You wouldn't expect laughs from The Shift, the Investigation Discovery series that follows what it calls "an all-star homicide shift" that works 2 to 10 p.m. for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. But there are two in the second-season premiere.
The first comes at the beginning, when the voiceover announcer says, "In the big city, murder is a fact of life." Brief shot of Downtown. Pictures from a crime scene. "Indianapolis is no different."
The second, sadly, comes when Sgt. Jeff Breedlove interrogates a suspect in the brutal slaying of 63-year-old Gernell Jackson, who was stabbed to death in April inside his Haughville home. We see Breedlove question Lamar Crawford, Jackson's 26-year-old nephew, who tells a wild story about how he tried to fight off a "masked intruder" who killed his uncle, threatened the entire family and then took off.
Breedlove, a 16-year veteran, wasn't buying the story because Crawford had been driving around in Jackson's car and was caught on surveillance cameras trying to take money out of Jackson's bank account. Oh, and because Crawford never bothered to report the crime to police.
Even Breedlove couldn't help but laugh. And natural reactions like that are why The Shift is such entertaining TV.
If you've spent any amount of time watching procedural dramas on network television, you've seen deadly serious, often glib police who can outsmart criminals and convince them to confess in an hour. As we see on The Shift, real police concentrate more on gathering evidence than extracting a confession. And they have a sense of humor about their work.
As crime investigations go, the murder of Gernell Jackson was relatively routine — certainly nothing a Law & Order writer would rip from the headlines. Whoever killed Jackson, a retiree who was well liked by friends and neighbors, left behind blood and fingerprints. Neither witnesses nor suspects fled the city, and the police received help from a friend of the victim, who helped confirm their suspicions.
What we see then is good, solid, methodical police work that takes a few days to complete and ends with an arrest. (We're cautioned that Crawford is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)
The Shift is Investigation Discovery's most-watched show, and it's easy to see why. In addition to having a chance to watch real, quality detective work, we get real detectives. If Breedlove were a TV cop, he'd be brooding, harboring a secret sorrow or carrying on an affair with a colleague. In this episode, his biggest personal issue is finishing the case so he can be home for his son's birthday party.
Not exactly CSI, but exactly what you want in a police department.