I'm a sucker for books about TV, so I couldn't resist nabbing Mark Timlin's 101 BEST TV CRIME SERIES. Let me state at the outset than I am a fan of Timlin's books, so if I had a bias going in, it was a favorable one. That didn't last long.
The pluses are that Timlin, a top-notch mystery author himself, is a real fan of the genre and he writes in a casual, easy-going style. As a whole, the book provides a nice overview of a bunch of UK series that are probably obscure and unfamiliar to most U.S. viewers.
The cons, however, far, far outnumber the pluses. Apparently, Timlin's actual knowledge of the shows he's talking about isn't as strong as his admiration for them…and nobody bothered to fact-check the book, so it is filled with cringe-inducing errors and unfortunate omissions.
1) he refers to the lead of THE FUGITIVE as Dr. David Kimble when, of course, everyone knows it's Dr. RICHARD Kimble.
2) He says the iconic IRONSIDE theme was composed by Oliver Nelson when it's actually among Quincy Jones' most famous pieces of music (Nelson supplied some of the episodic scores, but didn't compose the theme).
3) He says that the Quinn Martin shows had a voice over that went "This has been a Quinn Martin Production" when, in fact, each show opened with the narrator announcing the name of the series, followed by the words "A Quinn Martin Production."
4) He says the UK LIFE ON MARS began with DCI Sam Tyler walking down a Manchester street, listening to David Bowie on his iPod, when he's hit by a car. That is, in fact, totally incorrect, making this reader wonder if Timlin actually saw the show he was writing about.
5) When discussing HARRY O, he says the hero was an ex-LA cop. He was actually an ex-San Diego cop.
I could go on and on. Beyond the numerous errors, there's also a lack of detail. For instance, when referring to KOJAK, he mentions the 2005 remake with Ving Rhames but either completely overlooked, or was totally unaware of, the six KOJAK TV movies Savalas did on CBS, and later ABC, a decade after the original series was cancelled. In fact, almost all the entries suffer from a paucity of useful information in favor of irrelevant, personal asides by the author ("Oddly enough, it was 'Hill Street Blues' that got me my first video recorder; back when it started, I was offered a job driving a loser heavy metal band called 720. The show had just started and I took the job o the condition that the manager paid for the hire of a VCR. He agreed. Blimey the thing was the size of a suitcase…") Maybe Timlin is a celebrity in the UK, and the readers there are more interested in his asides than information about TV cop shows, but it doesn't play on this side of the pond.
One other beef…I found Timlin including his own series, SHARMAN, among the best TV Crime Series to be more than a little self-indulgent (although he didn't write the entry, he had someone else do it, which only makes the inclusion feel even more self-serving). If only he'd given all the other series mentioned in the book the same loving attention as he did his own (he gives THE SOPRANOS three tiny paragraphs, but the short-lived SHARMAN gets four pages!).
Overall, unless you can get this book at a major discount, I'd skip it.
5 thoughts on “Review: 101 Best TV Crime Series”
Thanks for the heads up. I’m a sucker for such books, too, and will give this one a pass. How can he not know how Life on Mars opened–it was in the intro for the show, not an iPod in sight.
I actually wish I could see SHARMAN, just because it stars Clive Owen, and I’d watch him in just about anything. Sadly, it’s not on Netflix.
OK so Clive Owen is a good actor but Sharman compared to the Sopranos? That’s not apples to oranges it’s apples to eggplant. It’s not even comprable.
I remember Sharman being crap and I really like Mark Timlin’s books.
To be fair Lee, if you had written the book you undoubtedly would have done the same treatment for Diagnosis Murder and The Cosby Mysteries.