals as New York City police detectives Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey, actresses Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly were picking up Emmy Awards for their efforts. The show ran from 1982 to 1988 and was retooled and recast early on. It has been heralded for putting women at the core of a cop procedural and paving the way for others that followed.

“NYPD Blue”

This influential cop procedural ran from 1993 to 2005 and took viewers inside Manhattan’s fictional 15th precinct, where detectives were as gritty as their cases. That includes boozy, bigoted, profane, and all-too-human Det. Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz). Like most long-running shows there was a recasting body count. After David Caruso’s exit, for instance, Jimmy Smits stepped up. 

“Law & Order”

The series’ m.o. is right there in the title. From 1990 to 2010, the series focused on the police, who investigate crimes (like Lennie Briscoe, played by the late, great Jerry Orbach), and the district attorneys (hello, Jack McCoy, played to perfection by Sam Waterson), who prosecute the offenders. 

High-profile cases churned into prime-time plots including everything from subway vigilantism to political sexcapades. Over its 20 seasons, the show filmed on NYC streets deftly navigated cast comings and goings and inspired NYC spin-offs including “Criminal Intent,” “Trial By Jury,” and “Organized Crime.” The original mothership, as “Law & Order” is known, is set to return for season 21 in February 2022.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”

Since launching in 1999, this “L & O” spin-off has bagged bragging rights to being the longest-running live action TV drama. Some episodes have been loosely based on high-profile true crimes. 

The set-up is as straight-up as it is unsettling, laid out in a voiceover: “In the criminal justice system, sexually-based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit.” Chief among them: Olivia Benson, played to perfection by Mariska Hargitay, who has gone from detective to sergeant to lieutenant to captain.

“Crime Scene Investigation: New York”

Anyone with a passing knowledge of true crime is aware that microscopic crime scene clues play major roles in nailing a perp. In other words, crime labs and forensic science are sexy. That was a compelling point behind “CSI: NY,” which ran from 2004 to 2013 after spinning off from the original series, “CSI.” 

“Castle”

New York grit took a back seat to romance in this series that ran from 2009 to 2016. It followed the murder-solving machinations of mystery novelist Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) and detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), whose mother’s murder looms large. Call it homicide lite.

“Blue Bloods”

Law enforcement is a family affair in this series that’s been running since 2010. Tom Selleck stars as a NY Police Commissioner whose kids work as a detective, beat cop ,and in the DA’s office. Their work tends to bleed into the family’s Sunday dinners. 

“Only Murders in the Building”

The fascination with true crime is hotter than ever, and this comedy-mystery starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez is proof. In the show that launched early this year and has been renewed for season 2, they play New Yorkers obsessed with murder who get embroiled in a case they believe law enforcement has wrongfully categorize as a suicide. 

To learn more about real crimes in NYC, watch New York Homicide,” premiering Saturday, January 1 at 10/9c on Oxygen.

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